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Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion
Culture Group:FrenchTitle:Capital-Pier with Samson from Abbey Church of St. Martin Date:c. 1150 - 1170 Medium:Limestone Culture: French Dimensions:29 1/2 x 19 x 11 1/2 in. (74.9 x 48.3 x 29.2 cm) Credit Line:The Brummer Collection Accession number:1966.187.1 Label Copy: Medieval art drew inspiration from biblical narratives, finding models of virtue among Old Testament heroes and Christian saints. This capital-pier, notable for its narrative complexity, monolithic form, and state of preservation, depicts the first and final triumphs in the life of the biblical hero Samson. In the Middle Ages, Samson was viewed as an Old Testament prefiguration of Christ because he conquered Satan and ultimately gave his life for his people’s salvation. The scenes here illustrate the long-haired Samson, identified by a caption, wrenching apart a lion’s jaws; the blind Samson being led by a Philistine boy to the temple of Dagon, where he will be chained; and the aftermath of Samson’s destruction of the temple. The fourth side depicts a nude man grasping the stems of a grape vine, his genitals discreetly covered by a well-placed leaf which may have served to remind the medieval viewer of Samson’s vows of abstinence. The two ape heads projecting from the capital shaft may symbolize the evil over which Samson triumphed.

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