Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Hunch back of Notre Dame, fact or fiction?

New evidence suggests that the iconic character of Quasimodo was not entirely the brainchild of Victor Hugo, author of the famed 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

Historians recently found references to a "hunchback sculptor" working at the cathedral in British sculptor Henry Sibson's memoirs, now in the Tate Archive. From The Telegraph:

In one entry, he writes:

"the French government had given orders for the repairing of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and it was now in progress ... I applied at the Government studios, where they were executing the large figures for Notre Dame and here I met with a Mons. Trajan, a most worthy, fatherly and amiable man as ever existed – he was the carver under the Government sculptor whose name I forget as I had no intercourse (no this does not mean sex) with him, all that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers."

In a later entry, Sibson writes about working with the same group of sculptors on another project outside Paris, where he again mentions the reclusive government sculptor, this time recalling his name as "Mon. Le Bossu". Le Bossu is French for "the hunchback".

He writes: "Mon Le Bossu (the Hunchback) a nickname given to him and I scarcely ever heard any other. "

William Dieterle's 1939 version of the Hunch back

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