Romanesque architecture and art: Sculpture


The first important monuments of Romanesque sculpture were created in the last decade of the 11th cent. and the first decades of the 12th cent. The primary source of artistic patronage was provided by the monastic institutions, for whom sculptors executed large relief carvings for the decoration of church portals and richly ornate capitals for cloisters. Romanesque sculpture produced an art of extraordinary ornamental complexity, ecstatic in expression, and abounding in seemingly endless combinations of zoomorphic, vegetal, and abstract motifs.

In France themes portrayed on tympanums of such churches as Moissac, Vézelay, and Autun emphasized the awesome majesty of Christ as ruler and judge of the universe. They often depicted terrifying spectacles of hell. English sculpture showed a tendency toward geometric ornamentation. However, with the introduction in England of continental influences in the mid-12th cent. there also appeared gruesome renditions of the Last Judgment, e.g., at Lincoln Cathedral. In contrast with the demonic nature and animated quality of sculpture in France and in England, there was an assertion of more massive and ponderous figures in N Italy, with the narrative reliefs from Genesis designed by Wiligelmo in Modena and by Niccolò in Verona.

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