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Narbonne Arch

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
  • Description

    This semicircular arch comprises seven stone blocks (known as voussoirs) decorated with eight real and fantastic animals: left to right, a manticore ( "man-eater" in Persian, with the face of a man, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion); a pelican (symbol of Christ); a basilisk (dragon with a serpent's tail, signifying the power to kill); a harpy (half- woman, half-bird creature whose sweet song lures men to their deaths); a griffin (with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle); an amphisbaena (serpent with a head at either end); a centaur
    ( with the head and torso of a man and lower body of a horse); and a crowned lion. These are all animals familiar from medieval bestiaries: texts compiled in the twelfth century describing such creatures and explaining their moral and religious associations.

    The closest parallel to the carving style of the arch can be found in the nave capitals of the mid-twelfth-century church of Saint-Paul-Serge in Narbonne, but the original location of the arch remains unknown.

  • Provenance

    Said to come from a building in Narbonne; Louis Arnaud , Avignon ; [ Demotte Inc. , Paris and New York (sold 1922)]

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
473682

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