“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
― Ansel Adams
Dallas Museum of Art
Anonymous gift and General Acquisition Fund, 2014.10
French sculptor Antoine-Augustin Préault created eerie contrasts of shadow and light in this composition featuring merely a face and a hand. Linear drapery enshrouds the androgynous figure’s face, drawing attention to its gaunt features, half-closed eyes, and skeletal hand. A finger lifted to the lips is a gesture commonly found in ancient funerary sculptures that glorified the dead. Portraiture or reliefs bearing images of the deceased performing this gesture were intended to conjure pleasant memories, but Silence, with its brutal evocation of frailty and death, breaks from the well-established canon.
Préault designed Silence for Jacob Roblès’ tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which is the city’s largest and most famous burial ground. The medallion’s compositional elements combine to convey a somber nature perfect for the purpose of a tomb. Its superb round, dark hardwood frame with a deep ogee, or S-shaped molding, enhances the sculpture’s dimensionality and melancholy theme.
“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”
― Lawrence Durrell, Justine