Tomb of Abelard and Héloïse

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Lovers past and present are united in A. W. N. Pugin’s depiction of the tomb of Abelard (1079–1142) and Héloïse (1098–1164) in the Parisian cemetery of Père Lachaise. The gothic monument with the reclining statues of the medieval lovers serves as suggestive background to the two young lovers, captured in intimate conversation in an Elysian garden, where death and love, stone and vegetation invite a contemplation of the passing of time with love as a transcending force. The solitude à deux contrasts with the overpopulated city of the dead, crammed with funeral monuments, which meets the modern visitor to the cemetery.

Pugin’s illustration appeared in Paris and its Environs, Displayed in a Series of Picturesque Views (1829-31). With a bilingual text, written by L. T. Ventouillac, the book was directed at the French and British middle classes, catering for the revival of Continental tourism after the Napoleonic Wars. The collaboration between the French writer and the English illustrator/architect, himself the son of French emigrants who had fled France at the time of the Revolution, testifies to the strong cultural exchange across the Channel. Text and illustrations appeared in monthly installments, several of which featured the recently (1804) opened cemetery in the East of Paris where Heloïse and Abelard’s tomb was one of the first to be erected. Transferred during a major ceremony from Alexandre Lenoir’s Musée des Monuments Français on the Left Bank in 1817, the earthly remains of the lovers came to their final resting place after a turbulent history of exhumations, during which bones were dispersed as lovers’ relics. As Ventouillac pointed out, ‘The monument of these ill-fated lovers seems at last to have found a permanent asylum in the Pere la Chaise. Its history is almost as curious as their own.’ (1:99)
Publikationsdato14 feb. 2023
StatusUdgivet - 14 feb. 2023

ID: 340973971