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I purchased this statue at an estate sale. I initially thought it was depicting a Wise Man from a nativity scene, but the back is flat indicating it was against a wall.

Now I'm thinking it was depicting an Old Testament king, maybe from the Carolingian ages. I've seen termite damage like this on French sculptures before. I think it's made of walnut wood. It was painted, but now only faint traces remain.

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    Where was it purchased? Nov 20, 2023 at 20:39
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    Is there any evidence it is old/genuine?
    – MCW
    Nov 20, 2023 at 20:57
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    I don't suppose there's any kind of maker's mark on the underside?
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 20, 2023 at 21:30
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    This is definitely not Carolingian, not even medieval. My guess is that this is some of the saint Popes. Right hand was probably originally risen in blessing gesture. The crown is based on tiara of the type that can be seen on sculptures from 17th century. The fashion is late renaissance at the earliest, but can be also from 19th century. Technique is not exactly masterful, so I can imagine it was taken from an altar in some smaller village church. Oversized head may suggest it was located relatively high on the altar.(if sculptor was skilled enough to do it intentionally) Nov 21, 2023 at 11:14
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    I would take any answer here with a massive grain of salt. Get a professional appraisal, preferably in person. With a bit of luck you can find someone to do it free.
    – Brian Z
    Nov 21, 2023 at 13:27

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As far as I can tell by the style, this statue would be at least post 14th-century, maybe even later. The head seems wearing a tiara 1, meaning it could be a pope. I've seen some of these (very similar) in small churches in France and Belgium (Flanders). Most of them are from local artists.

The coat/cape is held in the front with a piece of jewelry like bishops or pope (or even kings) wore.

The statue is missing its arms, which would probably hold its own symbols or the ones symbolizing the power of the pope, one or both hands. One hand can also hold a type of crosier while the other is blessing.

You can see a similar statue 2 of a 16th century carved, polychrome painted and gilt wooden figure of a bishop (Southern Netherlands, Flanders) (probably of a better craftmanship though).

If we can't be really sure about what it is, we may eventually eliminate what it's probably not: a merovingian/carolingian statue.

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  • Thank you. Your comments make a lot of sense. I’ve seen many other statues posed as you described on my travels visiting the churches of Europe.
    – bxmog111
    Nov 21, 2023 at 19:59

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