Saturday, 25 June 2011

Arles again

Arles has extensive and well-ruined Roman ruins. The Greeks built theatres to watch Sophocles and Euripedes: the Romans, we are told, built theatres to watch humans and animals killing each other. The Greeks kept violence off-stage and described it: did the Romans really build massive theatres so they could watch actual suffering and death?

Much less grandiose and much more human is the late 11th or early 12th century facade of the cathedral. The cathedral itself is a massive, dark and boring space, but the sculpture in the sunshine outside is a real delight. The carving is so deep the figures are quite rounded, and work this good must surely be underpinned with drawing from life.

A familiar story at the top, but I wonder about the figure, apparently swimming, at the bottom. Or is it Adam undergoing ribesectomy?

& a weary Daniel with friendly lions.

Affection for a lion.

& I'm not sure what these stories are: a massive foot appears through the central door. The anguished figures on the right are carved so deeply there is actually a crowd behind them.

Curiously, it reminds me of Khajuraho, which was being carved at the same time, on a bigger scale, it's true, and with rather different subject matter. But the way the friezes are organised, separated by decorative layers, and the depth of carving, are actually quite similar. Offhand, and without digging out my slides of Khajuraho, I'd say that some of the decorations are identical.

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