The Peeker of Conques – Amuse-bouche #3 (Dennis Aubrey)

PJ and I have decided to do a series of posts, perhaps once a week, featuring an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer to whet the appetite of diners. Each of these will explore a single interesting feature of medieval architecture or sculpture.

Our choice for this week’s amuse-bouche features a wonderful detail from the tympanum at one of our favorite churches, the Basilique Sainte Foy in Conques. The tympanum is justly famous and we have written about it before.

Tympanum of the Basilique Sainte Foy, Conques  (Aveyron)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Tympanum of the Basilique Sainte Foy, Conques (Aveyron) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

But if you look carefully at the outermost archivolt of the tympanum arch, you will see a series of small figures, almost hidden amidst all of the other detail crowding this ensemble. These are small carvings of human faces peeking through the stone.

Basilique Sainte Foy, Conques (Aveyron)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Basilique Sainte Foy, Conques (Aveyron) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

What I love about this more than anything else is the way that the sculptor toyed with reality in a way that we can only see as modern – turning stone into paper or fabric. Not to mention the piercing blue eyes!

To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.

20 thoughts on “The Peeker of Conques – Amuse-bouche #3 (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Really lovely amuse-bouche; beautifully observed. (What is the hole by the left thumb?)

    However, my eyesight obviously is not good enough, and I cannot see where it is in the main picture of the tympanum.

  2. Is that a very worn insciption on the band between that peeker’s nose and left hand? It rather looks like it might be, very worn, an r maybe an o, an s and something not quite a full letter. You might be able to enlarge the area enough to tell. Curious little characters.

    1. Aquila, I don’t think it is an inscription. I have inspected all fifteen of these figures and none of them have any inscriptions. The one in the post does have some patterning, but it is across all of the archivolts in that area. It seems that it might be some kind of wearing on the stone, probably from liquid. You can see it in this shot showing more context.

      1. Weird. It really looks like very worn letters in the photo in the post. Almost more like they were an after thought and more scratched than carved. Thanks for checking though. I did try to magnify it enough to be sure but it pixelated.

      2. I must be spending too much time trying to decipher those old records with the genealogy and making out the various letters, I’m seeing them everywhere.

  3. The Peeker of Conques never fails to delight me. He is like an old friend who I enjoy visiting frequently. Thank you for the added dimensions you give him with your knowledge and insight.

    1. There are fifteen of them arrayed across the arch, Cindy, and they are all special. They are some of my favorite sculptural details in all of Conques, which is, of course, filled with many!

  4. Mr. Aubrey,
    I just saw briefly a post on a church with three slight differences in floor level– one or two steps each. Then I got distracted by another of your fascinating posts and lost the floor levels. Can you direct me to it?

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