|Gisant: Knight in Armor, c. 1500|
Nestled on the campus of Princeton University is the Princeton University Art Museum, an absolute gem that houses an amazing collection of art from ancient times to the modern day, including works from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
I’ve always been fascinated by medieval art. One of my favorite pieces in the museum’s collection is Knight in Armor, a Spanish gisant figure from the early 1500’s.
Gisant tombs (the word derives from the Old French verb “gesir,” meaning to lie horizontally) were a type of royal tomb that first became popular in the twelfth century. The figures were depicted as awaiting the Last Judgment, and no matter the age of the deceased when he or she died, the figure was always shown as thirty-three years of age, the same age of Jesus Christ when he was crucified.
What fascinates me most about this particular sculpture is the detail the artist was able to capture in the stone carving. I’ve seen many gisant figures in various museums, but I’ve never come across one as intricately carved as this one.
There are also some interesting anomalies regarding this particular figure. His gauntlets don’t match, and the animal that traditionally would be at his feet is missing. The mystery writer in me is certainly piqued by this and wonders who this unidentified nobleman was. Chances are, we’ll never know.
If you happen to find yourself in the Princeton, NJ area at some point, check out the Princeton University Art Museum. Admission is free.