About This Artwork

French, Paris

Head of an Apostle, About 1210

H: 43 cm (17 in.)

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment, 1944.413

Combining serenity and energy, this imposing head is a rare survival from one of the full-length figures that flanked the doorways on the west façade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, either the central portal devoted to the Last Judgment or the right portal devoted to the Coronation of the Virgin. These portals were among the first expressions of the new Gothic style at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Because of its presumed royal associations, much sculpture from Notre-Dame was purposefully damaged and dismantled during the French Revolution in the late 18th century. This head is said to have been unearthed during excavations for the modernization of Paris in the mid nineteenth century. Its connection with Notre Dame, first put forward on stylistic grounds, was recently confirmed by scientific analysis of the limestone, which comes from the same quarry used for other carvings at the cathedral.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Arts of the Middle Ages, 17 February – 24 March 1940, cat. 175.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Treasures from Medieval France, 15 November 1966 - 29 January 1967, cat. IV, 1.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, “The Year 1200,” 12 February – 10 May 1970, cat. 15.

Moscow, State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Decorative-Applied Art from Late Antiquity to the Late Gothic Style, 14 May - 14 July 1990, and the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, 14 August - 14 October 1990, cat. 37.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Devotion and Splendor: Medieval Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, September 25, 2004-January 3, 2005, cat. 18.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture, 26 September, 2006-February 18, 2007, cat. 14 [entry by Georgia Wright]

Magdeburg, Kulturhistorisches Museum, Aufbruch in die Gotik. Der Magdeburger Dom und die späte Stauferzeit, 31 August - 6 December 2009, no. II.7, (entry by Klaus Niehr).

Publication History

Art Digest, “Boston Museum Opens Magnificent Exhibition of Medieval Art,” The Art Digest 14, 10 (February 15, 1940), p. 6, frontispiece.

Art Institute of Chicago, “Great Medieval Art for Chicago,” The Art Institute of Chicago: The Year 1944 (1945), p. 4.

Art News, “New Life to the Middle Ages: Chicago's Recent Purchases,” Art News 44, 1 (1945), pp. 20, 22 (ill.).

Meyric R. Rogers and Oswald Goetz, Handbook to the Lucy Maud Buckingham Medieval Collection (Chicago, 1945), p. 62, no. 6, pls. 10, 11, frontispiece.

Meyric R. Rogers, “The Rehabilitation of the Lucy Maud Buckingham Medieval Collection,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 39, 3 (March 1945), p. 36, frontispiece.

Antiques, “Additions to the Buckingham Medieval Collection,” Antiques 47, 4 (April 1945), p. 236.

American Correspondent, “Medieval Sculpture in the Buckingham Collection,” The Connoisseur 120, 505 (September 1947), pp. 53–54, no. 7.

Art Institute of Chicago, An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1948), pp. 14–15 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1950), p. 18 (ill.).

Charles Fabens Kelley, “Chicago: Record Years,” Art News 51, 4 (June - August 1952), p. 107 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, “A New Setting for the Medieval Collection,” Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly 53, 1 (February 1959), p. 8, ill. opp. p. 8.

William D. Wixom, “Art Treasures from Medieval France - at Cleveland,” The Connoisseur 164, 659 (January 1967), pp. 58, 62.

Eleanor S. Greenhill, “The Provenance of a Gothic Head,” Art Bulletin 49, 2 (June 1967), pp. 101–09, figs. 1–7.

Francis Salet, “Chronique, Une tête gothique du musée de Chicago,” Bulletin Monumental 126, 2 (1968), pp. 190–92.

Reiner Haussherr, review of Willibald Sauerländer, Von Sens bis Straßburger Querhausskulpturen in Kunstchronik 21 (1968), p. 304.

Léon Pressouyre, “Sculptures retrouvées de la Cathédrale de Sens,” Bulletin Monumental 127, 2 (1969), pp. 117–18, fig. 21.

Walter Cahn, “Exhibition Reviews: The Year 1200,” Art Quarterly 33, 3 (1970), p. 300.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (London, 1970), pp. 221–22.

Louis Grodecki, "L’an 1200,” L’Oeil 185 (May 1970), pp. 8, 54.

Willibald Sauerländer, “Exhibition Review: The Year 1200, A Centennial Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” Art Bulletin 53, 4 (December 1971), pp. 507–08.

Willibald Sauerländer, Gothic Sculpture in France, 1140–1270, translated by J. Sondheimer (New York, 1972), p. 453, fig. 74.

Peter Cornelius Claussen, “Antike und Gotische Skulptur in Frankreich um 1200,” Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 35 (1973), p. 93, fig. 9.

Alan G. Artner, “A Score of Treasures,” Chicago Tribune (April 4, 1979), sec. 9, p. 10.

Charles T. Little, "Searching for Provenances of Medieval Stone Sculptures: Possibilities and Limitations," Gesta 33 (1994), pp. 29-31, fig. 3.

T. A. Heslop, "Late twelfth-century writing about art, and aesthetic relativity" in Medieval art: recent perspectives. A memorial tribute to C.R. Dodwell, ed. Gale R. Owen-Crocker and Timothy Graham (Manchester and New York, 1998), pp. 131. 139, fig. 72.

Dorothy Gillerman, ed., Gothic Sculpture in America, Publications of the International Center of Medieval Art 4, 2 (Turnhout, 2001), pp. 9–11, no. 7, ill.

Irene Plein, Die frühgotische Skulptur an der Westfassade der Kathedrale von Sens (Münster, 2005), p. 263-4, 358, no. 42, fig. 362.

Georgia Wright and Lore L. Holmes, "The Limestone Project: A Scientific Detective Story" in Set in Stone. The Face in Medieval Sculpture, exhib. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, pp. 47-49.

William D. Wixom, review of Set in Stone, Metropolitan Museum of Art in Burlington Magazine 148 (2006), p. 876, fig. 87.

Linda Seidel, "The Buckingham Head: An Incidental Portrait of its Accidental Patron" in To Inspire and Instruct: A History of Medieval Art in Midwestern Museums (Newcastle, 2008), pp. 72-86, 207, fig. 5.1.

Ownership History

Probably from the Coronation portal or the Last Judgment portal of the west facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral [according to Gillerman, 2001, p. 9-11, and Metropolitan Museum, 2006, pp. 46-48 and 52-54]. Said to have been found during excavation of Boulevard Haussmann at the crossing of Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris, 1852 [according to an undated description by Jacob Hirsch in curatorial file]. Jacob Hirsch, New York, by February 1940 [lent by him to Boston 1940, no. 175]; sold by Hirsch to the Art Institute, 1944, for $35,000.

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