Showing posts from November, 2017

Musee de l'Ancien Eveche | Two Capitals

< Back to Table of Contents I have long adored this pair of Romanesque capitals and they form a personal highlight of every visit to this museum. They are carved from a local sandstone known as molasse, and date to the 11th century. They come from a church, now destroyed, in Bocsozel, a small town about 40km to the north-west of Grenoble. As capitals, they would have sat on top of pilasters or columns of some description within the church. The museum's information card doesn't comment as to whether or not there were further carved capitals in the  Bocsozel church. If these were the only two, it's likely they were part of a chancel arch and, thus, in full view of the congregation. One capital is interpreted by the museum as Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Daniel was a Hebrew during the period of the Babylonian Captivity and was sentenced to Death by Lion (Pantheracide? … though that would be the other way around …). Surprisingly, he didn’t get mauled and eaten and

Musee de l'Ancien Eveche | Panels from an altarpiece

< Back to Table of Contents These two panels come from an altarpiece associated with the chapel of the castle of Bon Repos , Jarrie, just to the south of Grenoble. The castle was built around 1470 by Guillaume Armuet. The panels are oil on wood and are dated to the late 15th or early 16th centuries, making them broadly contemporary with the earliest phase of construction. My understanding is that the surviving panels were positioned at the back of the altar, on either side of a depiction of the Nativity, though this central portion is now lost. The surviving pieces depict Jacob, Patriarch of the Old Testament, and his seven sons. Jacob is shown with a long beard and wearing an elaborate hat. The streaming scrolls, almost reminiscent of a James Gillray cartoon, are intended to show Jacob sharing prophesies with his ‘good’ sons about the coming of Christ and the advent of Christianity. However, shoved over on the right-hand edge is his ‘accursed’ son, Dan – founder of the I

Musee de l'Ancien Eveche | The Helmet of Chlodomer?

< Back to Table of Contents The helmet as photographed in 2003 This wonderful helmet was found in the 1870s in a peat bog at Saint-Didier, near Vézeronce-Curtin, about 55km to the north-west of Grenoble. It is composed of a gilded copper helm with brass cheek-pieces, and a ring mail neck protection in iron (the leather portions are modern). The helmet appears to be of Byzantine manufacture and was, most likely, owned by a Frankish chieftain. The museum information card dates it to ‘Around 524’ as the find spot was close to the reputed site of the Battle of Vézeronce, fought between the Franks and the Burgundians on June 25, 524 AD. While the battle initially went in the favour of the Burgundians, the Franks turned the tide, albeit with the loss of their king, Chlodomer. The museum’s information card for this piece notes that such a richly decorated item would have belonged to an important individual and dangles the possibility that it may have been Chlodomer’s before sayin

Musee de l'Ancien Eveche | The parakeet mosaic

< Back to Table of Contents I do love a good mosaic, and I have a particular soft spot for this one from Saint-Romain-en-Gal (Ancient Vienne), approximately 75km to the north-west of Grenoble. In its heyday, it would have adorned a wealthy house and dates to the second century AD. The panel is just over 1m square, and the alternating grey and white borders lead the viewer’s eye to a composition of two birds perched on either side of a two-handled vase (krater) with a jet of water erupting between them. Everything about this composition screams symmetry – two handles, two birds in mirror image, the same number of water streams falling one either side of the central pillar. However, it doesn’t quite work as the main jet of water – that should act as a line of symmetry – is offset ever so slightly (but noticeably) to the right. It simultaneously causes an itch somewhere deep inside my brain while still making me love it all the more. I see different things in this mosaic ev