The musée lapidaire in Avignon

Posted by – September 9, 2011

It never really occurred to me before that the impression of art history one gets from books and tv documentaries is extremely distorted towards high quality. The popular books want to get people excited about classical sculpture (say), so they show the very best of the best, from the geographic heartland and historical apex of classical sculpture. But of course most art is not as good as the very best, and in fact the median is usually rather crappy.

I had the opportunity to gain some insight into this yesterday when visiting Avignon, which has a sculptural museum with a permanent exhibit of mostly the Franco-Roman oeuvre from the early imperial period. Gaul was a comparative periphery, and its artists were mostly second-rate men who did a lot of headstones and workaday standard reproductions of the typical way the Roman/Hellenic gods were depicted.

This (I think) was a quite early Greek Athene:

This was some obscure fellow, by a French-Roman artist many centuries later:

A French-Roman scene from a Dionysian festivity:

The dancer on the right looks rather like Robert Crumb might have drawn her.

Also, a major invention of western civilization must have been inserting spaces between words, because these are super annoying to read:

Not everyone was bothered to make nice type:

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