Gothic sculpture in France, 1140-1270 by Willibald Sauerländer

By Willibald Sauerländer

Ebook by way of Sauerlander, Willibald

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Assembled around her in the archivolt are personifications of the Liberal Arts, the curriculum taught in medieval schools. Mary, as the throne of divine wisdom, stands at the centre of the disciplines whose function was to prepare the minds of men to grasp the revelations of the 40 tympanum, an enthroned Mother of God depicted in detail is not clear. The Mother of God enthroned usually occurs It is At Bourges the great figure is enthroned beneath a stately baldachin supported by slender columns.

In this case there were special circumstances: the figure was conceived not as a single statue but as part of a scenic group in which the three Magi approached from the left - hence the marked curvature and torsion, since the Virgin had to be shown presenting the Child to the kings for their adoration. Thus the Paris figure cannot simply be placed in a series with other trumeau figures. Nevertheless, isolated figures of the Virgin from the second half of the thirteenth century show an undeniable change of type.

The possibility is not to be dismissed out of hand. Old Testament cycles, as they appear on portal jambs fron Saint-Denis onwards, are unknown to the romanesque architectural sculpture of the preceding period. But we should bear in mind that before Saint-Denis, French portal sculpture is equally untouched by typology. There is no substance in the evidence so far adduced to support the thesis that the Old Testament rulers are types of the French kings. The Coronation Orders of the French kings stand in a tradition of their own, and neither they nor the allegorical portraits of classical or early modern rulers provide pointers to the significance of the statue sequences on church portals.

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