Romanesque Sculpture


Romanesque art develops between the eleventh century and the beginning of the thirteenth century. Its name comes from the French “roman” (romance) and is the first international style of the Middle Ages. Although it has its own language and a series of common features, it also has regional differences. The Romanesque favors the rebirth of stone sculpture, which in the last days of the Empire had become impoverished and ended up disappearing, and of wood sculpture, lost in the first centuries of the Middle Ages.

The churches are covered with sculpture, that is intimately linked to architecture. The submission of the sculptural works to the architectural concept deforms the figures, adapting them to the frame. These are limited first to the tympanum (over the door or in its arches) and then the high relief begins to be worked on, starting the sculpture on the path of realism and humanization of the characters that also affects the divine representation. The images fulfill the purpose of instructing the faithful with a narrative function, being instruments of God that should move the faithful to comply with religious precepts. This sculpture does not seek to imitate nature, the important thing being the recognition of the motif (narrative function) and the coupling to the architectural space. It is a symbolic art where color, layout, accompanying objects and deformations contribute its character. Two laws subordinate the representations: the law of the frame, which pushes the representations to adapt to the forms of the architectural structure, and the law of the geometric scheme, by which, figures are required to follow a geometric logic (to be symmetrical, to have silhouettes similar to squares...) even if reality is distorted.

At this time the separation between stonemason and sculptor is non-existent, the artists generally being anonymous, although there are exceptions such as Master Esteban or Master of Cabestany, the latter named according to the place where he worked.