(active 1115-1120 at Cluny)

The Four Rivers of Paradise

Musée du Farinier, Cluny

The picture shows a capital from the Abbey of Saint Pierre, Cluny. The sculpture from the abbey at Cluny has provided art historians with one of their thorniest problems in chronology: for the orthodox French school the capitals date from 1120-1140; for the American school and for some French historians, they were carved before being put into place - that is, before 1095. According to the American thesis it was the Cluniac masterpieces that inaugurated the Romanesque revival of monumental sculpture, a revival whose beginnings have traditionally been ascribed to Languedoc. In either case this capital remains a beautiful piece, with sinuous, boldly formed foliage swollen with sap, and, an allegorical male nude representing a river at each corner. On each face of the capital the composition is finely balanced, and the decorative elements are raised in true relief modelling.