French; Made in Loire Valley
Limestone; 83 1/2 x 34 1/4 in. (212.1 x 87 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1925 (25.120.201)
The tomb effigy is of Jean d'Alluye, a French knight of the thirteenth century. When he died in 1248, he was buried at the abbey he had foundedLa Clarté-Dieu near Tours in northwestern France.
This type of effigy, showing the deceased lying atop his tomb, is known as a gisant. The knight holds his hands in prayer, and his expression is one of deep contemplation. Medieval knights combined Christian and military ideals and aspired to the virtues of piety, loyalty, and honor. Jean d'Alluye wears the full regalia of knighthood before the development of steel-plate armor. The hood of his long-sleeved chain-mail shirt is draped around his neck, and its mittens are attached to the sleeves. His large triangular shield is at his side, and his feet rest on a lion. The spurs on his ankles are a special kind worn only by knights. His sword, belt, and sheath are in the same style as his uniform, but his sword is not like anything used by the knights of his day in Europe. Rather, it corresponds to Chinese swords of that time. We know Jean d'Alluye journeyed to the Holy Land in 1241, but how obtained a Chinese sword, of which he was clearly very proud, remains a mystery.