Romanesque Wall Paintings in France

Romanesque Wall Paintings in France

Romanesque Wall Paintings in France

Romanesque Wall Paintings in France

Excerpt

It may seem arbitrary to limit the study of a type of art, especially of a type of mediaeval art, to a single country. In the twelfth century the frontiers of France had neither the same outline, nor the same significance, as they have to-day. The provinces which then constituted France formed a part of Western Christendom and were absorbed in it. Yet, though we offer no excuse for confining ourselves to French territory alone but the necessity of limitation in so vast a subject, we would none the less stress the fact that Romanesque painting, in many of its manifestations, was expressed in this territory in a local style, and that its remains are far more numerous in the heart of France than in the remoter provinces.

More than a hundred years have passed since Prosper Mérimée Notice sur les peintures de l'Eglise de Saint-Savin revealed French Romanesque painting as a subject of study. It had been till then unknown, even to the "Romantic" students of the middle ages; thereafter it was studied with ever-increasing assiduity. A succession of monographs paved the way for more general studies which first began to appear before a rather unappreciative public at the beginning of the present century. (Some art-historians whose text books are still read did not hesitate to state that the history of painting in France began in the fourteenth, if not in the fifteenth century.) The bibliography at the end of this book is selective, but full enough to show the work done and the progress made in the course of a century; certain works, however, which serve as landmarks in the history of these researches should be mentioned here and now. Of these, Emile Mâle's chapter on Romanesque painting in André Michel Histoire de l'Art vol. I, part 2, 1905), must come first. Emile Mâle continued his work in the pages -- too few in number -- which he devotes to painting in his admirable Art religieux au XIIe szècle en France ( 1925). Then came Les Primitifs français, la peinture clunisienne, published by Fernand Mercier in 1932. These two books complement each other; one deals with the iconography, the other with the technique, of wall-painting. The first attempt at a synthesis that should include iconography, technique and style, the relation of the wall-paintings with the architecture they adorn, their state of preservation, their geographical distribution and their classification in schools of painting, was made by Henri Focillon in his Peintures romanes des églises de France, published in 1938. Focillon's beautifully written text serves as introduction to a collection of photographs by M. Devinoy, the first album to be published entirely devoted to Romanesque painting. Finally, three articles contributed by Madame Clémence-Paul Duprat to the Bulletin Monumental in 1942 and 1943 should be mentioned. Entitled Enquête sur la peinture murale en France à l'éoque romane, they give a general survey of the subject, necessarily provisional, but none the less masterly, in which patient scholarship is combined with a capacity to see the main lines of the whole. Her work shows a thorough knowledge not only of the monuments but . . .

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