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Sculptures romanes

Saint Etienne Cathedral

Saint Pierre et saint Paul. Pilier. Pierre. Inv. Me 15
© Saint Pierre et saint Paul. Pilier. Pierre. Inv. Me 15

The construction of the cathedral was undertaken around 1070 by the reformer Bishop Isarn, on a site which had been occupied since Antiquity.The only elements remaining of the vast canonical quarter which once stood alongside the cathedral are a few works which escaped the destruction of the cloister and the Chapter hall.

41 metres long and 42 metres wide, this cloister was the largest in the whole of southern France.It was destroyed in 1799; the Chapter hall followed in 1811. The sculptures were reserved for the museum by one of its founders, the artist and teacher at the School of Fine Arts (Ecole des beaux-arts), Jean-Paul Lucas. Historical prints show us that this cloister had the same layout as the Moissac cloister. The four galleries were rooved.Above a coped wall were alternate single and double columns, then there were decorated pillars in the corners and in the centre of the four sides of the galleries.
In this set are eight bas-reliefs representing the college of the twelve Apostles.There are also capitals.

The original disposition of the reliefs of the Apostles is still today a subject of debate among experts. Did they make up the exterior decoration of the portal to the Chapter hall of Saint Etienne Cathedral, or were they inside that hall? When were they carved? If they did make up a portal, was it a projected portal, thereby foreshadowing the famous column-statues placed in the Abbey of Cluny near Paris around 1140? On the other hand, if they came after the Cluny innovations, should they be dated to 1140-1160 or later?
There are still many questions to be answered. However, the solutions found in Toulouse and in Saint-Denis (site of the Abbey of Cluny) to the problem of how to develop monumental portal sculpture were not the same either technically or stylistically.Although it is therefore perhaps vain to persist in trying to judge one compared to the other, the dating difficulty still remains!

Attribué à Gilabertus, La Mort de saint Jean-Baptiste (La Danse de Salomé), chapiteau engagé de colonnes jumelles. Pierre. Inv. Me 180

Attribué à Gilabertus,
La Mort de saint Jean-Baptiste (La Danse de Salomé)
chapiteau engagé de colonnes jumelles. Pierre
Inv. Me 180

The capitals from the destroyed cloister are among the most emblematic of Romanesque art in France.The sensual Salome is no doubt one of the most striking feminine figures in medieval art.


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