Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Corbel with Five Interlaced Hair-Pulling Acrobats

Date:
ca. 1150–1200
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
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 03
Mischief and humor abound on the ten architectural supports set around the perimeter of this gallery. Naked grimacing acrobats wrestle and pull violently at each others’ beards; a snarling beast proudly claims a bone. Similar mischievous, and sometimes mystifying, motifs are often found on corbels set just under the eaves of the roof on the outside of a church.

Notre-Dame-de-la-Grande-Sauve, the church from which these corbels come, was situated on one of the routes to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Set next to a great forest (the silva major from which its name comes) and dominating a hill overlooking the Gironde River, its community grew from seven monks at its founding in 1079 to some 300. The abbey benefited from donations from famous patrons, including a gift from Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Henry II king of England, in 1156.

In the aftermath of the French Revolution, the monastic buildings served as a prison. The church vaults collapsed in 1809, and a fire in 1910 further compromised the site. Still, some related corbels survive on the church exterior.
From the abbey of Notre-Dame-de-la-Grande-Sauve, near Bordeaux; George and Florence Blumenthal, Paris and New York (until 1934)
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 28, pp. 61, 194.

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. 59.



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