Pair of double cloister capitals on two columns
Toulouse, Saint Augustin cloister ? , 14th century
Saint Béat marble
195 x 53 x 32 cm
Double marble Saint Beat capitals richly decorated on all sides with leaves, flowers and figures; molded abacus, astragal in angular torus.
In a capital, a reclining male figure occupies the length of the capital horizontally; on the other side appears a man's face with branches coming out of his mouth and ending in flowers.
The second capital presents two faces characterized by their hats with branches coming out of their mouths and connecting to the foliage that surrounds their heads: one wears a pointed bishop's hat; the other a monk's hood.
This pair of double capitals can be compared with similar works in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris (number Inventory AP 192) found during excavations of the old medieval Château du Louvre in 1866 but which probably came from a cloister of a Pyrenean church.
In France, the use of marble during the Middle Ages was rare firstly because this material was not common and then because its use requires considerable expense. This particular marble called Saint Beat came from the Central French Pyrenees and was used especially in Toulouse region. White, grey and banded greyish varieties were exploited during Roman times, to be used mainly in sculpture, decorative architecture and epigraphy in Southern Gaul.
Romanesque architects often stripped ancient monuments of their columns and capitals to reuse them once brought up to date.
In the south of France, mainly in the vicinity of the Pyrenees, there are still cloisters adorned with marble columns and capitals.
Very similar to our are the columns and capitals of cloister of Saint Augustin in Toulouse, build between 1307 and 1310.
During the 19th century the cloister was partially destroyed and rebuilt 100 years later with some surviving elements from the original cloister and some architectural fragment from others destroyed monuments.
The unusual iconography, the use of marble and the completeness of these double capitals with their columns and their bases, make them particularly rare and important.