Le Portel, France. Black bison face to face. 3/5 The discovery of parietal art in Le Portel dates from 1908 (Dr. Rene' Jeannel). There are 3 galleries in all. These Magdalenian bison, face to face, comprise the masterpiece of Le Portel. They follow the classic theme of animals confronting and sniffing at each other, ready for battle or mating. The bison on the right is the more expressive of the two and the more strongly rendered, thanks in par
Le Portel, France. Main Gallery. Magdalenian horse. 23/2 An improvement in the state of the figures is seen as we move toward the interior of the gallery: first the almost-obliterated headless bison, then the "owl," and here this well preserved horse, 21 3/4" in length.
With its lengthened muzzle turned leftward, the mane marked by double lines, and the long tail, the horse belongs to the beginning of the Magdalenian cycle. It carries -- as if they
Le Portel, France. Aurignacian reindeer. 23/5 To the right of the enigmatic "hand" (23/4) and dating from the same Aurignacian phase is this beautiful sketch of a reindeer, also executed in strokes of red. If the lower part ever existed, it is now almost obliterated.
On the other hand, the dorsal line is quite clear, and especially so the magnificent development of the antlers. It is seen head on, although the back suggests an animal in profile.
Le Portel, France. Panel of 5 engraved mammoths. ?/? This masterpiece is on the wall to the right of the Sacred Way, after the forking of the Breuil Gallery. These five mammoths provide a remarkable composition, of which we see here only the central motif: the confrontation of mammoths. Between the two leaders, facing each other, in a classically pyramidal composition a young mammoth is felicitously placed, separating the curvilinear tusks of the t
Le Portel, France. Panel of engraved mammoths (detail). This is the leader of the group to the left. One of the most impressive mammoths of Rouffignac, it is expertly engraved on a marly limestone. The rendering of details is important: the long hairs adorning the farther part of the trunk, the elegance of the large curvilinear tucks, the sardonic expression of the eye. Three spear-thrusts seem to have wounded the beast; this suggests the ritual
Le Portel, France. Five engraved mammoths (detail). This is the second mammoth on the left, actually engraved first, before the leader, since his tusks are converged by the strong dorsal line of the other. This admirable mammoth has been riddled with what appear to be ritual strokes: four on the right flank and one on the forequarters. A long scar cuts across his front, and above it are other arrow-like lines. The undeniable quest for artistic ex
Le Portel, France. Frieze of rhinoceroses. Leaving the main artery of the "Sacred Way" to enter the Breuil Gallery, on the right, the visitor comes upon this great frieze of rhinoceroses. A wide band of marly limestone, some 6' above the floor, emphasized by an upper garland of kidney-stones: such is the setting for the frieze. And this group of three magnificent rhinoceroses, moving toward the right, was to Abbé Breuil the most beautiful of quate
Niaux, France. Panel, salon noir. 3/9 As far back as the 18th century, this cave had visitors, come to admire what is now called the "Salon Noir." In September 1906 these frescoes came to the attention of Emily Cartailhac and Abbe' Bruil. From then on the paintings of Niaux became part of modern scientific knowledge. The "Salon Noir," about 800 yards deep in the cave, is decorated with masterpieces of the last stage of Magdalenian art: bison, hor
Niaux, (Ariege) France. Head of horse under a crystallization. The informed mind no longer questions the authenticity of Quaternary art. But one can understand the skepticism that greeted this richness of color, this elegance and finesse drawing and -- as much as anything else -- the preserved state of works to be seen in the caves. This head of a bearded horse does not differ much from its neighbor (3/10), which we have seen before. Situated on
Niaux, France. Heart of the Salon Noir (detail). 6/8 On light-colored rock, starry with calcite efflorescence, the purest drawings of Niaux are seen. Here is the serene and majestic head of the great bison, pierced by three black arrows as seen in 6/7. Its expressive eye recalls that of the expertly engraved mammoth of Rouffignac (3/?). At Niaux, more than in any other cave yet discovered, the richness of detail provides an aesthetic delight: the
Niaux, France. Ibex of the Salon Noir. 6/12 The dualism between magical imperative and aesthetic suggestion allows, according to circumstances, either a happy or a tragic solution. The little horse pierced by an arrow (6/11), placed below the bison struck by three black arrows (6/7), represents a happy solution. In passing, we note a less happy solution: the vigorous croup of the large black horse here obliterates a modest little bison, drawn with