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Corbel with Five Interlaced Hair-Pulling Acrobats

Date:
second half of the 12th century
Geography:
Made in Aquitaine, France
Culture:
French
Medium:
Limestone
Dimensions:
Overall: 32 x 15 3/8 x 18 1/2 in. (81.3 x 39.1 x 47 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture-Architectural
Credit Line:
Gift of George Blumenthal, 1934
Accession Number:
34.21.2
  • Description

    This corbel, decorated with acrobatically intertwined figures pulling at one another's hair, belongs to a group from the Benedictine monastery of Notre-Dame-de-la-Grande-Sauve. They once supported the exterior cornice of the twelfth-century church and are embellished with a wide range of patterns and motifs. Many are still at the abbey; others are in different French and American collections. As a group, the corbels reveal a preference for acanthus leaves, a stylized rendering of anatomy, and a calligraphic treatment of hair, mane, and other linear details. Of the ten corbels now at The Cloisters, two are decorated with foliate motifs. Several of the others display more mischievous activities, such as hair or beard pulling and mouth poking, and a few are even sexually suggestive, perhaps an allusion to humanity's inner demons and licentious fantasies. Corbels like these enjoyed a lasting popularity and can be found on the exterior of many medieval churches.

  • Provenance

    From the abbey of Notre-Dame-de-la-Grande-Sauve (Gironde), near Bordeaux; George and Florence Blumenthal , Paris and New York (until 1934)

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
471137

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