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Sculptures romanes


The Monastery of La Daurade

Premier atelier de la Daurade, Daniel dans la fosse aux lions, chapiteau de colonnes jumelles. Calcaire. Inv. Me 104
© Premier atelier de la Daurade, Daniel dans la fosse aux lions, chapiteau de colonnes jumelles. Calcaire. Inv. Me 104

The sculptures from the Benedictine priory of  NotreDame de la Daurademake up over half of the Romanesque collection. The medieval buildings were destroyed in the 18th and 19thth centuries, to make way for the current Neoclassical style School of Fine Art (école des Beaux-arts)building.Known from as early as the 5th century, this religious building became a priory, attached to the Abbey of Moissac, which was itself attached to the powerful order of Cluny in 1077. Towards the beginning of the 12th century, a cloister was built in order to organise the life of the community. The work went on until the end of the century. The mosaïcs with their gold background which decorated the church at the time gave it its name: "Daurada" which means ‘The Golden One'in Occitan, the language of the region at the time.

The discernable iconographic programmesshow traces of the historical and spiritual context in which these sculptures were created, a context markedfirst by the Order of Cluny (which at the time had a huge influence over the whole of Western Christendom) and by the Gregorian reform. The northern gallery of the cloister was demolished in 1765. The rest of the cloister, the Chapter hall and its chapels disappeared between 1811 and 1814.It was then that the antiques dealer AlexandreDumège, who was later to become the curator of the museum, saved a group of sculptures.

First and second workshops

The abundance of narrative capitals (twenty-one, all presented), makes this cloister one of the major monuments of Romanesque art.At this time, sculpture depended on the architecture it was required to highlight in the most striking places: doors, windows, lintels, capitals...

Eight narrative capitals are attributed to the first workshop. The stylistic and iconographic similarities between the latter and those in the Moissac cloister led to their attribution to a workshop of the Moissacschool, after 1100. After the completion of the Moissac cloister, artists who had been working on the site set to sculpting the capitals of the Toulousan cloister. This first workshop reused certain compositional schemes and types of figures similar to those in Moissac, as well as the technique whereby the images are didactically captioned. Certain themes are direct repetitions of those in Moissac (King David and his Musicians, Daniel in the Lions' Den...), but others are innovations, such as one of the first known representations of Judgment Day.
Around twenty years later, after the work had stopped, probably through lack of funds, a second workshop created the nineteen other capitals presented. Twelve of these form an exceptional Passion Cycle covering episodes from the Gospels from The Washing of the Feet toThe Pentecost. The artists from the second workshop broke away from the simplistic, rather stiff style characteristic of the first workshop. The figures are tiered in such a way as to suggest depth and bear the ‘dancing' gait characteristic of this period. Apart from The Capture of Christ, the other capitals are placed beneath arches framing the scenes in the upper sections.The preciousness of the backgrounds, the elegance of the drapery, the liveliness and expressiveness of the figures all contribute to a strong dramatic element in the scenes but also sometimes to a particular flavour (The Washing of the Feet).The sculptors, about whom we know nothing else, created works in which the highly refined approach creates unequalled dramatic tension.
The dating of the second workshop remains somewhat approximative, it is estimated to date from between 1120 and 1130.

Third workshop

Trosième atelier de la Daurade, Roi (Salomon ?). Bas-relief d'applique. Pierre. Inv. Me 68

Trosième atelier de la Daurade,
Roi (Salomon ?)
Bas-relief d'applique.
Inv. Me 68

Later in the century, around 1180 (?), a third workshop carried out the sculptures on the Chapter hall portal. This group is made up of six column-statues, seven reliefs and the capitals crowning them. The style and the iconography of this set suggest the influence of the art of the first Gothic portals in Ile-de-France (Paris and its surroundingregion). This workshop was able to reconcile an openness to the first Gothic art with a loyalty to certain local techniques such as carvingcuvette bas-reliefs (King David Tuning his Harp).A certain number of capitals representing monsters, animals or human beings in a profusion of foliage and lianas illustrate Toulousan art's tendency towards preciousness and elegance.

Fourth group

Histoire de Job. chapiteau de colonnes jumelles. Pierre. Inv. Me 180

Histoire de Job
chapiteau de colonnes jumelles. Pierre
Inv. Me 180

It seems more appropriate to use the term ‘group' here rather than the more traditional term of ‘workshop': these sculptures are not stylistically homogeneous. They were carved by several sculptors, possibly working in different workshops and may or may not have been carried out over several decades.We don't know where these capitals were originally placed within the cloister of La Daurade.
The tendency towards the miniaturisation of figures and the predominance of plant ornamentation over the human figure is confirmed here before reaching its peak in the second half of the 12th century.
These works mark the end of a period encompassing the whole of the 12th century before leading to the disappearance of the human figure.


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