The Faces of France: Provence

The Faces of France: Provence

On an earlier trip to Paris, my husband Mark (Marc Henri when we are in France…) said to me, “After awhile, I felt like I was just a giant eyeball, an eyeball on two legs, just trying to take everything in…

I have long been fascinated by the multitude of incredible carvings gracing walls, doors, window frames, and all manner of architectural details, constructs and aspects…and especially, the carving of faces, grimacing, glaring, laughing, smiling and  otherwise gazing sternly, mischievously or fondly, out to the populous.  here are some from beautiful Provence…in the South of France.

High up on the chapel dome of Forcalquier Cathedral.

In Forcalquier, above an imposing wooden door.

Above a door  in Aix-en-Provence between two famous figures carved into the stone surround.

Fountain in Aix-en-Provence

Note the small carved figure below the laughing face resting in stoney foliage in Avignon.

I imagine these creatures, seen above doors in Avignon, as having fabled, pagan origins…they look like Pan or one of his relatives.

The patricians of Avignon? Kings and Queens? Whoever they are, these male and female visages preside over Avignon‘s doors and windows with aplomb.

Do these mysterious carvings and images hint at at Europe’s pagan past? Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses? Mythology? The royalty of France?  Whatever  and whoever they are, they never cease to intrigue, fascinate, and amaze.

Next up,  “des animaux”, the fantastical beasts, creatures, gargoyles and imaginary beings that haunt cathedrals, fountains, statuary and even the tapestries of France.

Stay tuned!



The Faces of France: The Cluny and around Paris

The Faces of France: The Cluny and Around Paris

Ferocious door handle holders…Devourers? Paris

On an earlier trip to Paris, my husband Mark (Marc Henri when we are in France…) said to me, “After awhile, I felt like I was just a giant eyeball, an eyeball on two legs, just trying to take everything in…

And Paris, or much of it, and la belle France, or much of it, is indeed as Hemingway so aptly said, “…a moveable feast.

A glorious feast for all the senses, but, especially “pour les yeux” …for the eyes  One of my favorite aspects of this are all the carved faces which are everywhere…adorning the interiors and exteriors of building, playing sentinel over doorways, emerging out of ceilings corners, festooning roofs,  animating churches, and gazing down upon us the viewer and the passerby as if to bless us with a Latin benediction or perhaps curse us with an ancient pagan epithet.

Upside down and all around. Faces and figures whether human, animal or fantastical, often come in pairs. Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen Âge. (The Cluny Museum, National Museum of the Middle Ages),  Paris

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid”. Carved wooden pew…decoration/embellishment…Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen Âge. (The Cluny Museum, National Museum of the Middle Ages),  Paris

Gazing upon each other…with angels in the background. Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen Âge. (The Cluny Museum, National Museum of the Middle Ages),  Paris

Back on the Paris streets…carved faces gaze down upon windows, architectural supports, and doors.

In context…and glorious repetition of detail…filling space in a beautiful and visually arresting way.

King and Queen? Master and Mistress? Preside. Paris.

In context, gazing out solemnly, as if wearing a mantle of responsibility.  Paris.

Hard to leave this magnificent city…but glad it is guarded by so many watchful eyes.

Paris, you are forever. I think if you go, we go too.

Live on, for we love you, and will guard you as assiduously in our hearts as your  silent sentinels do on your walls, roofs, doors and ramparts.
















































Faces of France: The Panthéon

 Faces of France: The Panthéon

In the neighborhood of the Panthéon

 in the Latin Quarter of Paris,

there is a strange alignment of carved heads sitting on benches…

as if they had just escaped their sentinel posts on buildings, above doorways.

Simply sitting there.

There was a placard nearby, a seemingly long and wordy explanation, but even though I speak and can somewhat read French, I did not understand  why the heads were there, except perhaps to surprise, and delight.

 I know there must be much more behind it then this, but surprise and delight was my response to this discovery, on our first, jet-lagged afternoon in Paris.

It was our first trip “back” in ten years, and we were ready for surprise and delight. Of course, Paris never disappoints.  That would be impossible.

With all of that liberté, égalité, fraternité, 

the magnificent architecture,

les homages to illustrious philosophers,

and the appropriation, engagement with, and use of ancient public spaces…there is more then enough to gasp at, delight in, and contemplate at any given moment.

Jet lag or no…Paris is a garden of earthy delights, a moveable feast, and a city so breathtakingly beautiful, so moving, so eternal yet transformative  that even wartime folly could not destroy it. Paris lives and continues to create, to give and to nourish our hearts and souls and spirits.

I think now we need its gifts more then ever, this place of repose, yet excitement and incredible vibrancy amidst its foreverness. I am not sure the world could survive without Paris and the fantasy and dreams it represents, its extensive place in history, and its rich out pouring of continual treasures.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” – Ernest Hemingwayto a friend, 1950

Featured Work- The “Leopard”

Featured Work: The “Leopard”

This image is based on a piece of 14th century embroidery depicting the “Leopards of England”.  Remade into a religious garment in the 18th century,  it may have originally been a horse blanket created for the English King, Edward III.  It has been re-imagined here as a mock-up for a larger scale mural, one of my wish list of projects!

Re-imagined from embroidery to paint...

I discovered the original image at the Cluny Museum in Paris, the “Musee nationale de Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny”, which houses one of the richest medieval collections in the world.  The Middle (Medieval) Ages is one of my favorite historical period for images…depictions of marvelous creatures and fantastical beings expressed everywhere in paintings, sculpture, carvings, and tapestries.  It would seem that the pagan underpinnings of European culture still breathe through these creations, which can inspire, delight, and mystify our soul upon  beholding.

A happy guardian of the harvast?

The Leopard grins out at the viewer against a background of foliage, punctuated by smaller, detailed figures which could represent the animated spirit of the natural environment, or perhaps tasks associated with fruitfulness and harvest, such as the care and tending of the vines. Does this image speak to you?

And, if so, what do the Leopard, and its spritely companions say?

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