17 April 2008

Statues in churches, III

Here's a third church statue. Speaking of local color, as Claudia did in a comment yesterday, the Palluau church decorator seems to like bright reds and blues. They certainly are vibrant colors, especially in the context of gray stone walls inside the church.

I'm documenting what I saw in a typical church, not judging it.

7 comments:

  1. In mediaeval times, all churches were like that all over, in frescos as well as statuary. For an illiterate population that was as close as they got to The Word. In Protestant countries, the Reformation obliterated most of the visual illustration. I've never quite got the hang of whether and how the rather different sort of French anti-clericalism affected such things.

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  2. And in Britain, after the Reformation had whitewashed everything, the 19th century church restoration took the view that plain = tasteful. Ironically, even William Morris and his 'anti-scrape' movement the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings contributed to this, with their insistence on the building materials being presented 'honestly'. Many people interpreted this as meaning that the bare stone must be visible, whether that was the original intent or not. It is one of the hardest job a curator of one of these heritage buildings has - ie not to pass judgement on colour schemes that modern eyes see as garish and tasteless, and inadvertently skew the historical view. In France I think one of the problems was the selling off of eclesiastical artefacts as architectural salvage in the 19th century - many a country house in Britain has very fine French church stained glass and statuary.
    Susan

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  3. The priory in Palluau has beautiful frescoes (on my blog here) in the old style. So does the church at Saint-Aignan and, especially, the church at Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe.

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  4. I might be mistaken but I think Simon posted a picture of the interior of Notre-Dame la Grande were you can see the variety of patterns painted on pillars and arches.
    It is to be noted also that red and blue were always used by painters for clothing of Jesus-Christ, the Virgin Mary and all the other religious figures. Nobody can tell me the reason for this choice of colors.

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  5. Claudia in Toronto18 April, 2008 00:16

    Your photos of the frescoes(Saint-Laurent Priory) are magnificent. I couldn't be connected to the English and French links you offer. I decided to try Google and it sent me to your post on the Priory. Vikipedia says very little on Palluau-sur-Indres. It seems you're the main source of information for this beautiful church. The village is lucky to have your blog as a non-official touristic invitation. Anybody who reads your entry and sees your pictures would not want to miss the priory.

    It's a joy to discover it on the screen.

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  6. Blue is used for Mary for a whole swathe of semi-connected reasons. It is the colour of the sea, and her name has the same linguistic roots as Mare (the sea). It is also the colour of Rosemary flowers, which symbolise rememberance. And it was the single most expensive colour the artist could use, being produced from ground Afghanistani lapis lazuli. The person commissioning the work was signaling their wealth and devotion by ordering the most expensive grade of lapis they possibly could. Naturally it could be eked out using other pigments and there was at least one other blue pigment available, but the punters could tell if you used alternatives.
    I'm not sure what the significance of red is - probably some association with power in Roman times. Also red pigments were notoriously light sensitive until relatively recent times, so I suspect that by commissioning red you were also saying 'I have money enough to pay for the retouching of the red bits for ever more.'
    Susan

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  7. Thank you, Susan, for the thorough explanation about colors. It makes a lot of sense.

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