LASCAUX -- MOVEMENT, SPACE, AND TIME
The Hall of the Bulls, Part 2
54 The incomplete depiction of this calf is fused with that of the cow in front of it. The gaps in colour at their point of contact bear witness to the close interdependence of the two figures.
There are other drawings around this bovine. Apart from the great bull, which seems to envelop it completely, there is a representation of a calf (ill. 54) to the rear. Only the outline of the calf's forequarters is shown, mostly only partially, and two parallel ears are clearly marked at the height of the junction between the head and the neck. The graphical association of calf and cow is accentuated by two gaps in colour, which mark the point of contact between the two figures: one at the junction of the edge of the cow's leg and the top of the head of the small bovine, and the other at the proximal end of the tail below the neck of the calf. By using an identical colour for both animals, the artist clearly intended to fuse the two images and highlight the relationship between calf and mother. This dual image is the result of one phase of activity, with the figure of the young aurochs being simply the graphical extension of that of the mother.
The rump and the horns of another bovine lie parallel to the upper line of the red cow, and were painted later. The twist of the horns - the simple curve of the left horn and the double twist of the right - and a much more massive morphology than that recorded for the cows suggest that this animal is the seventh bull of the Hall of the Bulls. An important ensemble of signs (particularly lines) was traced directly in front of the red cow, in the arch defined by the head, the neck, the chest and the forelimbs.
Equids, always numerous at Lascaux, account for 48 per cent of all the animals depicted in the Hall of the Bulls. There are two distinct groups on the left wall and another, more scattered concentration on the facing wall. Even though there are far more horses than bovines, they have less of a visual impact. However, horses become increasingly more important in the other sectors of the sanctuary at the expense of the aurochs.
A procession of six black horses, facing the bottom of the hall, extends along a single horizontal line between the Unicorn and the third aurochs. On the left of the frieze, a head introduces the procession, and two manes on the far right mark its end. A small silhouette of a horse immediately next to the entrance to the Axial Gallery is also noteworthy. Masked by the hind hoof of the third aurochs, only its head and neck are visible.
A second line of animals runs above the six black horses, made up of four predominantly red horses. On the far left of the frieze, the lines of a sketched horse on the flanks of the Unicorn and the head of another horse on the latter's shoulder mark the start of this second line. The third horse -- a very large figure -- lies at the centre of the composition, superimposed over the second bull. A brown and black head with an extended upper line, located between the horns of the two aurochs, marks the end of this line.
On the facing wall a number of sketches continue the horse theme. One of these is located in front of the fourth bull, at the entrance to the Axial Gallery. The second, in three colours, occupies the centre of the same bull. The third - an unclear yellow smear with an equid-like outline is located in front of the red cow.
The sequence of black horses on the left wall begins with the head and neck of one figure, which are covered by a large yellow blotch. This is the first animal representation in the cave (ill. 55). This outline, turned towards the entrance, has been placed in a natural frame, the borders of which are formed by the rocky ledge above, the line of the shelf at its base and by small calcite flows to both sides. Its outline is limited to the neck, the poll, a sketch of the head with neither nostrils nor mouth, and to the very inconspicuous outline of the back, traced in red using a brush. The second horse is located immediately in front of the Unicorn, marking the start of the procession.
The composition of horses extends over a length of 9 metres. They all appear to move along the same sub-horizontal line of the floor, which materializes in a change of colours and an incline of the wall towards what we call the bench. Major deterioration of the underlying surface has virtually destroyed the second horse: when a large flake of the wall fell to the floor, it took the horse's head and neck with it, together with the head of the first bovine. Its entire surface is painted black, as are the outlines of the line of the neck, the chest, the line of the back, the croup and the hindquarters, carried out by spraying and bilateral masking of the parallel edges. A stencil was used for its feet. The tail consists of a series of oblong smears, aligned in a row, and ends in a diffuse tuft.
The third horse is incomplete owing to the limited space available. Only its forequarters are shown. Nevertheless, it has been treated in exactly the same way as the complete animal representations, with numerous anatomical details. The ears and eye are not drawn, and only in exceptional cases are the horses of Lascaux given eyes. The location of this animal, on the lower level of the wall, influenced the technical methods used in its creation. This area of the wall is characterized by large depressions, forcing the artist to rely predominantly on the spray technique. The exception is the back, the broad line of which differs from the test of the body. A linear series of adjacent dots represents the line of the belly. Four other dots extend this line and emphasize the lower edge of the limb.
A fourth, partial silhouette of a horse emerges from the obscure darkness of the bench. This sketch, limited to the head, the neck and the beginning of the line of the back, was created entirely by spraying. The juxtaposition of small dots in two lines represents the upper part of the mane. Another line of dots inside the head may represent a sketched neckline, later replaced by the more generous thickening of the neck.
The fifth horse is at the centre of the frieze, immediately below the great red horse with the black neck. Its general morphology follows an elongated 'S'-shaped curve, the character of which is accentuated by the strong downward curvature of the back and the alignment of the rounded mane with the forehead. This deliberately accentuates the movement of the forelimbs. with the hindlimbs supporting the body. Very few details of the head remain, so much so that its features are essentially limited to a traced outline. The reduced size of the head contrasts strongly with the mass of the neck. Two juxtaposed broad lines, which are of a slightly denser shade of black than that of the flanks, emphasize the abdomen and appear to be structural elements. (...)
The extensive application of black pigment marking the chest of the second bull conceals the outline of a sixth equid. Overwhelmed by the different neighbouring shapes, only the head, neck and back of the horse are visible. Despite its incomplete nature, we can identify this figure as a horse simply by looking at its cervical-dorsal line: the straight back and regular curvature to the line of the neck, and the angle that is formed where the neck and back meet, are specific to the representation of these animals.
55 A black head of a horse is the first figurative unit of the sanctuary.
In the vanguard of the long frieze of the black horses, the outline of the seventh equid merges partly with the chest of the second bull. Indeed, the croup and the hindlimbs disappear in the thick application of black pigment, entangled with the outline of another horse and the dewlap and the forelimbs of the aurochs. The entire figure was executed by spraying pigment, with the exception of the outline of the hooves and an interior line that follows the line of the back 3 centimetres away. Whereas the distribution of the internal dots seems to be random, those of the outlines seem to be more coordinated. For tracing the shape of the body they follow a continuous line, with no interruption between each element, from the base of the mane to the articulation of the forelimbs. The application of colour to the interior is in the form of large dots, creating a relatively diffuse scatter.
The right edge of the frieze of the black horses finishes with two sketches. The rudimentary nature of the left-hand figure has prompted various interpretations, including a mask or the head of a nocturnal bird of prey. Analysis using graphical analogy suggests that it is an incomplete outline of a horse, limited to the forehead, the poll, the mane and the beginning of the line of the back. Two juxtaposed smudges may be markings of the neck. The second sketch of a horse consists of only three elements: the mane, which is linear in nature, and two lines of the neck, composed of dots.
A tenth horse is hidden in the distal extremity of the third bull's right posterior limb. Only the head, neck and back are visible. There are two parallel lines of clay between the neck of the horse and the forelimbs of the red bovine, but it is uncertain whether they are Palaeolithic.
The second sequence of equids on this wall is more restricted in number and is located at the same height as the Unicorn. Only the neck and the line of the back of the first figure are shown, drawn in red. The brushstroke is 3 to 4 centimetres wide and shows the cervical-dorsal trajectory as a regular line with a triple curvature.
Several animals obscure the body of the Unicorn, including the second figure in this sequence, which appears as a large red smudge on the withers (ill. 56). It was very difficult to identify this figure, and in the end we had to resort to image processing in order to define the outline better and to bring out the original effects (ill. 57). Eventually, it was possible to recognize the shape of a horse head, with the mane, poll, forehead, mandible and neck all depicted. The extremity of the muzzle (nostrils and lower lip) is not shown, which is true of all the horse heads at Lascaux (ill. 58).
The largest horse of the panel, the great red and black horse, occupies a central position, both vertically and horizontally. It is the most consummate (ill. 59), with all the classic anatomical details. Moreover, the head seems to be split in two: one head is black and lower down, and the other is red with a black forehead. Nevertheless, it would appear that the former outline is external, rather than an artistic correction. Another peculiar feature of this figure relates to two black, oblong marks behind the two forelimbs. They are associated with two series of sub-parallel striations - one red, the other black - drawn at the left of each mark. The belly is marked by a scatter of large black smudges. Furthermore, at the base of the mane it is possible to recognize a slightly arched line composed of six large black dots, an arrangement that has still not been interpreted.
Various techniques were used to depict this animal. A fine red border applied with a brush marks the limit of the back and the croup, while a black border shows the lower line of the neck linking the upright chest to the throat. An alignment of markedly similar black marks follows the ventral curve, but the form of the thigh is less solid and was carried our using a stencil. The lines of the back and neck and the outlines of the forehead and peripheral elements (the feet and tail) were all drawn with the same tool, which cannot have been more than 1 centimetre wide. By contrast, a much broader and flexible brush, coated with a more diluted red material, was used on what appears to be the ears. There are certain similarities between this colour and the pigment used to highlight the back of the bull, suggesting that they may have been painted at the same time. The head is carried high and lies along the same axis as the body. The back feet are at their maximum extension and parallel to each other, whereas the front feet are less extended and diverge at an angle of some 20°.
The brown horse faces towards the back of the gallery, and only the outlines of its head, neck and back (ill. 60) are shown. The pointed, parallel and slender ears are located perpendicularly at the beginning of the mane. The tip of the nose, the nostrils and the lower lip are shown in detail. The depiction of the mandible and the beginning of the line of the neck are also carried out meticulously. The underlying surface is relatively fine grained, which the artist has worked to his advantage with the use of shades of brown and black and the dispersion of colour. These two features are found only rarely in the cave. The mane, in particular, shows off this technique. The same fine-grained texture enabled the artist to draw the head in detail, from the nasal opening to the lower lip. The passage to the mouth is marked by a succession of small parallel dashes covering the entire tip of the snout. Sprayed pigment was used to create the collection of oblong shapes that make up the mane and the lower line of the neck. The dorsal outline, shown as a continuous and regular line, is somewhat curved. The effect is intensified by the presence of a fracture line in the rock formed by a longitudinal fault.
56 The shoulder of the Unicorn is marked by a red smear.
57 Image processing allows the separation of the outline of this figure for a more critical interpretation. It shows the head and neck of a horse.
58 The identification of the preceding image is supported by a comparison with this small depiction of a horse head, painted below the first Chinese horse in the Axial Gallery
On the right wall, only one of the three horses faces the end of the gallery. Located at the boundary of the Axial Gallery and the Hall of the Bulls and partially overlapping the fourth bull, it nevertheless belongs to the latter by association. The outline appears to be slightly disturbed, both in its form and by the nature of the underlying surface. The incomplete outline is marked by the absence of the withers, the back and the hindquarters. Difficulties in positioning the subject cannot have helped. Several lines, apparently unconnected to the outline, cluster around this image, in particular an arched line underlining the neck. One of those lines -- a thick one that crosses the front limbs diagonally and looks like the hoof of a horse - may well be a correction to the painting. The presence of a coating of clay to lessen the impact of this poorly placed limb would support this hypothesis. There are also incised marks, or more precisely very superficial removals of pigment, on the flanks in the shape of a cross.
59 Forequarters of a great red and black horse.
60 The outlines of a brown horse with a black mane form the graphic connection between the two large depictions of aurochs on the left wall.
In this case, as for the majority of depictions, a mixture of techniques has been used. The outlines have been drawn, while painting has been used to fill in forms. Often the animal looks elongated. This distortion is caused by the shape of the wall and the need to get the proportions right. The image was intended to be viewed from the centre of the Hall of the Bulls rather than from its closest point, the entrance to the Axial Gallery. This distortion of the picture is similar to that used on the fourth bull.
There are numerous signs, dots and bars and animal figures around the forequarters of the fourth bull. A partial silhouette of a horse stands at the centre of the composition, apparently at random. Only the front half of its body can be seen. Several colours have been applied by spraying: yellow for the neck and the coat of the animal, black for its mane and red for its chest and legs.
On the surface marked out by the forequarters of the red cow, painted within the forelimbs of the fifth bull, are several associated signs and another horse (ill. 61). It is not instantly recognizable: the yellow colour provides only limited contrast) and the outlines of the animal are incomplete, reduced to the mane, the neck and the beginning of the back. Nevertheless, you can see a sketch of the forehead leading to a developed poll. The artist painted the cow by spraying a succession of applications of powdered colouring matter next to each other, their impact being more marked at the level of the neck than the rest of the image.
The third theme of the panel is that of the stags, divided into two groups of uneven size. There are five stags on the left wall (ill. 62). This group is interesting because its composition differs from the others in this chamber. The sixth stag, which is black, forms part of the small group of incomplete figures and sketches that decorate the forequarters of the fourth bull.
The group of five stags, all of which face the entrance, stand in a trapezoidal area, bounded laterally by the second and third bulls and vertically by the brown horse and the line of the floor. They are of substantially identical proportions and are arranged in a herd-like formation. They are divided between three levels: the yellow and black stag at the bottom, the incomplete red stags and the two outlines. Despite the very great diversity of the antlers, there are certain characteristics that are shared by all the stags, such as the parallelism of the limbs or the rendition of the cervical-dorsal line by a continuous curve, without the projection of the withers. The symmetry of the figures is not only achieved by the spatial distribution of the different subjects of the composition but also by their animation: both subjects on the far left and far right are static, whereas the superimposed figures placed at the Centre are shown in motion.
The outline of the red stag, to the left, occupies an almost perfect square. Neither the hindlimbs nor the line of the belly have been depicted. The dissymmetry of its antler tines is more accentuated than in the other stags, particularly at their base. The stag's right-hand antler, with a very thick section and the form of a crescent, appears to reproduce the outline of the head and the neck below it. No fewer than twenty-two tines can be counted on this antler. The great diameter of the antlers might suggest that this is a picture of a very old stag. Red is the only colour used for this animal. The antlers, the head, the neck, the legs and the curve of the back were painted with a brush, but the internal colour was sprayed.
The second stag takes up the space between the muzzles of the second and the third bulls. It is slightly smaller than the stags below it and has fewer anatomical features. Only the neck, the outline of the body and the limbs have been depicted. Some diffuse vertical lines above and in front of the stag suggest the antlers. The natural forms of the rock surface played an important role in the representation of this animal: two large scars, where flakes of the wall surface have fallen away, suggest an angular head and the antlers. It is not the relief caused by the loss of material that creates this effect, however, but rather the difference in colour produced by the juxtaposition of the underlying ochreous rock and the white calcite. The powerfully depicted forelimbs are shorter and denser than those of the figures below, contrasting with the limbs of the hindquarters, which are reduced to a faint trace of colour. The inconspicuous red line of the croup is emphasized by an irregular arrangement of black points and dashes.
61 There are numerous signs on the
walls of the Hall of the Bulls, but in outline they are essentially
The central animal of the group, the yellow and black stag, is also the most accomplished (ill. 63). The position of this figure on the lower level of the tableau, a zone marked by deep hollows, makes the high number of anatomical details all the more remarkable. The work of art's graphical qualities are maintained: it fits exactly into a square. Its oversized antlers double its height. Certain anatomical details arc unique. such as the extremities of the limbs, which are drawn with the hooves and the dewclaw. Yellow is used to show variation in the thickness of the coat, which is always more substantial on the neck than on the rest of the body. A black linear stroke marks the outline of the coat. It is very different from that of the neck, where the length and density of the fur is implied by a looser arrangement of colour applied by spraying and with no clear boundary. The depiction of the antlers is broadly naturalistic, showing, from the bottom to the top. the brow tines, the bez tines, the trez tines and the crown, but asymmetrically from one antler to the other and with a doubling of some elements. The stifle (the joint in the leg) in the foreground follows the line of the belly: the other traces a straight line sub-parallel to the lumbar region. The limbs are parallel and vary in thickness along their entire length, thereby showing their different sections and articulations, unlike the somewhat spindly legs of the two red stags to either side. The morphology of the wall has played a role. The front part of the stag (forehead and bez tines) follows, at a short distance, the curve of a ridge formed by a large and deep cavity just in from of this animal. Where the eye should be, a calcite growth takes its place, an interpretation rendered all the more probable since this feature retains its original white colour, having been left unpainted in the middle of the black surface.
62 The frieze of the Small Stags occupies a special position between two great opposed bulls. It forms the geometrical and, perhaps also, dramatic centre of the very long composition that unfolds along the two walls of the Hall of the Bulls.
Only the antlers of the black stag are visible, but natural elements of the wall help you to imagine what the animal's body was like. Indeed, there is a degree of affinity between the cervid's antlers and the scar left by a flake, which might suggest the body. Very faint and disjointed black marks below the right antler evoke an eye, a forehead and the tip of the muzzle, merged into the line of the croup of the red stag.
Like the other cervids of this group, the red feet of the fifth stag do not rest on the line marking the separation of the tableau from the bench. Only the large animals and the majority of the horses obey this rule. The silhouette preserves all the outlines of the upper body, the line of the back and neck, to the detriment of the ventral line, the chest, the throat and the head. The long and fine legs are in pairs and absolutely parallel, perpendicular to the line of the floor. The straight fore- and hindlimbs are characterized by a single curve at the knee and the hock respectively. But it is the antlers that are the unique feature of this figure, both in their shape and dimensions: they form a veritable bush of forty-odd tines, partially drowned in the black mass of the chest of the third bull, and their surface area approximately equals that of the body.
On the facing wall, the small black stag that stands close to the entrance of the Axial Gallery is depicted with almost all of the traditional anatomical features. Only the line of the belly has not been drawn, and the forelimbs are merely sketched. The outlines of this animal, represented in right profile, differ very little from the other stags. The few differences relate to the antlers, which are much less developed and have fewer tines, and to the position of the head, which is carried noticeably lower. There are many similarities with the yellow and black stag: the treatment of the croup, the articulation of the hindlimb drawn in the background, the static nature of the parallel and outstretched back legs. Outline drawing is not common in the Hall of the Bulls, but this figure has been executed using mainly this technique. The outline and the fur of the neck have been drawn with a brush. Only a few areas of the back and croup were sprayed.
Hidden in the ventral band of the fourth aurochs, the image of the bear (ill. 190) is only recognizable by the line of the upper body, the ears, the front edge of the raised head and the distal end of the right hindlimb, on which three claws are clearly visible. Nevertheless, a more in-depth analysis of the subject, following image processing, has led to the identification of the croup, the thigh and the second hindlimb.
63 Unlike the four other cervids of this group, which surround it, the yellow and black stag has all the anatomical details that are traditionally depicted.