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Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion
Culture Group:ItalianTitle:Impost capital Date:8th - 9th century Medium:Marble Culture: Italian Dimensions:8 x 18 x 7 in. (20.3 x 45.7 x 17.8 cm) Credit Line:The Brummer Collection Accession number:1966.2.1 Label Copy: Pairs of confronted birds and crosses have been applied symmetrically to this free-standing capital. This simple composition reflects the early medieval tendency towards schematic, symbolic decoration with a typical subject: an Early Christian image of salvation. Each pair of doves drinks from a Eucharistic vessel or "source of life" and is to be understood allegorically as a reminder of Christ's sacrifice reenacted in the sacrament of Communion. The Christological reference is made clear by the crosses on the narrow ends of the capital which terminate in scroll-like tendrils. This symbolic composition, which often included a vine (Christ) sprouting from the vessel, was formulated in Early Christian times and appeared on sculpture as early as the 5th century. Pairs of doves and peacocks were among the most popular figural subjects on 7th - 9th century sarcophagi, transenna panels, and canopies throughout the Italian peninsula. the subject and design of this capital suggest an original installation near an altar, perhaps supporting the arch of a chancel screen like the 9th century example at San Leone in Leprignano (Lazio) shown in the photo display. Capitals of similar configuration which date to the reign of Pope Hadrian I (772-795) occur at Sant'Oreste al Soratte (Lazio). Other contemporary works in this region near Rome display a comparably crude, linear carving technique. The use of such motifs on a triangular impost capital shape continued even into the early 11th century as at the Cathedral of Sant'Agata dei Goti (Campania) which preserves several examples of such so-called "Lombard" sculpture. Provenance: Purchased August 29, 1937 through (Pacifici) by Ernest [1890-1964] or Joseph [1883-1947] Brummer; by inheritance to Ernest Brummer's wife, Ella Brummer; purchased 1966 by Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

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