• Face Value: An Iconographic Analysis of the Corbels of Chartres Cathedral

      Bolman, Elizabeth S., 1960-; Hall, Marcia B. (Temple University. Libraries, 2013)
      The numerous figurated corbels of Chartres Cathedral were inscribed with semiotic content. Works in this genre were formerly disregarded by researchers because of their perceived lack of meaning. Trends in modern scholarship have challenged this misconception, and recent technological innovations have facilitated the study of these objects. The category would be more appropriately termed "secondary" rather than" marginal," as the former offers a semantically unencumbered assessment of the role of these sculptures. Originally designed for the cathedral's twelfth-century western complex, the corbels were likely members of a series that encircled the entire perimeter of the building. The use of human and animal head motifs for their decoration exemplifies a pervasive historical practice in architectural sculpture. The preservation of the corbels in the Gothic reconstruction of the cathedral substantiates their significance to medieval viewers. Study of the surviving pieces is complicated by the loss of the contextual framework provided by the remainder of the series. The examination of material evidence indicates a record of artistic engagement with these works. Iconographic analysis of individual corbel images reveals both correspondences with the thematic context of the primary sculptural program and independent signification. This project is intended as a useful starting point for additional inquiry, as investigations of secondary sculpture at other sites may bring new insight to its manifestations at Chartres.