During the 11th century, an anonymous lowly medieval mason held an important job: helping to build the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in northern Spain, now one of the most famous. most of the country. The craftsman’s identity faded over time, but he left his mark on the stone – a cleverly concealed self portrait.
Who is this builder, his sneaky self-made selfie went unnoticed for about 900 years, until it was recently discovered by an art historian in a survey. stone by stone to the church.
In the carving, a round face happily looked out at the foliage. About 11 inches (28 cm) high and at the top of a pillar about 40 feet (12 meters) from the ground, the portrait was placed so that the clergy of the church would not notice, but would be easy easy for builders. to find and appreciate, Reported ArtNet.
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Jennifer Alexander, a scholar in the Department of Art History at the University of Warwick in the UK, is leading a team of experts in a painstaking search for the church’s builders’ tracks – stone by stone – when she found “ours” Alexander told Live Science in an email. Her team is paying attention to the upper part of the building; on the ground, many of the rocks are covered with paint that has been covered over the centuries. But the stones that are installed higher retain their original surface traces, Alexander explained.
“We put lights on the capitals above in the showroom, which is part of the building that is not accessible to the general public and that the clergy rarely use,” Alexander said. When they recorded the tracks left by the stone mason 900 years ago, “suddenly we were confronted with one of the men,” she said in an email.
Notable details in the self-portrait show that the carver must be a talented stone craftsman, as the granite used in the building is difficult to shape. However, his hair is very detailed and you can create all of his fingers, Alexander said. “Although these people are trained in the craftsmanship tradition, they are very much like the artisans of their period, quite capable of creating sculptures as well as cutting stones.”
Artisan portraits like this often appear in medieval buildings. They are easily hidden “in plain sight” among other sculptural and portrait flourishes, though often “they are hidden where only another builder or someone working on the building will find them. see them “, such as portraits in Santiago de Compostela, according to Alexander.
Alexander said another memorable selfie of the mason hiding in Southwell Minster, a church in Nottinghamshire, England, “where he is grinning at you at the end of the stairs to the chapter roof”. “But he’s in the dark, so you have to bring a light to spot him.”
But even with all the portrait details in the church selfies, the carver’s name will likely never be known, given the historical records of low-level builders – even in important construction projects – are particularly rare, Alexander said.
“Finding the identity of a mason who has carved his own image would be very special – and I never did!” she speaks.
Originally published on Live Science.