The Work of the Sculptors

Work of the Stone Sculptors

Introduction to the different modes of the sculptors (tailleurs, d'images) at Amiens

            Whereas in the late Middle Ages the city of Amiens was home to a numerous community of artisans, including the carvers of the choir stalls (c1508-c1520), the sculptors of the west portals probably came from elsewhere, having worked on the portals of cathedrals like Laon, Notre-Dame of Paris, Reims or Noyon.

            The sculptors were provided the same fine-grained chalk as their colleagues the builders--this is a material that is relatively easy to carve and quite resistant to the corrosion of time.  The sculptured figures were originally painted--the "virtual reality" effect of the life-size column figures would have been overwhelming

            None of the artists' names has been recorded and art historians have used stylistic criteria in order the distinguish various "hands."  We can indeed distinguish considerable variation in figure styles in the west façade and south transept portal over the four decades (1220-1260) of production.  Rather than attempting self-defeating specificity, let us identify four broad (and sometimes overlapping) "modes" of carving in chronological sequence.