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Architecture capital - Capital


  • Object:

    Architecture capital

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)
    Loire (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1100-1125 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved limestone

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case WN, shelf EXP

This capital shows a pair of birds drinking from a cup or chalice. Confronted birds of this kind appear on luxury textiles imported from Byzantium and the Near East. The motif was common in the Auvergne and western France, and allowed for many Christian interpretations.

Physical description

Engaged capital carved from oolitic limestone, decorated with two birds drinking from a chalice. A pair of birds, confronted, drinking out of a chalice; at the sides, coarse foliate ornament with pine cones; round the base runs a device like twisted cord.

Place of Origin

France (made)
Loire (possibly, made)


ca. 1100-1125 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved limestone


Height: 51 cm, Width: 57 cm, Depth: 35 cm, Weight: 97 kg

Object history note

This oolitic limestone engaged - meaning that it was built into a wall - captial is western French, possibly of the Loire Valley. The decoration consists of a pair of birds drinking out of a chalice, and around them is foliage and pine-cones. Around the base of the capital is a twisted roping decoration. The motif of two birds, or alternatively girffins, drinking from a chalice is typically Auvergne or West French. This iconography stemmed from Byzantine and Sassanian sources, in which confronted birds and griffins, associated with Baptism and Resurrection, are shown drinking from the 'Fons Vitae' and surrounded by the tree of life, which is the scene we see carved here.

See P. Williamson, 'Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture' (V&A publication, London, 1983), pp. 14-15.

Descriptive line

Engaged capital carved from oolitic limestone, decorated with two birds drinking from a chalice, western France (possibly Loire Valley), ca. 1100-25

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

P. Williamson, Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture V&A publication, London, 1983, pp. 14-15.
Schen, S. (ed.) The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. p.39.





Subjects depicted



Sculpture; Architecture


Sculpture Collection

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