The Capital Sculpture of Wells Cathedral, c. 1184-1210

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Paolozzi, Ashley
England , Cathedrals , Religious Art , Medieval , Christianity , Art History , Sculpture , Iconography
The understudied capital sculpture of Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England (c. 1184-1210) provides ample opportunity of expanding the current scholarship and understanding of interior ecclesiastical sculpture in a West Country cathedral. While the Gothic style of architecture is typically understood as, according to Paul Binski (2014), rational in execution and reception, the capital sculpture at Wells Cathedral has been considered illogical in terms of both its iconography and location within the nave, transepts, and north porch. Utilizing Michael Camille’s post/anti-iconographical approach, this project examines the Wells figural capitals in five case studies: labour, Old and New Testament Scenes, animals and beast fables, busts, and monsters and hybrids. Each group of capitals will be approached with an understanding that this type of art was viewed by people of different classes and professions, with each viewer bringing their own personal experiences and abilities into how they could have read and understood these types of images. Therefore, the capitals at Wells must be read through layers of meaning and interpretation while also considering their locations within the cathedral and how they react and respond to surrounding figural capitals.
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