Tomb Effigy of a Recumbent Knight from the Abbey of Sainte-Marie, La Genevraye, Lower Normandy
Artist/maker unknown, French
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This tomb effigy may represent a member of the noble du Merle family. A seventeenth-century description of the sculpture identified the knight as François du Merle, who founded the abbey of Sainte-Marie in La Genevraye, France, around 1160. The birds carved on the shield are heraldic figures known as martlets (or merle in French), perhaps a punning reference to the family name. However, the coat of arms used by the du Merle family in later centuries does not include birds and so the connection remains tentative. The description mentioned above also states that the sculpture was placed on a two-foot-high base decorated with coats of arms that likely signaled the distinguished ancestry of the deceased.
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