Home Art History Mysterious Stone in 15th-Century Painting Could Be a Prehistoric Tool | Smart News

Mysterious Stone in 15th-Century Painting Could Be a Prehistoric Tool | Smart News

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Jean Fouquet’s Meln diptych Features two panels, Etienne Chevalier and Saint Stephen left side, and Virgin and child surrounded by angels on the right.
Sailko (via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)

On the right panel of Jean Fouquet Meln diptych (c. 1455), the Virgin Mary sits with the baby Jesus surrounded by angels. The left panel depicts the person who commissioned this work, Etienne Chevalier, the treasurer. Charles VII His patron saint stands next to St. Stephen of France. St. Stephen holds the New Testament in his hands, and above the book he holds a pear-shaped stone.

Art historians claim that this strange rock represents St. Stephen, who was stoned to death as a Christian martyr. However, its uniqueness caught people’s attention, Steven Kangasan art historian at Dartmouth College, has other reasons.

“I’ve known about Fouquet’s paintings for years, but I always thought the stone objects looked like prehistoric tools,” Kangas says in his paper. statement Originally from Dartmouth. “So this was always in the back of my mind as something I needed to pursue in the future.”

And in 2021, Kangas attended a lecture on the Ishimira site in Tanzania, known for its hatchets. The tool’s sharp edges and flaked exterior closely resembled the stone in the painting, and Kangas knew he might have finally found a match.

Now, after closely analyzing the oil paintings, Kangas and colleagues at Dartmouth College and the University of Cambridge believe that: Meln diptych This is probably the earliest artistic representation of the Acheulean hatchet, a stone tool used by our human ancestors to dig and cut meat and wood more than 500,000 years ago.they report the research results cambridge archaeological journal.

stone close-up

Researchers analyzed the stone’s shape, color, and flakes and concluded that it was probably a representation of a hatchet.

Sailko (via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)

The hatchet “has long been a source of fascination throughout social and cultural history,” according to a statement from Dartmouth. Before its true origins were identified in the 17th and 18th centuries, early records from the mid-1500s describe the handaxe as a “thunderstone,” believed to fall from the sky during thunderstorms. It was being done. “Swiss physician and naturalist Conrad Gessner includes an engraving of a thunderstone in his book. Fossils of De Realm (1565) and classified them as “jokes of nature.” forbesDavid Bressan. “Despite its poor quality, this statue has long been thought to be the earliest artistic representation of a prehistoric stone axe.”

of Meln diptychHowever, it predates Gessner’s work by more than a century.

To investigate their hunch, the researchers studied the shape of the stone in the painting and concluded that it was very similar to the shape of other hand axes from the area. mulan diptych Painted.

They also analyzed the color of the stone and compared it to samples of 20 French Acheulean hatchets. They acknowledge that the colors in the painting may have been distorted by pigments or varnish, but “the yellow, brown, and red color variations on the object’s surface are consistent with other hatchet artefacts.” I discovered that

Finally, they counted 33 flaking marks on the surface of the painted stone. This matched the average number of abrasion marks found on axes in the French collection.

Researchers have three theories as to why Fouquet incorporated hatchets into his work. “Perhaps such objects were common and familiar to his patron, the Chevalier, and to the wider population of northern France,” the authors write. ars technicaJennifer Ouellette. “Alternatively, such items may have been rare and exclusive to the upper classes, in which case their inclusion would prove that the Chevalier was an educated and important person.” Or maybe there’s a specific religious or cultural meaning that scholars don’t yet know about. ”

Although researchers cannot say exactly what the artist’s motivations were, their analysis suggests that the cultural fascination with hatchets is even older than previously thought.

“I love this idea of ​​linking the hatchet, a practical tool that helped humans survive 500,000 years ago, with medieval French paintings so famous that they’re taught in introductory art history classes.” speaks. jeremy desilvasaid an anthropologist at Dartmouth College in a statement. “From the Paleolithic period to the Renaissance and beyond, the hatchet has been, and always will be, a part of human history.”

Looking ahead, Kangas hopes to analyze other contemporary works featuring strange stones, such as St. Stephen’s and 16th-century wooden stones. sculpture Speaking at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he said: hyperallergenicElaine Berry.

“I think this study will further validate the art historical discipline’s insistence on close viewing,” he added.

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