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Gallery Text

These two capitals, from the Benedictine monastery of Moutiers-Saint-Jean in Burgundy, France, are part of a larger set of thirteen held by the Harvard Art Museums; together they form one of the most significant ensembles of Romanesque capitals in the United States, showing the depth of variety such sculptural programs could achieve. The foliate capitals in this group demonstrate a sophisticated play and variation on Classical models; elements traditionally forming Corinthian capitals, like acanthus leaves and volutes, are here abstracted, varied, and reconfigured into new formations. On the column at left, the acanthus leaves are divided into two rows, their growth crowding the asymmetrical volutes above. On the right, the forms of the leaves are stripped bare, so that only the vertical shafts and the parabolic thrust remains. The curled leaves visible on the left are on the right abstracted into tight ovoids, and the volutes at the top of the capital are more organic, the knot of their curls bulging outward.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Capital from Moutiers-Saint-Jean
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
c. 1125-1130
Creation Place: Europe, France, Moutiers-Saint-Jean
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1012, North Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
64 x 64 x 55 cm (25 3/16 x 25 3/16 x 21 5/8 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Arthur Kingsley Porter, "Romanesque Capitals", Fogg Art Museum Notes (1922), pp. 22-36, repr. as fig. 8

Linda Seidel, "Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections: IX: The William Hayes Fogg Art Museum: I: Burgundy", GESTA (1972), vol XI, no. 1, no. 1j, repr.

Walter Cahn and Linda Seidel, Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections, volume 1: New England Museums, Burt Franklin & Co., Inc. (New York, NY, 1979), no. 1j, fig. 130

Neil Stratford, "Sculpture Romane Originaire de Moutiers-Saint-Jean", Mémoires de la Commission des Antiquités du Départment de la Côte-d'Or (1980-1981), Tome XXXII, pp. 327-335, p. 327

Jane Hayward and Walter Cahn, Radiance and Reflection: Medieval Art from the Raymond Pitcairn Collection, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 1982), p. 81

Neil Stratford, "La Sculpture Médiévale de Moutiers Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-de-Réome)", Congrès Auxois-Châtillonnais (Paris, 1989), pp. 157-201, p. 171; repr. in b/w p. 170 as fig. 21

Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting 1800-1940, exh. cat., Palmer Museum of Art (University Park, PA, 1996), p. 176

Christine Smith, ed., Before and After the End of Time: Architecture and the Year 1000, exh. cat., George Braziller (New York, NY, 2000), pp. 38, 52

Kathryn Brush, Vastly More than Brick and Mortar: Reinventing the Fogg Art Museum in the 1920s, Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge MA / New Haven, CT, 2003), pp. 54-56

The Limestone Sculpture Provenance Project, website, 2004

Kathryn Brush, "The Capitals from Moutiers-Saint-Jean (Harvard University Art Museums) and the Carving of Medieval Art Study in American after World War I", Medieval Art and Architecture after the Middle Ages, ed. Janet Marquardt and Alyce Jordan, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, 2009)

Exhibition History

32Q: 1012 North Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

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