Cymatium

Request
A cymatium sculpted from a large marble block. It has a tronco-pyramidal section, which, given its cruciform base, would have fulfilled its function. It stood on the capital of a column from which four arches arose. The structure displays careful and detailed work in relief on bevelled edges, which form cushioned grids of quatrefoil on the four faces, with a continuous rope moulding above these, and with a vertical flat moulding above the rope moulding. Gadrooning or stylised petals cover the sides of the four faces: the entire surface of this piece is richly sculpted.

On one of the faces there is a small carving of a quadruped with its head turned looking backward. This might be a depiction of a bull, given that there are horns. The animal is in a rectangular area in the centre of one of the decorated faces. On the two adjacent faces, four fleurs-de-lis projecting from a central point make up a central quadrilateral decoration. This decorative pattern and the horror vacui which characterize the piece correspond to the style developed in Visigothic architecture during the 7th and 8th century AD. The Visigoths, an eastern Germanic people, settled in the Roman province of Hispania at the beginning of the 5th century AD, although there is no remaining testimony to their art in this territory until well into the 6th century. Examples of this show a clear late Roman and Byzantine influence as they coexisted with both cultures, especially in the use of columns and cymatia. On top of the capitals, which were generally Corinthian, there was a piece which allowed the height of the arches to be raised, thus giving a higher and more stylized appearance to these arches. The supports became almost ornamental elements, as the weight of the structure was supported by a succession of thick walls, groined and barrel vaults.

Both the capitals and the Visigothic cymatia were generally sculpted with bevelled edges and trepanned. This resulted in a very flat relief but gave much play to light and shadow, intensified by the use of oil lamps inside the buildings. The decoration of the supports interspersed geometric elements with vegetal ones from Classical art, such as rosettes, acanthus leaves, meanders, basketwork, etc., these elements together forming intricate patterns. Among these there were zoomorphic figures with a clear Christian symbolism. For example, one may cite the many cymatia decorated with large lilies conserved in the National Museum of Roman Art (MNAR CE27197) and the ornamental plaques found in Granada CE02141) and in Cordoba (CE003970), where we can observe a frieze in the form of a quadrangle with vegetal motifs framed by birds.

A similar geometric pattern to this cymatium can be found, one of rectilinear latticework, in the pillars of the same epoch (MNAR CE00479).

The bull, an animal present in the entire Mediterranean basin and in the Fertile Crescent in Asia embodied power, strength, virility and fertility in the diverse cultures which flourished in this privileged geographic region. Although in Christianity the bull or the calf was associated with ancient idolatrous divinities, it also became a symbol for Luke, one of the four evangelists, as its connection with the practice of sacrifice evoked the death of Christ. As well, the lilies or fleurs-de-lis usually refer to the purity of Christian worship. It is a Marian symbol and one of the attributes of Saint Joseph, from whose staff this flower bloomed as a symbol of his chastity. At the same time, it was a usual motif in late Roman and Visigoth periods, as can be seen in the terracotta found in Malaga (Malaga Museum inv. A/CE02589). It is therefore possible that this marble fragment had been part of an ecclesiastic construction, and was to be found in the transept, as three of the adjacent faces with zoomorphic and vegetal motifs would have decorated the central nave, the space of most importance in the devotions, while the other face would look over a side nave in the temple.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- Hispania Gothorum, San Ildefonso y el Reino visigodo de Toledo. 2007. p. 516.
- CRUZ VILLALÓN, M. Mérida visigoda. La escultura arquitectónica y litúrgica. Badajoz. 1985. p. 153.
- LOZA AZUAGA, M. L. “Tipología y catálogo de las placas cerámicas decoradas a molde de época tardorromana y visigda conservadas en el Museo de Málaga”. 1992. p. 255-256.
- PALOL SALELLAS, P. “La creación de la plástica ornamental hispanovisigoda del siglo VI”, Historia de España Menéndez Pidal, III. 1991. p. 339-353.
- SANTOS JENER, S. “Las artes en Córdoba durante la dominación de los pueblos germánicos”, BRAC 78. 1958. p. 5-50.

Related works of art

Consell de Cent, 278
08007 Barcelona SPAIN
(+34) 93 140 53 26
info@jbagot.com

Monday - Saturday
10h to 14h
16:30h to 20:00h

Uso de cookies

Este sitio web utiliza cookies para que usted tenga la mejor experiencia de usuario. Si continúa navegando está dando su consentimiento para la aceptación de las mencionadas cookies y la aceptación de nuestra política de cookies, pinche el enlace para mayor información.plugin cookies

ACEPTAR