Émile Mâle  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Émile Mâle (2 June 1862 - 6 October 1954) was a French art historian, one of the first to study medieval, mostly sacral French art and the influence of eastern European iconography thereon. He was a member of the Académie Française, and a director of the Académie de France à Rome.

Émile Mâle also treats grotesque themes in medieval art in his extensive book: l'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France.


Mâle was born in Commentry, Auvergne. A pupil at the École normale supérieure, he received his degree in 1886. He taught rhetoric at Saint-Étienne, then at the University of Toulouse. He received his doctorate in 1899. Having taught a course in the history of Christian art at the Sorbonne since 1906, he held the chair in history of art there from 1912. He was the successor to Louis Duchesne as head of the French Academy in Rome, 1923-1937. Among Mâle's many contributions to the understanding of the art of bygone eras were his explanations of iconography and the use of allegory in religious art.

In particular, his doctoral thesis (revised over three editions) l'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France (1899) translated into English as The Gothic Image, Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century from the third edition of 1910 (or omitting "The Gothic Image" from title, especially in the US) remains in print and is still a very useful primer for the Gothic art of France.

He died in Fontaine-Chaalis, Oise.



  • Quomodo Sybillas recentiores artifices representaverint (1899)
  • l'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France (1899) - doctoral thesis, translated into English as The Gothic Image, Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century from 3rd edition of 1910, 1913, Dent & Co., London, Dover Books US (omitting "The Gothic Image" from title, still in print), and other editions.
  • l'Art religieux de la fin du Moyen Âge en France (1908) also in English, Princeton 1986, Religious Art in France, the Late Middle Ages: A Study of Medieval Iconography and Its Sources (ISBN 0691099146)
  • l'Art allemand et l'art français du Moyen Âge (1917)
  • l'Art religieux au XIIe siècle en France (1922) also in English, Princeton 1978
  • Art et artistes du Moyen Âge (1927), also in English, Black Swan Books, 1986 Art & Artists of the Middle Ages (ISBN 093380606X)
  • l'Art religieux après le Concile de Trente, étude sur l'iconographie de la fin du XVIe, du XVIIe et du XVIIIe siècles en Italie, en France, en Espagne et en Flandre (1932)
  • Rome et ses vieilles églises (1942) trans. The early churches of Rome, Ernest Benn Ltd, London 1960.
  • les Mosaïques chrétiennes primitives du IVe au VIIe siècle (1943)
  • l'Art religieux du XIIe au XVIIIe siècle (1945) and English translation: Religious Art from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century (ISBN 0691003475)
  • Jean Bourdichon : les Heures d'Anne de Bretagne à la Bibliothèque nationale (1946)
  • les Grandes Heures de Rohan (1947)
  • Notre-Dame de Chartres (1948) also in English, Chartres Harper & Row, 1983
  • la Fin du paganisme en Gaule et les plus anciennes basiliques chrétiennes (1950)
  • la Cathédrale d'Albi (1950)
  • Histoire de l'art (2 volumes, 1950, editor)
  • les Saints Compagnons du Christ (1958, posthumous publication)

Further reading

  • Gilberte Émile-Mâle, Émile Mâle. Souvenirs et correspondence de jeunesse, Nonette : Éditions CRÉER, 2002

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