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Capital

Capital

  • Place of origin:

    Languedoc-Roussillon (possibly, made)
    Catalonia (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1140-1150 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved salmon-coloured crystalline limestone

  • Museum number:

    898-1906

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This 12th-century capital, adorned with volutes, comes from an ecclesiastical building in southern France or northern Spain. The size and uneven wear on its two sides indicate that it came from a cloister.

The volute was a common component of classical architecture, being one of the defining features of capitals of the Ionic order. In this way is reflected the great regard felt by medieval society for the so-called 'Ancients'.

The lion was also an ancient - pre-Roman or Greek - symbol of strength, courage, and also dignity and pride. But here the lions are rendered in the 'Romanesque' manner, stylised and fairly harmless looking, with enlarged heads. Curiously, each lion's front right paw is shown stretched out to touch the tail of the lion in front. What this means, if anything, is unclear. It may simply be a novel and eye-catching way of creating a continuous and linked pattern around the capital.

Physical description

On each face of the capital is a standing lion, with its tail curving up between its hind legs. Each lion's front, right paw is stretched out to touch the tip of the tail of the lion in front. Above are spiral volutes in the corners, square volutes in the centres. The capital is much weathered and damaged. Only two of the lions are completely preserved: of the remaining two, one has lost its head and is very weathered, while the other has received considerable damage on his head

Place of Origin

Languedoc-Roussillon (possibly, made)
Catalonia (possibly, made)

Date

ca. 1140-1150 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved salmon-coloured crystalline limestone

Dimensions

Weight: 45 kg, Height: 28.6 cm, Width: 28.2 cm

Object history note

On each face of this capital, the top part of a column from a religious building in southern France or northern Spain, is a standing lion. The size and uneven wear on two sides of the capital indicate that it came from a cloister. The tops of the capital terminate in volutes, meaning spiral scrolls. The volute was a common component of classical architecture, being one of the defining features of capitals of the Ionic order. In this way is reflected the great regard felt by medieval society for the so-called 'Ancients'. The lion was also an ancient - pre-Roman or Greek - symbol of strength, courage, and also dignity and pride. But here the lions are rendered in the 'Romanesque' manner, stylised and fairly harmless looking, with enlarged heads. Curiously, each lion's front right paw is shown stretched out to touch the tail of the lion in front. What this means, if anything, is unclear. It may simply be a novel and eye-catching way of creating a continuous and linked pattern around the capital. A capital in the Pitcairn Collection, also thought to be from Roussillon, shares this peculiar motif. Lions capitals of this type 'were common in Roussillon around the middle of the twelfth century', but the 'possibility of the capital originating in North-East Spain (Catalonia) cannot be excluded' (P. Williamson, 'Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture', V&A publication, London, 1983, p. 21).
Given by Mr J. H. Fitzhenry.

Descriptive line

Capital, carved in salmon-coloured crystalline limestone, decorated with lions from a cloister, from Roussillon, south-east France or Catalonia, north-east Spain, ca. 1140-50.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

P. Williamson, 'Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture' (V&A publication, London, 1983), pp. 20-1.
List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in the Years 1905 - 1908. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, During the Year 1906, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition with Appendix and Indices. London: Printed for His Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, 1909, p. 150

Materials

Limestone

Techniques

Carving; Colouring

Subjects depicted

Lion

Categories

Sculpture; Architecture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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