North Side - N01PP58

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Pair of birds over foliated ground

The capital is decorated with two birds that flank the tree of life. The stem of the tree is ornamented with pearls and culminates in a forward-falling acanthus leaf. Halfway up the tree two bundles of leaves branch off, to which the birds’ raised claws are pointed. The whole kalathos is covered with a dense pattern of acanthus leaves, representing a paradise garden.
In Romanesque art, birds often symbolize blessed souls, especially when they are shown drinking from a chalice or well or, as here, when they accompany a plant motif. Considered in terms of form, the symmetrical pairing of birds was especially disseminated in ivory carvings and in Andalusian textiles from the period of the caliphate of Córdoba. It was later adopted in the Christian art of the Iberian peninsula. Yet the motif in question is far earlier in origin; it is common in Early Christian art.
The volumetrically plump bodies of the birds are emphasized by the delicately structured profiling of their feathers, which resemble in part a rhomboid lattice-like pattern. The three-dimensional effect of the plumage is also found in the representation of the fruit to be seen on both adjacent capitals, which complete the repertoire of the promise of salvation and the idea of paradise as Garden of Eden.