Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Arch with Beasts

Date:
ca. 1150–75
Geography:
Made in Languedoc-Rousillon, France
Culture:
French
Medium:
Marble
Dimensions:
40 x 74 in. (101.6 x 188.0 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture-Architectural
Credit Line:
John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1922
Accession Number:
22.58.1a
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 7
This intricately carved arch is said to have come from a twelfth-century church in Narbonne, in southwestern France. It is composed of seven blocks of marble on which are carved eight fantastic beasts, comprising an abbreviated visual bestiary.
Moving from left to right, we see: a manticore with a man's face, a lion's body, and a scorpion's tail; a pelican, who pierces her own breast so that her blood feeds her young, symbolizing Christ's death and resurrection; a basilisk, a cross between a cock and a scorpion that can kill with its looks; a harpy luring men to their doom with her beautiful voice; a griffin, which has the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion; an amphisbaena or dragon, which can form its body into a circle; a centaur with drawn bow; and a lion, who erases his tracks with his tail to elude hunters, symbolizing Christ's incarnation. All of these creatures, whether imaginary or realistic, were familiar to many people during the Middle Ages, and all had their specific lessons to impart.
Said to come from a building in Narbonne; Louis Arnaud, Avignon ; [ Demotte Inc., Paris and New York (sold 1922)]
Scholle, Hardinge. "A Romanesque Archivolt." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 18, no. 1 (January 1923). pp. 9-10.

Randall Jr., Richard H. A Cloisters Bestiary. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1960. pp. 34, 35, 40, 41, 45.

Debidour, Victor-Henry. Le bestiaire sculpté du moyen âge en France. Collection "grandes études d'art et d'archéologie". Strasbourg: Arthaud, 1961. p. 9, fig. 1.

Verdier, Philippe. "Dominus Potens in Praelio." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 43 (1982). pp. 43-44, fig. 11.

Schrader, J. L. "A Medieval Bestiary." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 44, no. 1 (Summer 1986). p. 24, 46, 49.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 59, pp. 66-67.

Little, Charles T., David L. Simon, and Leslie Bussis Tait. "Romanesque Sculpture in North American Collections. XXV. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Part V: Southwestern France." Gesta 26, no. 1 (1987). no. 6, pp. 65-67, fig. 6.

Young, Bonnie. A Walk Through The Cloisters. 5th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988. pp. 53-54.

Benton, Janetta Rebold. The Medieval Menagerie: Animals in the Art of the Middle Ages. New York: Abbeville Press, 1992. pp. 21-23, fig. 9.

Boss-Favre, Myrielle. La sculpture figurée des arcs romans de France. 2nd ed. Zurich: Éditions du Grand Midi, 2000. pp. 79-80, fig. 246.

Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 7, pp. 32, 193.

Norris, Michael. Medieval Art: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 14, pp. 65-67.

Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. 75th Anniversary ed. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 30.



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