Sunday, September 27, 2015

And the Panaghia in the Chartres crypt?

Begging comparison with the Theotokos in the Haghia Sophia apse, posted at head of last post?
Chartres.  Crypt (i.e., pre-Early Gothic preserved, but the painting is dated end 12c to beg. 13c).  The Virgin in Majesty, i.e., what the Greeks would call Panaghia.  In my humble (meant seriously) opinion, the 'visit' of the West to Constantinople in 1204 accounts for not a little in Gothic figural arts.  So much, and not least in the Ile de France, was of Byzantine origin.  I don't know whether Henry Adams and his traveling group saw the painted image in the crypt where it would have been at the altar end of the crypt which served as the principal sanctuary of Notre Dame: I don't know whether it was covered.  Even in its present condition, though, one can see its dark blues and the gold of the haloes, and the drawing is strong and elegant.
Between Abbot Suger's chevet and completion of the West Rose only a little later than the figures of the Royal Portal, (and some time before the recorded installation of the South Porch in 1206), that is, after the fire of 1194 and while the main nave as designed in 1197 was still incomplete, this painted image of the Virgin may have been the main one just at the time when the crusaders ran amok in Constantinople in 1203-4.
I did read Mont St-Michel and Chartres .  It could not be more different from The Education..., and I still don't like it very much, though I keenly appreciate  (and even envy) the depth in which he devoted himself to every aspect of the territory that his group (Lodges and others) had covered, though from what I know of pre-WWI touring cars it can't have been wholly comfortable on the roads (a present-day Fiat 500, or Citroen, would be more so).  It is a guide book one might say for travelers with ample time and access to the best books.   Why did Cram like it so much?  It was not just a Baedeker, and it explored its quarter of France in unprececented depth—in a way that devout books never meant to do, and it was literature.
But whereas The Education is timeless and unique in its personal depth, Mont St-Michel is dated. Besides, by his own account, from boyhood and all his life, Henry Adams had an antipathy towards academic research, particularly what is for us century-old German scholarship.  One need not share that antipathy, though, to sympathize with his need to do so (since he had the leisure and means for it) and to write the kind of study that he really wanted to.  The worst one can call this is elitist: that to appreciate and understand Mont St-Michel  one needs more general education and leisure for thought than one can hope to get from this book itself, though the experience of sharing with Adams is worth more than any textbook.  Still, in my opinion, Erwin Panofsky's essay, "Three Decades of Art History in the United States," the Epilog in Panofsky's Meaning in the Visual Arts, casts even more light than he intended, and he is generous to his American predecessors, in particular impressed by their regarding all Europe as one.  Henry Adams, however, was (quite understandably and pardonably) a learned amateur, and, he'd be quick to claim, an amateur in the best sense.  Young students of my generation were unfamiliar with Adams's kind.  At the same time, they seem to be less in touch with what the combination of the Paperback Revolution (much of it, like LP music recordings of the same period) made available to us a quarter to a half century ago, and that because (speaking of California in the West more than of many places between the Rockies and the Mississippi) as many as  half of our professors had been born and educated in Europe.  The ready availability of specialized studies, in new translations, made the history of art and architecture a full-fledged discipline in America (as also in England, where it had been rather regional).  Today there are many new books, as well as video works, that are more abundantly illustrated but very, very seldom go beyond the interests of the educated layman (but a layman, though more varied, also less fully educated than a century ago and providing a larger audience).  The more general works are certainly less elite (today we are horrified that only potential students whose families can afford well known universities may be able to contemplate that sort of education).  There are no longer. as in the wake of World War II, works that can be published simply for the cost of publication.  Obviously, electronic publication is taking their place, but I doubt if there are enough teaching scholars to form an adequate bridge of mentors (so to speak).  I don't know.  And I am not up to date in medieval studies; my classical background gives me ready access to them, via Greek and Roman studies, but I am not placed (in the deep South of the USA) to know whether most of the young assistant professors are prepared to form the educational bridges aforementioned.
So, I'll mention besides Erwin Panofsky only a couple of famous studies that impressed me most (and which I'm sure still are as good as ever):
—Adolf Katzenellenbogn, The Sculptural Programs of Chartres Cathedral.  Norton, 1959.
 —ed. and with a preface by Robert Branner, Chartres Cathedral (Norton Critical Studies in Art History), 1969.  This contains articles by most of the authors, I confess, that I most esteem but also takes pains to represent different approaches, including on the stained glass Maurice Denis and Henry Adams himself.  Branner plainly says that he feels that an American author ought to be included and, since there are other topics where Adams might be more questionable, gives him the windows that he loved so much.  The Branner book, also, like most of the later books (with offset printing) is very adequately illustrated.  I'm sure, of course, that it no longer costs $2.95.
—Also as good as ever, Emile Mâle, The Gothic Image (transl. Dora Nussey).  Harper, 1958.
The authors included in Branner's volume really do provide a wonderful survey of Chartres studies.
Perhaps it is just to consider Mont St-Michel as the work that inspired Cram's generation as the post-WWII works inspired mine.