The "Mater Dolorosa" represents the Virgin isolated, hurt after the death of Christ. This representation starts during the Middle Ages, but spreads mostly in the 16th century. As well as Maria's suffering, this theme was also used to represent the Church, who, alone, suffers the world's sorrows after the death of the disciples of Christ. In the Spanish tradition, sculptures of the Mater Dolorosa were common from the 16th to the 19th century.
This Mater Dolorosa was probably part of a monumental Calvary situated at the top of an altarpiece, as was usual of the times. The quality of the carvings, the many foldings of the cloth, the careful facial expression and the contorsion of the grand figure point to a Flemish-Burgundian origin of the carving.
There are examples from the old Dukedom of Burgundy similar to the Museum's sculpture. Altough it appears to be a Flemish sculpture from around 1500, the Marquis of Vega-Inclan acquired it in Spain, probably somewhere around Valladolid as he used to acquire works of art from temples near this city.