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Stone capital carved with arches and leafy shapes

At the bottom of this gray stone capital is a three-pronged shape, almost resembling a crown. Each prong is wide, with a rounded tip and vertical center seams. The prongs on the sides curve outward. At the tip of each prong is a spherical shape with two indentations at the top. Another crown-like shape is positioned behind it, the tips of each curve extending out over the first shape. This layer’s spheres also each have a vertical indentation at the bottom. Two curvy v-shapes with coiled ends nestle above this.

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
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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
  • Lore Holmes, Charles Little, and Edward V. Sayre, Elemental Characterization of Medieval Limestone Sculpture from Parisian and Burgundian Sources, Journal of Field Archaeology, Taylor & Francis (Boston: Boston University for the Association of Field Archaeology, Winter 1986), vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 419-438
  • 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

Verification Level

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