A solitary silhouetted figure wandering through the remaining ancient cloisters at the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.
Dating from between the 9th and 17th centuries, the missing columns and capitals featured carvings that recall Roman sculpture with acanthus leaves and grotesque heads peering out, including figures at the Presentation at the Temple, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and the Mouth of Hell.
All is not lost however, the missing architectural artifacts can still be seen, but it involves a journey of some 3,850 miles to so!
The back story is that they were acquired by American sculptor and art dealer George Grey Barnard sometime before 1913, when the 140 pieces were transferred to New York City. Barnard’s collection was bought by philanthropist and financier John D. Rockefeller, Jr, and became an integral part of the Cloisters Museum on Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York City.
It was a cold, wet, November day when I visited the museum, specializing in European medieval art and architecture during my first trip to New York. It was an intriguing visit and little did I realise then I’d be photographing the real thing 20 years later…