Gislebertus, Giselbertus or Ghiselbertus, sometimes "of Autun" (flourished in the 12th century), was a French Romanesque sculptor, whose decoration (about 1120-1135) of the Cathedral of Saint Lazare at Autun, France - consisting of numerous doorways, tympanums, and capitals - represents some of the most original work of the period. His sculpture is expressive and imaginative: from the terrifying Last Judgment (West Tympanum), with its strikingly elongated figures, to the Eve (North Portal), the first large scale nude in European art since antiquity and a model of sinuous grace. His influence can be traced to other French church sculpture, and his techniques helped pave the way for the Gothic style.
The name Gislebertus, the Latin for "Gilbert" (and for other "Gilberts" more usually spelt as the variants above), is found carved on the west tympanum of Autun Cathedral: Gislebertus hoc fecit or "Gislebertus made this." Some scholars today believe that this is actually the name of the patron who commissioned the work, rather than that of the artist. The lead sculptor would in any case have had a number of assistants, though the distinctive designs may well have been the work of a single hand. Gislebertus' name is the first ever found on stone work from the Romanesque period, as the sculptors before him believed themselves to be working for God, instead of themselves being creative individuals. On the other hand, Grivot and Zarnecki state, "Signatures of this kind were not unusual in the Romanesque period. What is surprising about this one is its position and importance. Earlier examples in France were placed unobtrusively either at the base of a column or more frequently on a capitol."[this quote needs a citation]
Fernand Auberjonois writes that shortly after the mid-18th century the Church "did considerable artistic 'house cleaning' ... replacing Romanesque carvings looked on as barbaric with ornaments more suited to the era's new-found Greco-Roman taste." Clergy removed the head of Christ in order to smoothly plaster over the tympanum of the west front. Carvings above the tympanum of 24 Patriarchs and Prophets were completely removed. Auberjonois explains that "The north portal of St. Lazare suffered even more grievous harm. Here Gislebertus had portrayed the resurrection of Lazarus, as well as Satan, Adam, and a magnificent Eve whose gesture at the moment she picks the fatal apple is an unrivaled example of absent-minded detachment. Of the main figures that adorned this entrance, only Eve has survived. she disappeared for years, having been carted down to the foot of the hill where the large stone on which she is carved served as building material for a house constructed in 1769. There she remained hidden for a century until that dwelling in turn was torn down." Eve is considered one of the greatest art works in the Western tradition. It is the first large scale nude sculpture produced since Roman times. T. S. R. Boase, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, said “Eve has a seductive quality that no other 12th-century artist has equaled. If the other block (Adam) had survived, we would most certainly have had in it the completion of a great masterpiece” (Introduction to Giselbertus Sculptor of Autun, The Orion Press, 1961). Until now no image of the Adam has been seen in any library or museum until the Yuko Nii Foundation alabasters of Adam and Eve came to light.
In 1837, archaeologists freed The Last Judgment from the mortar and in 1858, the architectural restorer Viollet-le-Duc restored the tympanum by replacing lost or damaged sculptures with copies, leaving the head of Christ unrestored. In 1948, St. Lazare's choir-master Abbe Denis Grivot, proved what he and others had suspected. A head of Christ in a nearby museum was the sculpture that had been removed 200 years previously. Grivot found that the sculpture fit perfectly into the tympanum. Other sculptures remain missing.
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- Getty List of artists
- Auberjonois, Fernand, "Gislebertus Hoc Fecit," Horizon, September 1961, vol IV, No. 1, pp 46-57.
- ArtNet:The Grove Dictionary of Art
- Web Gallery of Art
- Jazz Riffs In Stone, article in The Guardian
- Autun Tympanum, Capitals and Rolin Museum Photos