Art/ Collection/ 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 3
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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