Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rhenish Romanesque

Getting ready to head back to El Paso, I stopped by the Metz Central Station, which I've previously mentioned as an example of Rhenish Romanesque (i.e., a romanticized German interpretation of the Romanesque style). As shown in these pictures of the station, the style features large sections of ornate decoration that recall an imagined medieval past.

In the frieze above this arch, the central coat of arms is that of the city of Metz, half white and half black. I interpret the figures as, not particularly subtly, depicting the relation of the martial and domestic arts. With their robust physiques, casual poses, and joined gaze, the couple are resolutely modern, for the turn of the 20th Century, anyway. The surrounding decorative details--leaves, flowers, faces--set this modern pair in a medieval frame.

Some of the details straddle medieval and art-nouveau motifs. For example, the knotted stonework of the side windows references a medieval theme yet adds a more modern and organic fluidity, particularly in the ends of the "cords" at the bottom of the windows.

A short distance from the station, both physically and stylistically, stands the tower that held water for the steam engines.

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