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The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame: Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226092454
ISBN-10: 0226092453
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Editorial Reviews


“The ‘restoration’ of Notre Dame de Paris has always been controversial. Viollet-le-Duc and Jean Baptiste Lassus have long been cast as the handmaidens of nineteenth-century positivism, instilling a vision of rational structure and historical development on the cathedral only recently purged of its Revolutionary years as a Temple of Reason. Writing a history of the cathedral’s bevy of gargoyles, Michael Camille brilliantly confirms Viollet-le-Duc’s definition of ‘restoration’ as both a word and thing of modern coinage. This last work of one of our time’s great medievalists is, like Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris, at once monumental and wide ranging, yet always focused on a demonic protagonist. Provocative, at times profoundly insightful, Michael Camille unveils the fantasies and anxieties of both Viollet-le-Duc and all the restorations since in the veils of meaning and emotions of France’s most visited cathedral.”

(Barry Bergdoll, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art)

“The celebrated medievalist Michael Camille takes on the modern era in this sweeping and brave book—with staggeringly original results. Exploring the indispensability of the monstrous to the modern, The Gargoyles of Notre Dame is at once a meditation on the valences of modernity and a rumination on the meanings attributed to the Middle Ages and the cathedral itself in the later nineteenth century.”

(Hollis Clayson, author of Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life under Siege)

"Extraordinary, comprehensively illustrated and cogently argued. . . . The illustrations alone are amazing . . . and the whole monumental, provocative, finished volume is a tribute to scholarship as well as to the protagonists of one of the most spectacular works of controversial restoration ever undertaken. The book investigates the monstrous and its influence on the modern . . . as well as providing thoughtful asides on 19th-century interpretations of the meanings given to medievalism and to a revived medieval artefact."
(James Stevens Curl Times Educational Supplement)

"Camille contextualizes the social dimension of this 19th-century restoration project by expanding it into a cultural digest to demonstrate that, rather than restoring a medieval bestiary, Viollet-le-Duc's passionate imagination shaped creatures expressive of social anxieties resounding today."—Choice

“An ingenious and highly readable book.”
(Sculpture Journal)

About the Author

Michael Camille (1958–2002) was professor of art history at the University of Chicago. His many books include The Medieval Art of Love and Mirror in Parchment.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226092453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226092454
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,397,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me start with a warning. Do NOT purchase this book if you are looking for a glossy coffee table book of pretty pictures. You will be very disappointed.
If, however, you wish to read an intensely detailed and thorough examination of the many and varied interpretations placed on the 54 chimeras,...(NOT the gargoyles, despite the title), ...placed on the gallery of Notre Dame de Paris by Viollet-le-Duc from 1854 onwards, then this is for you.
From their very first appearance, the "chimeres" have fired the imaginations of tourists, artists, politicians, doctors, psychologists of the insane,recorders of sexual deviation, other writers, early photographers and etchers, right up to movie makers and American writers of the gothic novel. Michael Camille examines each of the above groups and how they placed their own personal meanings on those amazing carvings by little known sculptor Victor Pyanet. The works are NOT, as so often supposed, original medieval works, nor even copies of pre-existing originals, but a collection of original fantasy so varied that they have become the stimulus for the wildly differing projections of so many groups. The true gargoyles, (the water-spouts), receive only a brief mention here. This book concentrates on the 54 chimeres, ...and especially the most famous of all known as Le Stryge, featured on the cover.
There are dozens of small illustrations in black and white of details, etchings, original designs, documents, photographs and other works inspired by Viollet-le-Duc's composite designs. Many you will not have seen before. This is an in-depth book for those who want to look behind the oft repeated tourist patter, or the trifling and often inaccurate pap so often found in glossy picture books on "Gargoyles".
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Format: Hardcover
I could never in a million years have hoped for a better book on the Notre Dame gargoyles.

This author knows, and conveys in a very engaging manner, an unbelievable amount of interesting information about them. He talks about what they very probably meant to people at the time they were made, what they appeared to mean to people in the years since, and what they seem to mean to people now. It was fascinating how people's perception of them has changed profoundly over the years.

It was interesting to learn how very suddenly they captivated people, even before the official unveiling. Artists were allowed up to draw them before the unveiling, and one print became very popular immediately.

He also provides a wealth of fascinating information about the circumstances under which they were made. They were largely the vision of one artist, who told people he was designing them to look medieval but would have known very well that in fact they don't look like any medieval carvings. Instead, the author explains, they look like a romanticized 19th-century idea of what medieval carvings might have looked like.

Once, long before reading this book, I was disappointed to learn that the best-known gargoyles of Notre Dame were not originals, and that no one knows what the 13th-century originals looked like. The 13th-century originals were thoroughly worn stumps, and in some cases gone completely, before anyone bothered to record them. But after reading this book, I see that it doesn't matter. The originals, whatever they looked like, were certainly not anywhere near as good. These gargoyles, from the 1850's restoration, were designed by an excellent artist and carved by a brilliant sculptor.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a bit difficult to find and therefore I was happy to get it. The condition of the book was correctly described. It took a rather long time to reach me and the explanation why it was so was a bit strange. But all is well that ends well
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