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Stone capital carved with leaves, pinecone, and human faces

This gray stone capital is wide and trapezoid-shaped, with a wide top and narrow bottom. It is carved on three sides with an elaborate pattern of arching, many-lobed leaves. Three small pine cones appear along the bottom of the capital, each surrounded with a twisted border of leaves. Between them are two human-esque faces with wide-eyed expressions and hair sticking straight up. Their toothy mouths are open wide. Out of each rises a leafy arch with another pinecone in the center.

Gallery Text

From the Benedictine abbey church at Moutiers-Saint-Jean, in Burgundy, France, these capitals are part of a set of thirteen brought to Harvard by Arthur Kingsley Porter, professor of art history from 1920 to 1933. These two derive from Classical forms of Corinthian capitals, a type characterized by upward thrusting acanthus leaves topped by volutes, or scrolls. Such examples of antique architectural decoration could still be found in buildings of southern France, and here the medieval sculptors make it their own. Medieval texts often praise works of art for their variety (varietas), and indeed such interest in variation is visible here. On the column at left, the traditional acanthus leaves rise up from the base; their outer leaves then curl inward and cross, framing a pinecone or thistle. A human face peers out from between the leaves. On the right, the pinecones are larger in size and number, with two distinct rows of intertwined vines and cones.

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 1005, South Arcade
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Physical Descriptions

63.5 x 64 x 37.4 cm (25 x 25 3/16 x 14 3/4 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. 9
  • Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1931), p. 19, repr.
  • Linda Seidel, "Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections: IX: The William Hayes Fogg Art Museum: I: Burgundy", GESTA (1972), vol XI, no. 1, no. 1m, 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. 1m, fig. 133
  • 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
  • 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: 1005 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

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