Document Type

Book

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

This study of the so-called Headmaster of the West Portals of Chartres Cathedral attempts to demonstrate that this sculptor was probably a Greek, as suggested by Revoil.


First, it describes the present setting of the West Portals, and reviews the evidence for their change in location. Next, it distinguishes between the hand of the Head Master and those of his associates in the carving of the column figures of all three doorways, and describes his illusionistic use of low relief and a form of linear projection in the Maiestas Domini of the central tympanum.


A brief demonstration of the difference between the Head Master's system of projection and that of the Italian Renaissance leads to a reconstruction of the original order of the column figures of the Central Doorway, and of the geometric basis of the Maiestas Domini in the tympanum above them. In turn this leads to an interpretation of the whole doorway as the story of Christ's royal ancestry, a theme repeated in abbreviated form in the "royal doors" of other churches in France.

A case is made for identifying the Head Master as a Greek, on the basis of his use of low relief to convey the impression of volume without mass, as found in Byzantine ivory carving of the Second Golden Age. Also, his use of "cycloramic projection" shows a familiarity with Euclid's Optica, a closed book to all but a learned few in the West before the middle of the twelfth century.

The impact of the Headmaster's Royal Portal on the portals of other cathedrals in France is demonstrated by comparisons with the examples of Le Mans and Bourges.

Notes

Photo: Wikipedia Chartres Cathedral, High Gothic - view from south-east

CHAPTERS

  1. The West Portals of Chartres
  2. The Head Master’s Hidden Geometry
  3. The Greek Connection
  4. The Greek at Chartres


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