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pulse to its improvement, was probably the custom which, towards the close of the twelfth century, obtained of placing the monumental effigy upon the tomb. While the precise period of the introduction of this subsequently universal custom cannot be ascertained, it is certain that an earlier date than the middle of the twelfth century cannot possibly be assigned to it. All the undoubted monuments of an earlier period are of a singularly plain character: mostly, the high-ridged stone coffin itself, half sunk in the ground ; and if adorned with sculpture, it is only of the cross, surrounded with scroll-work or foliage, or an arabesque border, enclosing or dividing the lines of the inscription. Toward the close of this century, the stone coffin was often placed upon the ground, instead of being partly sunk below; and then, first, the monumental effigy seems to have been placed above it. And with what pathos and beauty did the sculptor of the middle ages invest that effigy! Each distinction of age, of character, of office, is preserved;—the knight is helmed, and mail-clad ; the crosier rests beside the prelate ; the high-born lady is wimpled ; the monarch wears his crown; for so were they known among men. But the day of earthly distinction had passed away; and, therefore, are all alike outstretched in the helplessness of death ;—all, with clasped hands and uplifted eyes, implore the "common salvation."
The earliest effigies in England are probably those in the Temple church; next in order may be placed that of John at Worcester. The execution of all these is very flat; and the first effigies on which the eye of the artist can rest with complacency, are those at Fontevraud. Although, in a foreign land, these effigies may take their place in a chapter devoted to the progress of the arts in England, since they were erected at English cost, and under English superintendence. The exact period of their execution it is difficult to ascertain, since we can scarcely believe that the noble effigy of Elinor of Aquitaine was executed even earlier than that of John, to which it is so greatly superior. To that of Isabel of Angoulesme, we can assign the exact date, 1254, from the testimony of Matthew Paris; and it is very probable that the four effigies of Plantagenet, Coeur de Lion, Elinor, and Isabel, were executed nearly at the same time. It was indeed toward the middle of this century, that sculpture, especially of the human figure, made such rapid advances, and not improbably these rapid advances may be traced to the results of the siege of Constantinople in 1221, by the united band of the Croises. The same fortune of war, which gave the horses of Lysippus to grace the arsenal of Venice, scattered among the natives of northern and western Europe many a precious gem of classic art, and the genius of ancient sculpture revived again, to deck the sepulchral chapel, and to adorn the cathedral.
A peculiarly classical character indeed pervades the effigies of this period: the noble effigy of Elinor, with her lofty regal brow, and the full folds of her mantle so gracefully gathered up beneath the girdle, and from thence flowing to her feet, might be placed in a collection of Grecian sculpture, nor excite surprise. The effigy of Isabel too, though a woman of a far inferior style of beauty, is yet distinguished by much grace and elegance; and the drapery, which is very full and light, is chiselled with great freedom and delicacy. Nor is it only to the effigies at Fontevraud that we must turn; the effigy of Edith Astley, the graceful female figure in Bedale church; that of Edmund Crouchback, and that beautiful, though so greatly mutilated effigy of his first wife, Aveline de Fortibus, both in Westminster, are proud monuments of the skill of the artist, at a rather later period. The classical character, just before alluded to, is singularly heightened by the graceful female dress of this period. The robe flowing in ample folds to the feet, the mantle, sometimes fastened by rich ornaments on the shoulders, and sometimes flung loosely across the figure, and the plainly banded hair just seen beneath the delicate wimple, give these effigies a close resemblance to the remains of classical antiquity; while the knight in his sleeveless surcoat, open at the side, and its ample folds confined by the sword-belt, wears the very counterpart of the Grecian tunic. It has been asserted by some writers, that the sepulchral effigy is an undoubted portrait—this seems correct. In the four effigies at Fontevraud,* there is so much variety and peculiarity of feature in each, that it is difficult to account for it, save upon the belief of each being an actual portrait. The effigy of Beren* All these may be seen in the late Charles Stothard's beautiful work, the " Monumental Effigies."
garia at Mans, too, displays so singular a cast of feature, that the artist must have copied from a real face. The features of Coeur de Lion and John bear a striking resemblance to those on their great seals, and a similar likeness of Coeur de Lion we also find in an almost contemporary illumination.
The reader will probably be surprised to learn, that the pure marble had no charms for our forefathers, but that the effigy was always painted.* This work (of supererogation as we might be inclined to call it,) was however performed in the most careful and delicate manner; the colouring was laid on as thin as possible; the minute details of dress and ornament finished like enamel; while the tints of the face were worked in with so much delicacy, as almost to rival the paintings of the Flemish school. In his interesting account of the effigies at Fontevraud, the late Mr. Charles Stothard informs us, that the painting, which still remained on the face of Plantagenet, presented the appearance of a miniature. These paintings were always executed in oil; and so excellent were the colours, and so admirable was the ancient artist's method of using them, that the delicate little figures which grace the tomb of Edmund Crouchback, if divested of their coat of dirt, will be found, after the lapse of almost five hundred and fifty years, to retain alike the freshness
* Many parts of the "churches also, at this period as well as at an earlier, seem to have been painted. The arch, leading to the Chapter House at Westminster, still displays minute traces of painting and gilding: in the east cloister too, immediately below the capitals of the~small figures, are remains of a fillet of gold, three inches in breadth. The screen in the Confessor's chapel was also gilded and painted.—(Vide Brayley.) Similar remains of painting and gilding are found in other churches.
of their colouring and the brightness of their gilding.
But it was not upon the sepulchral effigy only, that the sculptor of the thirteenth century displayed his skill; his aid began to be invoked for the long ranges of mitred prelates, and crowned confessors, and those gracefully veiled virgin saints, which deck the west fronts of our cathedrals, and the arches of their choirs. In these, even better than in the effigy, we can mark the rapid progress of improvement. In the western front of Peterborough, one of the earliest in the adoption of figures, the statues appear very flat and rude; those which adorn the west front of Wells, and which date toward the close of this century, are singularly noble and spirited ;— while the beautiful figures which still remain in the presbytery at Lincoln, and the choir of Exeter, and the noble heads which adorn the chapter house of York, all of which may be referred to a similar date, have wrested an admiring eulogy, even from artists, brought up in the "very straitest sect" of the classical school.
During the middle period, and especially toward the close of this century, Gothic architecture continued to advance in grandeur and beauty; and, while it began to display a greater degree of ornament, the ornaments had not as yet encumbered the general design. In all their accessories the Gothic architects seem to have been guided by the most delicate perception of beauty. No strange and startling combinations of bird and beast, of the human figure with animals or foliage, meet us in the pure