miércoles, 4 de junio de 2008

Romanesque Sculpture

Romanesque sculpture has its antecedents in barbarian art, Byzantine sculpture, Greek-Latin legacy (hieratic, symbolic and supra-natural) and the late Roman sculpture at once with the paleo-christian sarcophagus, from where it took its iconography.

The works are subordinated to the architectonic frame. The places for sculptural decoration are the portal, and the capitals. Those spaces are the natural limit for monumental sculpture and relief and the depictions must accommodate to the frame.

Formally, it is disconnected from the real world. It is symbolic and allegoric, looking for the expression of the religious content. Images are intentionally deformed trying to impress emotionally; simple and stylised images, sometimes geometrical or even abstract; it refuses the depiction of the naked human body and all the images are covered by clothes; there is not a canon nor any proportion neither equilibrium between mass and weight; images are rigid, hieratic, full of solemnity and elongated to stress their spiritual character. Technically they appear to be primitive, with a certain archaism; there is not movement; composition and scenes are in the same plan, without forming groups. It lacks of volume and images are flat and symmetric, with a dominance of frontality . This plastic is directed to the mind, with a great intellectual charge, due its didactic aim.
Themes and iconography
It is inspired and determined by the church. There is a hierarchy of the subjects that can be seen in the spaces occupied by the images, with different visual relevance. The inspiration comes from the pre-Romanesque miniature and the Byzantine ivories that suggest models, attitudes and compositions. Themes are taken from the Old Testament or the hagiographies or saints biographies. These moral lessons were completed with allegories of the sins, vices and virtues, trying to imbue the plastic with ideas or concepts that impress the popular conscience.
The portal is the chosen place for the main scene: in the tympanum we can see the Pantocrator or Christ as a judge, involved in the mystical mandorla, surrounded by the four evangelist or their symbols (lion is Mark, the angel is Mathew, the ox is Luke and the eagle John). The Last Judgement is frequent and the twenty-four wise men of the Apocalypse may appear completing the scene.
Other subjects are the Virgin or the Christmon, a symbol depicting the Holy Trinity. In addition to this, the jambs are the place for elongated sculptures of saints or other motives while the archivolts are decorated with geometric motives or human figures adapted to the frame.
In addition to the big sculptural programmes of the doors and the capitals of the cloisters, there are exempt images in polychrome wood or ivory. There are two main depictions: Christ on the Cross or Maiestas Domini and the Virgin with the Child.
Christs are represented in the cross and they are characterized by their rigid hieratic gesture, their composition and their geometrical disposition, with four nails, very open eyes and serene attitude, far from any sufferance or pain.
The Virgin with the Child has the similar formal characteristics. It may appear as Theotocos (God’s mother with the Son, who adopts an adult’s gestures) or as a throne for God (Theotronos) or also as Kiriotissa (Virgin in the throne, rigid and with the son in her lap, not looking at her, of Byzantine influence).
In conclusion, Romanesque sculpture has an allegorical character and strong expression. The dominium of the didactic over any other aspect influences in its apparent technical simplicity and formal primitivism. The role of the church is determinant so it is also the mystic and religious content that separate this art expression from the worries about perfect beauty. The supernatural world is the expressive atmosphere of the Romanesque, far away from terrene and natural world. Hieratic and solemn images justify the expression of immutability of Christian faith. Technically Romanesque sculpture evolved towards a greater naturalism and dynamic composition so that the new expressivity will fit with the new social, economic and cultural context that appeared with the Gothic.

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