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Five Sculptures from a Single Limestone Formation: The Case of Savigny

Ilene H. Forsyth
Gesta
Vol. 33, No. 1 (1994), pp. 47-52
DOI: 10.2307/767133
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767133
Page Count: 6
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Five Sculptures from a Single Limestone Formation: The Case of Savigny
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Abstract

Destruction of the abbey of Saint-Martin, Savigny during the aftermath of the French Revolution led to the scattering of its sculptures. Their origins were forgotten. Five such dissociated sculptures, now in varied American collections, seemed to form a coherent group and thus to provide promising study by neutron activation analysis. They are: an acrobat in The Cloisters; a monolith with scenes of Samson in the Duke University Museum of Art; a capital-column with a depiction of the Adoration of the Magi on loan to The Cloisters; a crouching figure at the Duke University Museum of Art; and a relief of an Agnus Dei from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. All five were sampled for neutron activation analysis at Brookhaven National Laboratory to determine their compositional profiles. The results revealed markedly similar profiles consistent with an origin for stones in the same limestone formation. By combining art-historical evidence (archival data, old prints, early photographs, shipping records, antiquary reports, stylistic analysis, and in situ comparanda) with the results of the neutron activation analysis, all of the pieces can confidently be attributed to a single origin. As the preponderance of the art-historical evidence for some members of the group unequivocally indicates a Savigny origin, it is reasonable to posit a Savigny provenance for the entire group on the basis of the compositional "fingerprinting" of their stones.

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