MEDIEVAL SCULPTOR, French
(active 1235-1245 in Picardy)
Portal of the south transept1235-45
Cathedral, Amiens (Somme)
A superabundance of sculptural decoration adorns the west front of the Amiens Cathedral, widely considered one of the most important buildings of French High Gothic. However, artistically more significant is the south transept portal, the sculpture on which dates from 1235-45.
The various registers of the tympanum relate the life of St Honoratus, a former bishop of Amiens. On the lintel, flanked by columns, two of the Apostles, dressed in traveling clothes bidding one another farewell. The most famous figure, however, is on the trumeau. This is the so-called Vierge Dorée, the Golden Virgin, whose name derives from the fact that once she was gilded. She is smaller than the jamb figures, her pedestal is higher.
The figure of the Virgin is the real centre of this portal, partly because of the three-dimensionality that makes her stand forward from the plane of the tympanum. While the upper registers are almost in bas-relief, there is a noticeable increase in three-dimensionality as one moves downward, until the Virgin on the trumeau is almost a fully rounded figure even though she can be viewed only from the front.