Title of Work
West Facade, Capital Frieze- Life of the Virgin
Title of Image
Scenes 2 - 4
c. 1145
West Façade, Left Frieze, Life of Mary and Infancy of Christ, Left Side of Central Portal
This image shows several scenes. Spitzer suggests the inclusion of the first three scenes, which emphasize the infertility of Joachim and Anne, exemplify the emotional nature and focus of the frieze and its connection to the local cult of Mary as a healer of mothers and infants. (Spitzer, pp. 137-8)
From the right:
2: Joachim and Anne turn back
Most scholars describe this scene as Joachim and Anne turning back in distress after their offering was rejected, but Nolan suggests this is the Annunciation to Anne (p.57). This interpretation is questionable, as the figure to Anne's left is haloed but without wings, and Anne is still holding the small lamb (?) as in the previous temple scene. (PM & JV)
Joachim and Anne (both with decorated haloes) turn back after their offering was rejected at the temple because they are childless. Anne still holds the lamb she had taken to be offered. The placement of this scene on a corner, with Joachim facing one way and Anne facing another, emphasizes their isolation.
This scene is not present in the Protevangelium of James; Joachim goes to the temple alone and leaves for the wilderness without seeing Anne. Heimann notes that this scene is rare in the West; it is not present in either extant copy of the Homilies of the Greek monk Jacobus Kokkinobaphos, which she believes is the source for much of the rest of the frieze (Heimann, pp. 77-78). However, Lafontaine-Dosogne finds it in several eastern sources (Heimann, p. 78, n. 27).
3: An angel announces to Joachim that Mary would be born
(Protevangelium of James 4:2)
Joachim left Jerusalem to tend sheep after his offering was rejected at the temple because he was childless. At left, Joachim (no halo) sits in a corner, his head supported by his arm on his knee. Around Joachim stand several sheep. He has apparently not yet seen the angel (haloed), who stands at right, holding a staff. The hem of the angel garment is disturbed (to show motion?).
Heimann suggests the visual prototype might be an illustrated copy of an apocryphal Byzantine text (pp. 77-78), but Nolan proposes that once the scene had been chosen, the sculptor used the visual prototype of the familiar Dream of Joseph to execute it (pp. 54-56, 60). Spitzer suggests the inclusion of three scenes emphasizing the infertility of Joachim and Anne exemplify the emotional nature and focus of the frieze and its connection to the local cult of Mary as a healer of mothers and infants (Spitzer, pp. 137-8).
The placement of Joachim in a corner emphasizes his isolation and despair.
4: Joachim and Anne embrace
(Protevangelium of James 4:4)
Joachim and Anne sit on a low, cloth-draped wooden seat. One of Joachim's arms is around Anne's shoulder. Anne holds one arm to her breast. Their other hands are clasped together. Both have undecorated halos. This scene is depicted rather than the more common scene of Joachim and Anne embracing at the Golden Gate (See Spitzer, p. 138).
Compare with Panel 7 in The Life of the Virgin Window (Delaporte no: 16, Deremble-Mahnes no: 28B). The meeting at the Golden Gate was also depicted in the clerestory (Delaporte no: 149, Deremble-Mahnes no: 125A) but the window has been replaced by a modern copy.
Type of Work
Subtype of Work
Capital Frieze
Cathédrale de Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church decoration and ornament--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church architecture--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Christian art and symbolism--France--Chartres--Medieval, 500-1500--Pictorial works.
Philip Maye
MEDART Website

Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame

Scenes 2 - 4