French / Narbonne Arch / 12th centuryFrench
Narbonne Arch
12th century

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Creator Nationality: European; French
Creator Dates/Places: French
Creator Name-CRT: French
Title: Narbonne Arch
View: Principal view
Creation Start Date: 1100
Creation End Date: 1199
Creation Date: 12th century
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Materials and Techniques: marble
Dimensions: 3 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 2 in. (101.6 x 188 cm)

This intricately carved arch is said to have come from a twelfth-century church in Narbonne, in southwestern France. It is composed of seven blocks of marble on which are carved eight fantastic beasts, comprising an abbreviated visual bestiary.

Moving from left to right, we see: a manticore with a man's face, a lion's body, and a scorpion's tail; a pelican, who pierces her own breast so that her blood feeds her young, symbolizing Christ's death and resurrection; a basilisk, a cross between a cock and a scorpion that can kill with its looks; a harpy luring men to their doom with her beautiful voice; a griffin, which has the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion; an amphisbaena or dragon, which can form its body into a circle; a centaur with drawn bow; and a lion, who erases his tracks with his tail to elude hunters, symbolizing Christ's incarnation. All of these creatures, whether imaginary or realistic, were familiar to many people during the Middle Ages , and all had their specific lessons to impart.

AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York
ID Number: 22.58.1
Credit Line: John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1922
Copyright: Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
AMICA ID: MMA_.22.58.1
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright (c) 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All Rights Reserved

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