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Fountain from the Monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa

Artist/maker unknown, French

Geography:
Made in Roussillon, France, Europe

Date:
1125-1150

Medium:
Marble

Dimensions:
Height: 5 feet 4 1/4 inches (163.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

Object Location:

* Gallery 204, European Art 1100-1500, second floor (Knight Foundation Gallery)

Accession Number:
1930-79-1

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. William W. Fitler in memory of her husband, 1930

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The impressive fountain in the center of this gallery is from the twelfth-century Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa in the Roussillon region of France. It was the largest and most important monastery in the province and designed in the Romanesque style, a term coined in the nineteenth century to describe early medieval art and architecture derived from ancient Roman examples and characterized by rounded arches, vaults, and geometric forms. Six columns support an upper basin ornamented with a continuous arcade that mirrors the architectural colonnade of the cloister. Water flows out through five spouts into a reproduction of the fountain’s lower basin. Fountains such as this, located at the center of a cloister, would have been used by the monks to bathe, shave, and wash clothes.

The two capitals installed within this cloister’s interior arches, made from pink marble like the fountain, may also have come from the abbey of Cuxa; they bear decoration similar to capitals from the abbey and other religious foundations in the area. Other capitals and architectural elements from Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa were acquired by American sculptor George Grey Barnard around 1906–7 and were subsequently purchased in 1925 for The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These were reconstructed into a cloister at the heart of The Cloisters museum in Fort Tryon Park in New York City.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    In the center of the Museum's medieval cloister stands a rare Romanesque fountain known to have come from Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, the largest monastery in the eastern Pyrenees. The massive basin of the fountain is decorated with a continuous design of arches on columns that echo the elements of the cloister itself. Fountains served a variety of practical purposes in monasteries, such as providing water for shaving or washing clothes. Transplanted to a museum, the fountain and its cloister setting afford modern day visitors a space for quiet thought. Eda Diskant, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 109.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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