display | more...
A French sculptor active in the early twelfth century, one of the great masters of the Romanesque style. Literally nothing at all is known of him, but what can be seen from his works. A single master carved almost all the sculpture in the Cathedral of St Lazarus at Autun, in Burgundy, somewhere around the years 1125 to 1135.

The same hand did some work at the other two great Romanesque abbeys of Burgundy, Cluny and Vézelay. But it is Autun that makes him famous: many many capitals of the columns inside the cathedral, and his masterpiece is the tympanum, the scene depicting the Last Judgement filling the space above the west door.

In a huge semicircular arrangement are the blessed and the damned, the torments of Hell, the company of the angels and the saints, and around them many other small scenes in concentric semi-rings. In the centre of all this is a great Christ in Judgement, enclosed in a mandorla (almond-shaped device), and on the edges of the mandorla are inscriptions praising Christ the lord and light and judge and so on -- and directly at his feet, in the same size, in the centre of the tympanum, is the bold inscription GISLEBERTUS HOC FECIT 'Gislebertus made this'.

It is so prominent that he must have been regarded as a star attraction in his own day. Other artists of the period also signed their work, but none in such a commanding way.

In England at the same time, church sculpture still had the archaic, forced stiffness of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, or the Cycladic. It was bas-relief, it lacked proper perspective. Yet Gislebertus created fully rounded, living, fleshy figures: still mediaeval, but sensuous and moving. The gargoyles and monsters are horribly fearsome, by dint of being realistically in scale for the poor creatures they attack. And there are tender, close-up depictions of the human: one of the most reproduced is Eve, holding her hand up to her mouth to whisper.

Gislebertus, Sculptor of Autun, one of the greatest sculptors of any age, seems to be poorly served on the Web, but this particular image may be seen at

Thanks wertperch for reminding me the word was 'mandorla'.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.