The Green Man figure is one of the most compelling and mysterious figures in Romanesque sculpture. It usually depicts the head of a man ensconced in vegetation, most often with leaves or snakes emerging from his mouth. Julianna Lees has an entire website devoted to investigations on the Green Man and other stylized motives from the era. This “Green Man of Cercles” site has much useful information on Romanesque sculpture.
Today’s example of a Green Man comes from one of the finest Romanesque churches in France, Clermont-Ferrand’s magnificent Notre Dame du Port. This capital is not the standard version of the Green Man, but a variant. The simplicity of the form – the head emerging from the vegetation – is compensated for by the beauty of the sculpting.
This figure is often called an “exfoliate head”. The Clermont version is characterized by the serenity of the man’s gaze. Normally the Green Man seems to be associated with man’s relationship to nature, often the representation of a sinful Adam with snakes emerging from his mouth. Here we see a figure at peace with nature, calm and serene, even wise.
This is part of a series of posts 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. To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.