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Gray stone head of man with curly hair and crown

A carved, gray stone head of a man from the neck up. The man’s nose is broken off. The stone at the broken edge is rougher and slightly darker than the surrounding carved stone. He has a mustache that extends into a short beard. The man’s eyes are open, but the stone around the sides of his eyes is worn, obscuring some detail. The man’s brow is slightly furrowed. He has thick locks of hair ending in swirls that frame his face. On his head is a tall crown. The exterior of the crown has a layered leaflike pattern.

Gallery Text

This head belonged to a statue of a king on the façade of the Church of Saint-Denis, the royal abbey of France and burial place of French kings. In the twelfth century, the Abbot Suger (1081–1151) rebuilt the west front and choir of the eighth-century Carolingian church in a new style that we now term “early Gothic”: here the crown and hair retain the regular, rhythmic patterns characteristic of Romanesque art, while the cheeks and brow are softly modeled, with lips carved in a deep curve that anticipates Gothic naturalism. The figure to which this head belonged was one of a group of kings and queens on the left portal of the church that underscored the royal lineage to Christ and the hierarchies of earthly power. Like the abbey itself, they expressed the divine sanction of the French kings. This head was severed from its body when much of the abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Head of a King (from the left portal of Saint-Denis)
Work Type
c. 1137-1140
Creation Place: Europe, France, Saint Denis
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2440, Medieval Art
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Physical Descriptions

47 x 24.1 cm (18 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Bing Collection, Paris, sold; to Fogg Art Museum through Hervey E. Wetzel Bequest Fund, November, 1920

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Hervey E. Wetzel Bequest Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Marvin Ross and Rutherford John Gettens, "Monumental Sculptures from Saint-Denis", The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery (1940), III, pp. 100-103, 108-109; p. 103, fig. 19, repr.; p. 108 note 1; p. 109, fig. 21, repr.
  • Whitney Stoddard, The West Portals of Saint-Denis and Chartres: Sculpture in the Ile-de-France from 1140 to 1190, Theory of Origins, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1952), p. 7, plate IX, figs. 3 and 4
  • William D. Wixom, Treasures from Medieval France, exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH, 1967), p. 72, under no. III-14
  • Linda Seidel Field, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, exh. cat., ed. Stephen K. Scher, Thistle Press and Clarke and Way, Inc. (Providence, RI, 1969), pp. 150-155, no. 53, repr. on p. 150
  • Linda Seidel, "Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections. X: The Fogg Art Museum. II: The Rhône Valley, Provence, Languedoc, Western and Northern France", GESTA (1972), vol. XI, no. 2, pp. 78-79; cat. no. 15, repr. b/w fig. 37.
  • Walter Cahn and Linda Seidel, Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections, volume 1: New England Museums, Burt Franklin & Co., Inc. (New York, NY, 1979), pp. 184-186; no. 33, fig. 190
  • Sumner McK. Crosby, Jane Hayward, Charles Little, and William D. Wixom, The Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis in the Time of Abbot Suger (1122-1151), exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art Press (New York, 1981), pp. 39-43; p. 43, fig. 16
  • Sumner McK. Crosby, The Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis: from its Beginnings to the Death of Suger, 475-1151, ed. Pamela Z. Blum (New Haven and London, 1987), p. 194; p. 200, fig. 90 c, repr.; p. 490 note 71
  • Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting 1800-1940, exh. cat., Palmer Museum of Art (University Park, PA, 1996), p. 176
  • Roland Halfen, Chartres: Schöpfungsbau und Ideenwelt im Herzen Europas, Mayer (Stuttgart, Germany, 2001), p. 258-259, repr., Abb. 149
  • The Limestone Sculpture Provenance Project, website, 2004
  • Damien Berné and Phillippe Plagnieux, ed., Naissance de la Sculpture Gothique (1135 – 1150), Saint-Denis, Paris, Chartres, exh. cat., Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, 2018), pp. 63-7, p. 4, repr. p. 67, fig. 37, repr.

Exhibition History

  • Art of the Romanesque, University of Notre Dame Art Gallery, Notre Dame, 11/06/1960 - 12/04/1960
  • The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, 05/08/1969 - 06/22/1969
  • Suger, Abbot of Saint-Denis, The Cloisters, New York, 03/31/1981 - 05/31/1981
  • Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • Landmarks of World Art and Architecture, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2012 - 01/19/2013
  • 32Q: 2440 Medieval, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at