Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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capital with Battle of Virtues and Vices
  • France
  • capital with Battle of Virtues and Vices, early 1100s
  • Where object was made: possibly Moissac or Toulouse, France
  • limestone
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 39.4 x 40.7 x 30.1 cm
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 15 1/2 x 16 x 11 7/8 in
  • Museum purchase
  • On view: Loo Gallery, 401, C1
  • 1957.0072
Label Text

The capital commemorates the life of St. Anthony at the time he was living in the desert. In narrative progression the capital depicts St. Anthony being repeatedly tormented by devils. After one such attack, he lost consciouness and his brethern, thinking him dead, carried him away. Upon another occasion, the Saint witnessed a diabolical vision in which devils were tearing a man down from a tower where he had sought safety.
The essence of the capital's style is an archiac representation of forms, designed in restless, but well-coordinated opposition with a tendency toward realism. In this dominant restlessness are implied unstable postures, energetic movements, diagonal and zigzag lines and the complication of surfaces by overlapping and contrasted forms. The figures are plastic, arranged in varied planes, and are not bound together in rigorously symmetrical schemes. The relief is high, intricate and intensely expressive, thus complimenting the architecture of the capital with its salient astragals, volutes and consoles.
The hair of the devils is rendered separately with locks forming regular wavy units that are repeated in parallel succession. The eyebrow is a precise arched line formed by the intersection of two surfaces. The eye itself, as indicated in the falling man, is an arbitrary composition. The lids are treated as two equal separate members without junction or overlapping, while the iris is indicated by an incised circle. The mouth also shows simplicity. The common formula is employed with the two lips being equal. Their parting lines are sharply curved down at the corners.
The drapery forms are as schematic as the eyes and hair. The lower horizontal edge of the tunics of the figures is broken in places by a small pattern, usually pentagonal in outline, which represents the lower end of the fluting formed at the base of a vertical fold. In its actual shape it corresponds to nothing in the structure of the body, unless we presume that a wind from below has stirred the garment at certain points into this strangely schematic fold, and that another force has flattened it against the body. In many instances the folds accentuate bodily movements, for example, in the way it curves over a protruding knee. At other times, the effect is purely schematic as it reflected in the almond-like shape covering the lower chest cavity on some of the figures. The double fold appears many times and always with the same thickness and decisive regularity.