The Watcher of Vézelay (Dennis Aubrey)


We have previously documented the sophisticated storytelling in medieval religious sculpture. The “Temptation” capital at Plaimpied is simply a work of genius. But there are so many other churches filled with work that confirms the skills of these sculptors – Autun, Mozac, Souillac, Moissac, and Vézelay come immediately to mind.

Today’s post is what PJ referred to as an amuse bouche, concentraing on a single detail of a single capital in a single church. I have noticed how an emotional scene in a film or on stage is often more powerful when it is observed by another character. There is a double meaning to everything – how it feels to the participant and how it feels to the observer. We, the audience, participate in that tension and add a third meaning. Today in reviewing some capitals of Vézelay and found this shot, which I found sommething truly wonderful that confirms that observation.

Capital - Basilique Sainte Madeleine, Vézelay (Yonne)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Capital – Basilique Sainte Madeleine, Vézelay (Yonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

In the capital, which depicts Samson fighting the lion, we see a shadowy figure in the lower right below watching the action. At first I thought it might represent Samson’s father, since in the verse (Judges 14:5-6) Samson is on the way to his wedding with his father and mother. But 14:6 reads, “And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.” I have found nothing in the Biblical story that this might represent, but only something in the imagination of the sculptor.

3 responses to “The Watcher of Vézelay (Dennis Aubrey)

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