Set in Stone presents more than 80 medieval sculpted heads, half from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and half selected loans from American and European collections. The exhibition, which includes heads from the third century A.D. through the early 1500s, considers such artistic and thematic issues as: iconoclasm and the legacy of violence, sculpting identity and the evolving notions of the "portrait," sculpture. As an example, monumental figures on the façade of Notre-Dame were systematically destroyed or beheaded by government edict during the French Revolution. Just as the king was subjected to the guillotine, the sculptures – seen as symbols of authority – were destroyed in parallel acts of vengeance. An outstanding example is the regal 13th-century limestone Head of a King, originally from Notre-Dame in Paris, which still bears traces of polychromy (Musée National du Moyen Âge, Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny).
Created from materials as diverse as marble, limestone, polychromed wood, and silver gilt, the works represent mostly French, but also German, Italian, Spanish, Byzantine, English, and other sculptural traditions.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Web Site