Stone capital with four heads and coats of arms
Ile de France, second half of XIII century
26 x 16 x 20 cm
Elegant Gothic stone capital carved in high relief with four male busts which arise directly from the circular astragalus and support a molded quadrangular abacus. Four coats of arms decorate the basket and intersect the busts placed at the corners.
The four shields have an ogival lower point, characteristic shape of the ancient French shield, frequently used in the 13th century.
One of the four coat of arms is divided into two partitions and shows the typical cross of the templars. The illegible coat of arms was probably identical to the latter. The other two shields present a leafless tree placed on a mountain which hides its roots (nodrito).
The capital was probably polychrome and the colors played an important role in the identification of the coats of arms. While it is difficult to guess the heraldic identity of the family represented by the tree, the presence of the Cross and the two stylized roses proof that it was strongly linked to the Order of the Templars.
The four identical figures appear hairless, the face framed by wavy hair which rolls over the ears; eyes open to lower eyelid almost horizontal, upper half-almond shaped; the mouth thin and narrow, the nose straight.
These sober faces with simple volumes are comparable to architectural fragments from Saint Denis, in particular a cul-de-lamp decorated with three male heads today in the collection of Cluny museum and coming from the Abbot of Saint Denis (inventory number Cl. 12581 (Cl. 18935):
the perfect symmetry of the faces, the idealized regularity of the features, in particular the almond-shaped eyes, the hairstyle, the facial features and the shape of the coats of arms allow us to date this capital in the second half of 13th century.
- F. Baron, Sculpture Française, I - Moyen Age, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris 1996, pp. 86-87
- J. Charpentier, L’Ordres des Templiers, Editions Tallandier, 1997
- J. Formigé, L’Abbaye Royale de Saint Denis. Recherches nouvelles, Paris, PUF, 1960, p. 22
- G. Romalli, La Domus templare di Santa Maria in Carbonara,
- Paris ville rayonnante, Musée de Cluny, RMN, 2010