Eric Fernie and Susannah Heschel on “The Politics of Sanctity. Figurative Sculpture at Selles-sur-Cher”

A contribution by

Eric Fernie
Director of the Courtauld Institute from 1995 to 2003
President of the Society of Antiquaries of London from 2004 to 2007

“The dating of Romanesque sculpture by style can be a fraught undertaking. The quality of Kahn’s scholarship is clearly indicated by her completely convincing re-dating of the carvings at St Eusice at Selles-sur-Cher a century earlier than previously thought, from the twelfth century to c. 1030, thereby placing them among the earliest narrative stone sculptures of the Middle Ages, reviving Roman sculpture and its architectural contexts. The carvings are worthy of Kahn’s investigation not only because of their early date but also because of the complexity and power of the imagery, characteristics which justify their being thought of as a Bayeux Tapestry in stone. In retrieving the sculptures from obscurity Kahn has done the same for Eusice, the saint to whom the church is dedicated. The scenes depict him as a protector against the depredations of the warring and pillaging aristocracy, paralleling his actions with the laying out of relics which had the same purpose. The Arian heresy is present, in the miracle of Eusice taking bread from the oven with his bare hands, a direct reference to the Eucharist.  The book therefore goes far beyond the art historical. To sum it up in the author’s own words ‘…the frieze at Selles provides an entirely new lens through which to examine not only the emergence of monumental narrative sculpture but also the representation of saints and the protective power of images in the early medieval world.’  It is a major contribution to our understanding of the early eleventh century in northern France.”

A contribution by

Susannah Heschel
Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

“In this fascinating book, Deborah Kahn presents a sophisticated new analysis of the Christian imagination in medieval France during the years leading up to the Crusades. Her interpretations of anti-Jewish imagery are particularly striking, making this book groundbreaking for Jewish Studies as well as art history.”

Figurative Sculpture at Selles-sur-Cher

By Deborah Kahn

Scheduled for Spring 2021