Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sad boy

This woebegone little demon is a figure on the West Facade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I'm drawn to the expression on his face - puckered brow, mouth pulled in a downturn as though weeping. He's not a scary demon at all, but more of a sad one, his wickedness thwarted or chastened. See how he curls his clawed toes round his ankles, draws up his legs and hides himself in the curve of his little stone nook.

These medieval carvings are typically called gargoyles, but that's not quite right. Though a gargoyle is a carved grotesquery like this, it's supposed to be a functional one, like a downspout or gutter piece disguised as a demon. Even the name "gargoyle" means "throat" or "gullet" in French and Spanish, and onomotopoeically imitates the gargling of water.

Nope, ugly little creatures like this fellow, whose only function is decoration, are called chimere. That word also means a fantasy creature that's a mix of different types of animals or even humans, notable chimere are harpies, mermaids, griffins, centaurs and so on.

This little chimere, furry-legged and claw-toed, with his blunt-pointed horns and sad puckered face huddles beneath the graceful statue of Ste. Genevieve on the right side jamb of the north portal. His sad, sad tears are frozen in stone, and perhaps have been since the 13th century.

Poor boy. He looks like he wants his mommy.


cactus petunia said...

I love this little guy...and I love how observant you are!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Poor boy. He looks like he wants his mommy.

I thought this post was going to be about Jack!

lunardancer said...

what a keen eye you have! I love these Gothic inspired sculptures reminiscent of the Baroque era(?if I'm not mistaken. The craftsmanship, the details---splendid! This sad boy is particularly interesting. I wish I could see him in actual because I rarely see chimere sculptures, only gargoyles.