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Old Testament King, perhaps Melchisedech or David

Origin / Date Ile de France, 1140-1165
Material Lutetian mliliole limestone from the Oise valley
Dimensions 29cm high
Availability Not for sale


Though sculpted in a ‘calcaire a milliolidae’ usually reserved for tympana or archivolts, at least in the best-known monuments, rather than the less porous ‘liais de Paris’ used with few exceptions for the more exposed figural sculpture, certainly in the largest chantiers, this head was most likely from such a column-statue, as first introduced at Saint-Denis under the supervision of Abbot Suger in the second quarter of the 12th century and inaugural of a new “Gothic’ style. Micro-analysis of the surface has shown that the even weathering took place over a considerable period of time, both above and in the ground, and is utterly consistent with the dating indicated by the style. In addition, and of equal importance for its documentary status, is that no portion of the surviving face has ever been subject to any later intervention (Report by CIRAM on request). As its style, even without pretending to great sophistication of modelling, is also consistent with that of some of the figures of the ‘Portail Royal’ of Chartres Cathedral, more than with those of Saint-Denis, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Angers or Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, it would constitute one of the clearest examples of the influence of the so-called ‘Headmaster’ of Chartres, in this case north of Paris. Indeed, so close is the overall facial style as well as the execution of details to specifically the four figures of the central left portal attributed to this ‘chef d’atelier’ himself, and which in turn is easily distinguished from all other surviving early Gothic work including the figures on the other doorways of the Royal portal at Chartres, that the question of the attribution of this head to this atelier deserved to be put forward.


For a detailed description see Medieval Art in Focus VIII ‘The spirit at Chartres’ (Forthcoming 2022/23).


Unknown before 2007.
Galerie Ratton-Ladriere Paris.



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