La peinture murale angevine au treizième siècle
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Our knowledge of 13th-century Angevin wall painting is a recent phenomenon. Most of the more important works to survive from this period are either recent discoveries, or have been recognized as 13th century in the last few years and consequently redated. As such, only now is it possible to place the angevin work within the wider context of wall-painting in the west of France.
While figurative wall-painting during the first quarter of the 13th century remained essentially Romanesque (Champteussé-sur-Baconne, Châteauneuf-sur-Sarthe, Pon-tigné), by the end of this period one encounters a predominantly ornamental style of painting, a style generally to be found in the more important buildings (the hospital of Saint-Jean at Angers, Chaloché, Notre-Dame de Chemillé, Fontevraud, Notre-Dame de Nantilly near Saumur). This ‘décor ornamental’ is closely linked to the diffusion of the architectural style André Mussat christened ‘le style gothique de l’ouest de la France’. In particular, colour was organized across the architectural surfaces in such a way as to focus attention on those discreet points within the building wherein figurative imagery was concentrated (Notre-Dame de Cunault, Saint-Martin at Angers, La Jaillette at Louvaines). The taste for this sort of predominantly ornamental repertoire became so highly developed that it was occasionally called on to create the illusion of Gothic space in pre-Gothic buildings (Notre-Dame de Cunault, La Haye-aux-Bonshommes at Avrillé).
By the middle of the century Angers was enjoying a particularly active period as a centre of artistic production. The decoration of the church of the Ronceray — precisely dated to the years between 1246 and 1254 — is the outstanding representative of a new sort of equilibrium between the ornamental and the historiated observable elsewhere in Anjou in the second quarter of the century, while the wall-paintings embellishing the choir of the cathedral, at least in those areas which have been uncovered, appear wholly exceptional.