The Sorcerer of Les Troi Frere, Abbe Breuil’s infamous drawing, and its modern mystery.
The Infosphere Mystery of the Sorcerer of Les Troi Frere
I was working on a few things and in the process wanted to look up some details, and check some of the available images and references, for the famous and infamous “Sorcerer”, brought into the public mind and the culturestream by the controversial but seminal Abbe Breuil.
His original illustration of The Sorcerer is almost certainly the best known modern drawing and ‘representation’ of paleolithic and cro-magnon art. You can see it in the featured image above, and as it was originally seen on the full page of the original 1920 article below.
The article (it might be more accurately called a letter that was in academic form and widely spread) was named: “un dessin relevé dans la caverne des trois-frères, à montesquieu-avantès (ariège)” (It was originally printed all in upper case), which translates to: “a drawing found in the cave of the three brothers to montesquieu-Avantès (Ariège)”.
Something that struck me very strongly was the near-complete absence of good photographs of the original art, anywhere in the infosphere. And when I went back thru my memories of the text-sphere, I came to the same conclusion, that all of the photos that I have ever seen printed of the Les Trois Frere cave and it’s art seemed to be from this same very limited set of photos. There are five, only 4 of which are photos in-situ, available only from the Granger Collection, and unless some academics and researchers have troves of photos in some dusty desk somewhere, these five images are the only references the infosphere can access.
This strikes me as very interesting. The most famous representation of ancient art with a human male figure exists in a kind of empty space of study, comparison, and research using the modern model.
There’s a fantastic master’s thesis hidden in that empty space, possibly a PhD. I’m going to write more on this later.
The image to the right is an art print link from one of the websites selling prints of Granger photos – this I think is my favorite of the 4 modern photos available. As I recall the history and backstory of this photograph and the cave, which I had read about at some point, at the time this was taken the original art had begun fading badly because of all the visitors to the cave, it was thought to be less than half, perhaps significantly less than half, of the clarity of The Sorcerer as Breiul saw it. I like this image because you can barely make out bits of one of the most important features of the cave, masses of shallow engravings covering almost every surface.
The image below is a copy of the complete page containing the illsutration from the officially and openly available public domain PDF copy of Abbe Breuil’s original groundbreaking article. It contains what is probably the best possible authoritative rendering of his illustration, which stunned 1920’s culture and became an icon.
The source of the public domain PDF copy of the original article – in French.