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Enclosed in a broad flat molding that forms a frame, a character wearing a short tunic and cloak juggles and dances. With his left hand, he throws up a ball, preparing to catch it with his right. The shape of the bas-relief shows it to be an archivolt—an architectural element that probably originated from the portal of the church of Saint-Pierre-le-Puellier in Bourges, which has since been destroyed.

The body of the juggler, constrained within the border, clearly demonstrates that sculpture was subservient to architecture—something often seen in Roman times. It is what the great art historian Henri Focillon defined as “the law of the frame," based on this famous bas-relief in particular. Its style invites comparison with Burgundian sculpture: the elegance and precision of the relief, the taste for movement, and the highly ornamental draperies are especially reminiscent of the sculpted decor of the Vézelay Basilica. Although the inscription in the border, which some believed to be in Armenian characters, is purely ornamental it evokes the oriental influences present in France during the Middle Ages.

Details

  • Title: The Juggler of Berry
  • Creator: Anonyme
  • Location Created: Bourges, maison Dumoutet
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 60 ; L.33 ; P.11 cm
  • Provenance: Acquis en 1881
  • Medium: Limestone

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