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The Judgment of Solomon, circa 1220. Stone lintel relief.
NORTH TRANSEPT, WEST PORTAL, CHARTRES CATHEDRAL, FRANCE
This image is part of a weekly series that The Root is presenting in conjunction with the Image of the Black Archive & Library at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.
Standing beside the august figure of King Solomon, a black attendant silently witnesses a novel dispensation of justice by the great king of Israel. The attendant wears a double-layered tunic, cinched at the waist, with closely gathered sleeves around the wrists. The only trace of pigment now remaining on the figure, once brightly painted, is a durable coating of black covering his hands and the characteristically African features of his head. In his left hand he holds a large sword within its scabbard, most of which has been broken away. When it was intact, the lower end of the mighty weapon rested directly on the footstool of Solomon’s throne.
Out of view to the right, a horizontal frieze of figures relates the dramatic struggle over a newborn infant between two women. Only one can be right, and so Solomon adopts the unorthodox but cunning strategy of proposing to split the child between them. The true mother nobly offers to give the baby to the false claimant rather than see it suffer such a horrible fate. Upon hearing this selfless demonstration of maternal love, Solomon reunites the mother with her child.
The moving scene is set over a monumental portal on the north side of the great cathedral at Chartres, not far from Paris. The magnificent building stands as the first fully developed example of Gothic architecture. Carved around 1220, the nearly life-size figures display the recent mastery of naturalistic human form and psychological expression by a host of talented though anonymous sculptors.
About the Series
John and Dominique de Menil were vocal champions of human rights worldwide, focusing their actions on civil rights in particular. In 1960 they launched the ambitious scholarly research project The Image of the Black in Western Art, directed by art historian Ladislas Bugner. Spanning nearly 5,000 years and documenting virtually all forms of media, the unprecedented research project was devoted to the systematic investigation of how people of African descent have been perceived and represented in art. For the first thirty years of its existence, the project focused on the production of a prize-winning, four-volume series of generously illustrated books, The Image of the Black in Western Art. Now, fifty years later, Dominique de Menil’s mission has been reinvigorated through the collaboration of Harvard University Press and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research to present new editions of the coveted five original books, as well as an additional five volumes.
Design & Production
Harvard University Press’s design and production teams are committed to the very highest standards of publishing, and all of the books for The Image of the Black in Western Art have been completely redesigned and typeset to enhance the experience for the reader. So that the artworks can be reproduced as accurately and vividly as possible, we have gone back to the sources for new digital files of all of the thousands of images.
originally posted by: Thorneblood
a reply to: Spider879
Cool story. I could make it into a kick ass anime in the Afro Samurai style.....