Monday, 12 October 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 26.

After a blank period of more than eight hundred years we find a fresh beginning, as it were, of sacred art— but only a beginning. The Christ of Vezelay, for instance, is still altogether an archaic production. The head is uninteresting, and the body disproportionately long. Much the same may be said of the Cluny Christ, here reproduced (fig. 16). The statue of

Christ which adorns the middle door on the west front of Chartres Cathedral (fig. 17) shows progress, but we cannot regard it as anything but immature work. Both these are twelfth century.

The thirteenth century, as is well known, marks the highest point of the first French Renaissance, which already in the fourteenth century began to decline. It was a period when some admirable works were produced. We may cite the statues of St. Firmin at Amiens and that of St. Theodore at Chartres, not to mention the famous Eve of Rheims, that disturbing woman who carries in her arms the evil spirit incarnate in the shape of a salamander, and who is hesitating whether or not to take the apple that the beast holds in its jaws. One may admire at Cluny the draped statue which came from the Sainte Chapelle at Paris ; it is almost a perfect example.

All, however, are not equally beautiful. The Christ in the act of blessing at Vezelay looks at His visitors with a tranquil air, the eyes somewhat prominent, and the figure leaning a little in a quasi - familiar attitude. The mouth, however, is full of expression. A breath of true art like this elevates in our eyes the artists of the thirteenth century, who, whatever their faults, were never either awkward or cold. Better still, we may draw attention to the Christ teaching (fig. 18) on the south door of Chartres Cathedral.

This is a life-like presentment. It is a teacher persuasive and persuaded, but none the less it is but a man, an ordinary French artizan, such as one might meet anywhere in the town and in whom no ray of inspiration can be perceived.