Autun Cathedral (St. Lazare), Magnificent Last Judgment tympanum
(c.1130) above the west door. c. 1130-1135. Autun, France.
Autun Cathedral (St. Lazare), Christ in Judgment
426. GISLEBERTUS. Last Judgment
(detail), west tympanum, Autun Cathedral, ñ.
Heavenly Jerusalem (detail)
The tympanum (the lunette above the lintel) of the main portal of
Romanesque churches usually holds a composition centered on the
Enthroned Christ, most often the Apocalyptic Vision, or the Last
Judgment, the most awesome scene of Christian art. At Autun Cathedral,
the latter subject has been visualized by Gislebertus with singularly
expressive force. Our detail (fig. 426), with the weighing of the souls,
is from the lower right part of the tympanum. At the bottom, the dead
rise from their graves in fear and trembling; some are already beset by
snakes or gripped by huge, clawlike hands. Above, their fate quite
literally hangs in the balance, with devils yanking at one end of the
scales and angels at the other. The saved souls cling like children to
the hem of the angel's garment for protection, while the condemned,
seized by grinning devils, are cast into the mouth of Hell. These devils
betray the same nightmarish imagination we observed in the Romanesque
animal world. They are composite creatures, human in general outline but
with spidery, birdlike legs, furry thighs, tails, pointed ears, and
enormous, savage mouths. Their violence, unlike that of the animal
monsters, is unchecked, and they enjoy themselves to the full in their
grim occupation. No visitor, having "read in the marble" here (to speak
with St. Bernard), could fail to enter the church in a chastened spirit.
Church of Ste-Marie-Madeleine
427. The Mission of the Apostles,
tympanum of center portal of narthex, Ste.-Madeleine, Vezelay.
Perhaps the most beautiful of all Romanesque tympanums is that of
Ste.-Madeleine in Vezelay, not far from Autun in Burgundy (fig. 427).
Its subject, the Mission of the Apostles, had a special meaning for this
age of crusades, since it proclaims the duty of every Christian to
spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. From the hands of the
majestic ascending Christ we see the rays of the Holy Spirit pouring
down upon the apostles, all of them equipped with copies of the
Scriptures in token of their mission.
The lintel and the compartments
around the central group are filled with representatives of the heathen
world, a veritable encyclopedia of medieval anthropology which includes
all sorts of legendary races (fig. 428). On the archivolt (the arch
framing the tympanum) we recognize the signs of the zodiac and the
labors appropriate to every month of the year, to indicate that the
preaching of the Faith is as unlimited in time as it is in space.
428. Pig-Snouted Ethiopians,
portion of tympanum,
The portal sculpture at Moissac, Autun, and Vezelay, although varied in
style, has many qualities in common: intense expression, unbridled
fantasy, and a nervous agility of form that owes more to manuscript
illumination and metalwork than to the sculptural tradition of
antiquity. The Apostle from St.-Sernin, in contrast, had impressed us
with its stoutly "Roman" flavor. The influence of classical monuments
was particularly strong in Provence, the coastal region of southeastern
France, which had been part of the Graeco-Roman world far longer than
the rest of the country and is full of splendid Roman remains. Perhaps
for this reason, the Romanesque style persisted longer in these areas
than elsewhere. Looking at the center portal of the church at
St.-Gilles-du-Gard (fig. 429), one of the great masterpieces of
Romanesque art, we are struck immediately by the classical flavor of the
architectural framework, with its free-standing columns, meander
patterns, and fleshy acanthus ornament. The two large statues, carved
almost in the round, have a sense of weight and volume akin to that of
the Apostle from St.-Sernin, although, being half a century later in
date, they also display the richness of detail we have observed in the
intervening monuments. They stand on brackets supported by crouching
beasts of prey, and these, too, show a Roman massiveness, while the
small figures on the base (Cain and Abel) recall the style of Moissac.
The two statues at St.-Gilles-du-Gard are akin to the splendid figure of
King David from the facade of Fidenza Cathedral in Lombardy (fig. 430)
by Benedetto Antelami, the greatest sculptor of Italian Romanesque art.
That we should know his name is not surprising in itself, as artists'
signatures are far from rare in Romanesque times. What makes Antelami
exceptional is the fact that his work shows a considerable degree of
individuality, so that, for the first time since the ancient Greeks, we
can begin to speak (though with some hesitation) of a personal style.
His David, too, approaches the ideal of the self-sufficient statue more
closely than any medieval work we have seen so far. The Apostle from
St.-Sernin is one of a series of figures, all of them immutably fixed to
their niches, while Antelami's David stands physically free and even
shows an attempt to recapture the Classical contrapposto. To be sure, he
would look awkward if placed on a pedestal in isolation. He demands the
architectural framework for which he was made, but certainly to a far
lesser extent than do the two statues at St.-Gilles. Nor is he subject
to the group discipline of a series; his only companion is a second
niche statue on the other side of the portal. The David'is an
extraordinary achievement indeed, especially if we consider that not
much more than a hundred years separate it from the beginnings of the
429. North jamb, center portal,
St.-Gilles-du-Gard. Second quarter of the 12th century
430. BENEDETTO ANTELAMI. King
West facade, Fidenza Cathedral
Benedetto Antelami, (born c. 1150, probably Lombardy
[Italy]—died c. 1230, Parma), Italian sculptor and architect
considered to have been one of the greatest of his time.
Little is known of his
life. It is believed that he served his apprenticeship in
sculpture at Saint-Trophîme in Arles, Fr., and that this
service may have influenced his sensitivity to French
(particularly Provençal) stylistic developments. It is
thought that he also belonged to the magistri Antelami, a
civil builders’ guild located in the Lake Como region of
present-day northern Italy. One of his earliest signed works
is the Deposition from the Cross, a relief sculpture (dated
1178) located in the right transept of the cathedral of
Parma. Between 1188 and 1218 Antelami worked on various
sculptural and architectural elements of the cathedral of
Borgo San Donnino (now Fidenza) near Parma. In 1196 he
started work on the construction and decoration of the
magnificent baptistery of Parma cathedral (completed 1270).
His last work is believed to have been the decoration and
(at least in part) the construction of the church of
Sant’Andrea at Vercelli, the architecture of which
successfully combined Tuscan Romesque with Gothic
characteristics (such as flying buttresses, rose windows,
and ribbed vaulting) and won him lasting renown.
The Meuse Valley
The emergence of distinct artistic personalities in the twelfth century
is a phenomenon that is rarely acknowledged, perhaps because it
contradicts the widespread notion that all medieval art is anonymous. It
does not happen very often, of course, but it is no less significant for
all that. Antelami is not an isolated case. He cannot even claim to be
the earliest. Nor is the revival of individuality confined to Italy. We
also find it in one particular region of the north, in the valley of the
Meuse River, which runs from northeastern France into Belgium and
Holland. This region had been the home of the classicizing Reims style
in Car-olingian times (see figs. 388 and 389), and that awareness of
classical sources pervades its art during the Romanesque period. Here
again, interestingly enough, the revival of individuality is linked with
the influence of ancient art, although this influence did not produce
works on a monumental scale.
Mosan Romanesque sculpture excelled in metalwork, such as the splendid
baptismal font of 1107-18 in Liege (fig. 431), which is also the
masterpiece of the earliest among the individually known artists of the
region, Renier of Huy. The vessel rests on 12 oxen (symbols of the 12
apostles), like Solomon's basin in the Temple at Jerusalem as described
in the Bible. The reliefs make an instructive contrast with those of
Bernward's doors (see fig. 397), since they are about the same height.
Instead of the rough expressive power of the Ottonian panel, we find
here a harmonious balance of design, a subtle control of the sculptured
surfaces, and an understanding of organic structure that, in medieval
terms, are amazingly classical. The figure seen from the back (beyond
the tree on the left in our picture), with its graceful turning movement
and Greek-looking drapery, might almost be taken for an ancient work.
431. RENIER OF HUY. Baptismal Font. 1107—18. Bronze, St.-Barthelemy, Liege
431. RENIER OF HUY. Baptismal Font. 1107—18. Bronze, St.-Barthelemy, Liege
The one monumental free-standing
statue of Romanesque art—perhaps not the only one made, but the only one
that has survived—is that of an animal, and in a secular rather than a
religious context: the lifesize bronze lion on top of a tall shaft that
Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony had placed in front of his palace at
Brunswick in 1166 (fig. 432). The wonderfully ferocious beast, of
course, personifies the duke, or at least that aspect of his personality
that earned him his nickname. It will remind us in a curious way of the
archaic bronze she-wolf of Rome (see fig. 235). Perhaps the resemblance
is not entirely coincidental, since the she-wolf was on public view in
Rome at that time and must have had a strong appeal for Romanesque
The more immediate relatives of the Brunswick lion, however, are the
countless bronze water ewers in the shape of lions, dragons, griffins,
and such, that came into use in the twelfth century for the ritual
washing of the priest's hands during Mass. These vessels, another
instance of monsters doing menial service for the Lord, were of Near
Eastern inspiration. The beguiling specimen reproduced in figure 433
still betrays its descent from the winged beasts of Persian art,
transmitted to the West through trade with the Islamic world (compare fig. 364).
432. Lion Monument.
1166. Bronze, length
ñ. 6' (1.8 m).
Square, Brunswick, Germany
433. Ewer. Mosan. c.
1130. Gilt bronze, height
7 1/4" (18.5 cm).
& Albert Museum, London