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Abacus from the Narthex of the Collegiale de Saint-Melaine de Preuilly-sur-Claise

Abacus from the Narthex of the Collegiale de Saint-Melaine de Preuilly-sur-Claise


Part of a set. See all set records

Limestone with traces of paint

Overall: 13.7 x 45.8 x 22.9 cm (5 3/8 x 18 1/16 x 9 in.)

Gift of John L. Severance in memory of his beloved wife, Elisabeth DeWitt Severance 1930.18.2.b



The current installation of these capitals is based on photographs of their original placement in Saint-Melanie. Measured drawings helped restore the original height, space separations, and distances between the two larger capitals. These larger capitals present the Nativity, Annunciation, and Visitation. To the medieval mind, these themes established the entrance of God into human history: God became man. The left capital presents a theophany-Christ in Majesty flanked by censing angels-and conflates Ascension and Second Coming iconography, characteristic of many 12th-century portals. The image shows Christ triumphant, ascending into heaven, and implies his ultimate return on Judgment Day. The remaining capitals present other themes characteristic of the period. The scene on the right depicts the punishment of Luxuria, a figure representing a cardinal sin, attacked by demons, snakes, and toads. Other capitals suggest more such punishments. Notice the array of fantastic creatures and torments: basilisks drinking from a chalice, warriors astride fantastic quadrupeds, a man riding two attacking lions, winged beasts with human heads, and griffins interlaced with a mask.

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