Émile MÂle (1862–1954)
Mâle was the first art historian to deal exclusively with medieval iconography, albeit largely with French medieval material. A student of literature at the École normale supérieure in Paris until 1886, his first appointment was as professor of rhetoric at the university at St.Étienne. His reputation was established once he accepted the position of chair in the Department of Medieval Archaeology at the Sorbonne, Paris, in 1908. His studies largely focused on the French origins of both Romanesque and Gothic sculpture and were conducted from a strongly nationalistic and religious perspective. His major work, L'art religieux du XIIe siècle en France, was published in 1922 and was the first in a series of similarly titled studies that evaluated the entire medieval period as a progressive movement, from a stylistic and iconographical stance. Named director of the École français de Rome in 1923, Mâle was criticized both during his lifetime and afterward for his tendency to view iconography as a finite concept and for his unwillingness to see beyond his own period or area of expertise.
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