UnknownTerracotta Figure of a Monk Holding a Book

Terracotta Figure of a Monk Holding a Book
Terracotta figuring by Unknown

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe lived through a dark age of severe cultural deprivation. The only surviving institution was the Christian church, which played a crucial role in the preservation of Western civilization and culture. This religious influence was reflected through medieval art forms which spread across Europe at this time, reinforcing the doctrine of the Roman Empire and the early Christian church.
 
It is possible that this sculpture depicts the French abbot St. Bernard (12th Century), one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of Europe. St. Bernard was a strong influence on King Louis Vll during the Second Crusade. He is often represented holding a book or a pen in his hand, indicating his status as Doctor of the Church.
 
The symbol of the monk signifies a life devoted to God; they were associated with education and discipline because, in medieval times, a young boy who was extraordinarily talented was often sent to be educated by monks in a monastery.
 
Christian art was one of the main themes chosen for the representation of the Garman Ryan collection, thus illuminating a facet of the personality of its owners. This particular sculpture held great personal value to Theodore Garman, who was a devout Christian and avid collector of medieval and European religious art. Artefacts such as this would frequently feature in his flower and still life paintings, although it is clear that this piece was of great significance to him because it was the central focus of one of his paintings, entitled The Wooden Monk, (date unknown).