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Written in Stone: The impact of the properties of quarried stone on the design of medieval sculpture

Written in Stone: The impact of the properties of quarried stone on the design of medieval sculpture

By Janet Snyder

Avista Forum Journal, Vol.13:1 (2003)

Introduction: No clue can be overlooked in the study of medieval sculpture. The investigation of the impact of the properties of quarried stone on the design of twelfth-century architectural sculpture has unfolded like the plot of a mystery novel. In her study of ornamental colonnette sculpture Vibeke Olson has discovered evidence for the sequence of labor that created the ornamental sculpture in west faqade of Chartres Cathedral. Recognizing that surface finish offers clues of successive stages of work, she suggests that the different “hands” apparent in portal sculpture might actually be the product of the last artistlmason (ymagier) working on the carving rather than of individual geniuses working from start to finish on a single sculpture. At Saint-Ayoul in Provins I have observed evidence of the penultimate and ultimate stages of carving, extending Olson’s discovery concerning workshop practice to the column-figure sculptures.

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