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Currently shown

The Crossing of the Red Sea
Capital from the cloister of the Abbey of Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, France

Location

FRANCE, EASTERN LANGUEDOC

Title

The Crossing of the Red Sea
Capital from the cloister of the Abbey of Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, France

Date

1st quarter of 13th c.

Materials

Marble

Dimensions

40 x 45.1 cm

Credits

Purchase, inv. 1945.Dv.6

Collection

Western Art

This capital is from the cloister of an abbey, future Episcopal diocese of Narbonne, in the south of France. The abbey was heavily damaged during the Wars of Religion. In 1567, when the Protestants took over the town, the cathedral was pillaged and its nave destroyed. The cloister's capitals were dispersed. By the time the cathedral was sold as a national property during the Revolution, most of the capitals had been removed, which explains why many are to be found in French and North American collections today. Three sides of this capital represent the Old Testament episode of the Crossing of the Red Sea: the Israelites, fleeing the Egyptian army, are forced to cross the sea whose waves part miraculously to let them pass. They are led by Moses, at a corner of the fourth side, his staff raised. Following the orderliness of the first three comes an astounding chaos of figures, heads, chariots and bodies struggling to escape the waves of the Red Sea that are engulfing them.

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