Category Archives: Posts

Saint-Avit-Sénieur: Objects and Patterns

Our first post shows some beautiful patterns painted during the 13th century in the abbey church of Saint-Avit-Sénieur (Dordogne, France).

Saint-Avit-Sénieur, abbey church. Pilgrims’ cloaks (13th c.)

At first glance, when we look from the central nave of the church, this entire part of the south wall seems to display a large ornamental area made of geometric patterns. A closer look reveals that the painting actually represents luxurious pieces of cloth hanging on a wooden rod. The effects of volume, the folds, and textures suggest the weight of the clothes and their undulating movement. In the medallions and diamonds, some figures of animals (lions and eagles) evoke the motives embroidered on contemporary fabric.

This example allows us to measure some of the difficulties in defining as “abstraction” for the Middle Ages, situated as it is between objecthood, materiality, and ornamentation.

Before Abstraction

The research blog Before Abstraction aims to record the activities and present the results of the project Abstraction Before the Age of Abstract Art, a research program in Art History between Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland (USA) and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris (France), sponsored by the FACE Foundation (2018-2020).

This project is predicated on the extensive collaboration between the two project leaders, Elina Gertsman (Case Western Reserve University) and Vincent Debiais (EHESS) as well as on the active involvement of their graduate students. All activities are conceived as part of a research and training initiative for scholars at different stages of their career, involved in the creation of an original and groundbreaking joint program spearheaded by French and American scholars.