The avoidance of figurative representation in early Cistercian art is attributed to a protest against luxury and to an attachment to formal purity and simplicity. However, one may argue that some of the iconoclastic sensitivities were consistent. Beginning at circa the end of the 12th century, figurative representations gradually appeared, not in the church but in the cloister. This article investigates the appearance of figurative sculpture in Cistercian cloisters, in particular those of Fontfroide in Occitanie in Southern France, Alcobaça in Portugal, and Chiaravalle della Colomba in Piacentino in Northern Italy. On the capitals and corbels with figurative representations in the cloisters, it is possible to identify coherent notions of profane morals and caricatures associated with Cistercian monastic virtue and ethics. It does not seem coincidental that most of those sparse images were located near the chapter houses.
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