Skip to main content

Engaged capital with vine rinceau, palmette leaves, and rosettes


Artwork Details

Engaged capital with vine rinceau, palmette leaves, and rosettes
13 7/16 x 9 11/16 x 13 in. (34 x 24.5 x 33 cm);13 7/16 x 9 11/16 x 13 in. (34 x 24.5 x 33 cm)
Museum Purchase


March 28, 2009
A close comparison of this capital from southwestern France with the capital from Medina Azahara displayed nearby reveals surprising similarities, despite the many years and miles that separate them. The two capitals differ markedly in size and proportion, and the vines and fan-shaped palmette leaves of the French capital possess a turgid fleshiness, unlike the thinner vines decorating the other capital. Yet both capitals are covered with plant forms that are arranged into roughly symmetrical patterns, and these forms are deeply undercut to create sharp networks of light and shadow. These similarities come from their shared heritage of ancient Greek and Roman architecture, which provided a common decorative vocabulary throughout Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea.

Subject Matter:

This capital, carved on three sides, would have been attached directly to a wall on its uncarved fourth side and would have surmounted a similarly engaged column. While the original context of the capital is unknown, its relatively small size indicates that it might have framed a window as part of an embrasure. In such a role the capital would have served a structural function in which it would have supported a projecting molding or rib as well as an equally important expressive function in which the capital would have articulated the mass of the wall and the transition between different architectural elements. The decorative vocabulary of the capital, which derives ultimately from the classical Corinthian order, has close parallels in the church of St.-Sernin in Toulouse and the cloister of the abbey of Moissac in the Languedoc region of southwestern France. The capital also bears a more general resemblance to sculptures found throughout southern France and northern Spain, testifying to the broad diffusion of such forms through trade and pilgrimage.

Physical Description:

Engaged capital carved in grayish, coarse sandstone (arkose). The bell-shaped drum is decorated with a pattern of vine rinceau that encircles palmette leaves in a roughly symmetrical arrangement on each face of the capital. These ornamental plant forms are deeply undercut to highlight the pattern in sharp relief. A pair of volutes decorated with vertical striations springs from the vine rinceau in the upper portion of each face of the capital. A rosette enclosed in a circle appears at the top edge of the center of each face of the capital, above the point where the branches of the volutes diverge.

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.