Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume IV: The art and architecture of the Crusader states
VII: Painting and sculpture in the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099-1291, pp. 251-280 PDF (16.3 MB)
Ch. VII PAINTING AND SCULPTURE 255 The most extensive ensemble of crusader work in the church of the Nativity is on the twenty-eight columns of the nave and aisles where, for the most part, individual saints' portraits were painted (pl. XXXIb).3 One image, on column five in the south aisle, depicts the Virgin and Child, and a Latin painted inscription dates the work to May 15, 1130 (pl. XXXIIIb). Despite the imposing jeweled throne with a high back on which the Virgin sits, there is no strong Byzan tine influence here. Instead the stiff linearity of the draperies and the tender relationship of a mother who gently holds her baby close to her cheek bespeak a western Romanesque painter, possibly from Italy. No particular order for the execution of these works has as yet been proposed. The suggestion that they were done as ex votos pa tronized by pilgrims to the Holy Land seems likely. So far, however, precise western parallels have not been found for such a series of large icons on columns, and no search for stylistic comparisons has been undertaken. Nor has an explanation been offered for why the 1130 painting was done in the south aisle and not in the nave proper. No other dated inscription survives. What is clear is the wide variety of styles present in the series, suggesting itinerant artists who worked through most of the twelfth century and possibly longer. On the north side of the church there are no painted images on the columns of the north aisle. But many of the more strongly Byzantineinfluenced paintings appear on the north nave columns. On column 10, St. John the Evangelist (pl. XXXIIb), identified by Greek and Latin inscriptions, wears handsomely painted Comnenian-style drap eries, strongly modeled and with extensive highlights. On column 4, St. George (pl. XXXIIa), again identified by both Greek and Latin inscriptions, is a virile youth with curly golden hair. He stands, wear ing a long cloak and holding a spear and a shield. His thinly painted agitated linear draperies are, however, quite different from those of St. John. On the south side St. Fusca, a third-century virgin martyr at Ra venna, appears on column 10 of the nave (pl. XXXIId), and St. Mar garet, a fourth-century martyr at Antioch in Pisidia, is on column 7 of 3. See above, pp. 120-123. For the column paintings see also the descriptive surveys by L. Dressaire, "Les Peintures exécutées au XIIe siècle sur les colonnes de la basilique de Bethléem," Jerusalem, XXVII (1932), 365-369; V. Juhasz, "Las Pinturas de los cruzados en la Basilica de Belén," Tierra Santa, XXV (1950), 313-318, 349-353; R. W. Hamilton, The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem (reprint of 2nd rev. ed., Jerusalem, 1968), pp. 69-81; and S. de Sandoli, Corpus inscriptionum crucesignatorum Terrae Sanctae (Jerusalem, 1974), pp. 211-226. Though these paintings are generally referred to as frescoes, the medium seems to be some kind of oil-base paint applied directly onto the column.
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