- Gallery Text
This capital narrates four episodes from the life of the Old Testament hero Samson: he wrestles the lion, carries off the gates of Gaza, is shorn by Delilah, and pulls down the pagan temple of the Philistines. Originally an architectural element in the cloister of Notre-Dame des Doms in Avignon, France, it is made of marble possibly ordered from Carrara, Italy, by the canons of nearby Saint Ruf. Samson’s struggles against the Philistines were often interpreted as analogous to the Passion of Christ: just as Christ was betrayed, captured, and crucified, Samson was betrayed by Delilah, taken by the Philistines, and killed as he pulled down their pagan temple. Visible
in the marble is the masterful use of the carver’s drill, especially in the deep bores of the architectural ornament and the lion’s teeth, showing the variety of effect and clarity of form that could be achieved with this tool.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Capital with Four Scenes from the Story of Samson
- Architectural Elements
- Work Type
- architectural element
- Creation Place: Europe, France, Avignon
Level 2, Room 2440, Medieval Art, Medieval Art
View this object's location on our interactive map
- Physical Descriptions
- 29.5 x 26.1 x 26.1 cm (11 5/8 x 10 1/4 x 10 1/4 in.)
- André-Marius Garcin, Apt, France. B. d'Hendecourt, Passy, sold to Paul Sachs, Cambridge, MA, 1920, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1922.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Meta and Paul J. Sachs
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
- The four scenes are: Samson wrestling the lion; Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza; Delilah and the Philistines cutting Samson's hair; and Samson destroying the house of the Philistines.
- Publication History
Robert Charles de Lasteyrie du Saillant, L'Architecture Religieuse en France à l'époque romane: ses origines, son développement, A. Picard (Paris, France, 1912), p. 630, repr. in b/w as fig. 642
Arthur Kingsley Porter, "The Avignon Capital", Fogg Art Museum Notes, ed. Margaret E. Gilman (1923), pp. 2-15, repr. figs. 1, 2, 3, 4
Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1931), p. 22, repr.
Hans-Adelbert von Stockhausen, "Die Romanischen Kreuzgange der Provence: II. Teil: Die Plastik", Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft (1936), 8. Bd., pp. 89-171., pp. 127-129, repr. as abb. 167, 168, and 170
Arts of the Middle Ages, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1940), no. 165, repr. in b/w as pl. XXII
Katherine Dean Lee and Katharine Tyler Burchwood, Art Then and Now, Appleton-Century-Crofts (New York, NY, 1949), pp. 139-140, repr. in b/w as pl. 56
Denis Grivot and George Zarnecki, Gislebertus: Sculpteur d'Autun, Editions Trianon (Paris, France, 1965), pp. 73, 75
Agnes Mongan, Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965] : given and bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1965), cat. no. 84, repr.
Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT, 1967)
William D. Wixom, Treasures from Medieval France, exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH, 1967), no. III-6, repr.
Linda Seidel Field, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, exh. cat., ed. Stephen K. Scher, Thistle Press and Clarke and Way, Inc. (Providence, RI, 1969), no. 45, repr.
Linda Seidel, "Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections. X: The Fogg Art Museum. II: The Rhône Valley, Provence, Languedoc, Western and Northern France", GESTA (1972), vol. XI, no. 2, pp. 62-63; cat. no. 3a, repr. b/w fig. 8
Walter Cahn and Linda Seidel, Romanesque Sculpture in American Collections, volume 1: New England Museums, Burt Franklin & Co., Inc. (New York, NY, 1979), no. 18a, fig. 155
Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 140, repr.
Charles Little and David L. Simon, "Romanesque Sculpture in North American Collections. XXV. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Part V. Southwestern France", GESTA (1987), vol. XXVI no. 1, pp. 61-76, p. 75, under no. 15
Ilene H. Forsyth, "The Samson Monolith", The Brummer Collection of Medieval Art, Duke University Press (Durham, NC and London, England, 1991), pp. 20-55, pp. 39-45, repr. (three views)
Caroline Bruzelius and Jill Meredith, The Brummer Collection of Medieval Art, Duke University Press (Durham, NC, and London, England, 1991), pp. 44-45, repr. as fig. 2.18
Nancy Netzer, "Modes of Remembering the Classical Past", exh. cat., Boston College Museum of Art (Chestnut Hill, MA, 1995), no. 8, p. 11-12, repr. in b/w
Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting 1800-1940, exh. cat., Palmer Museum of Art (University Park, PA, 1996), no. 51, repr. in b/w pp. 212-213
Christine Smith, ed., Before and After the End of Time: Architecture and the Year 1000, exh. cat., George Braziller (New York, NY, 2000), no. 28 in checklist; p. 38; repr. on cover and p. 41
Kathryn Brush, Vastly More than Brick and Mortar: Reinventing the Fogg Art Museum in the 1920s, Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge MA / New Haven, CT, 2003), pp. 54-56, repr. as fig. 25
Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 40, repr.
Andrew Chen, "Abigail and David: The Iconography of a Romanesque Capital from Notre-Dame-des-Doms, Avignon", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (2013), LXXVI, pp. 131-136, p. 133 and note 10
William Germain Dooley, "Immortals of French Art Join to Demonstrate National Style", Transcript (December 11 1937), part 5
Robert P. Bergman, "Varieties of Romanesque Sculpture", Apollo (May 1978), 107, p. 374, repr. as figs. 7, 8, 9, and 10
"Portals to Illumination", Time [magazine] (May 30 1969), p. 64, p. 64, two sides repr. in b/w
- Exhibition History
Arts of the Middle Ages, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/17/1940 - 03/24/1940
Art in East and West, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, 02/04/1955 - 02/28/1955
Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965] Given and Bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 11/15/1965 - 01/15/1966; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 12/19/1966 - 02/26/1967
Treasures from Medieval France, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 11/15/1966 - 01/29/1967
Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967
The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, 05/08/1969 - 06/22/1969
Memory and the MIddle Ages, McMullen Museum of Art, Chestnut Hill, 02/17/1995 - 05/21/1995
Medieval Art in America: Patterns of Collecting, 1800-1940, Palmer Museum of Art, University Park, 01/09/1996 - 03/03/1996; Frick Art Museum, Pittsburgh, 04/01/1996 - 05/26/1996
Before and After the End of Time: Architecture in the Year 1000, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/26/2000 - 01/23/2001
Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
32Q: 2440 Medieval, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
- Verification Level
4 - Best. Object is extensively researched, well described and information is vetted