The richly decorated façade of Notre Dame la Grande, Poitiers, has an exceptionally large number of Masques Feuillus of different kinds. Whereas the scheme of biblical sculpture is well-documented and often described, there remain many questions.
The figure known as Jesse bears an interesting resemblance to a sculpture of Cernunnos found beneath Notre Dame de Paris, where there was previously a pagan temple. (The photograph of Cernunnos has kindly been offered by Isabelle Didierjean through the good offices of J-F Bradu.) What can the seated figure on Jesse’s left represent? Is it male or female? Clad in armour or rather beautiful leggings? We can see that it is mutilated, but what is the block that remains? Is the sculpture unfinished, or is it a crude attempt to support crumbling masonry? Please send a message to the Forum if you have any ideas. On the other side of the façade is a kind of Satyr. Among the many fanciful creatures besporting themselves among the saints and prophets, my favourite is a merry little Merman Imp. Look at the way his legs turn into serpentine monsters with snarling heads, and then please refer to my short article among the "Notes & Queries" called Lion Horns. This is my personal interpretation of the image :
The imp is an "Image of Lust" representing man’s libido. Medieval man was always admonished to be vigilant regarding his base animal instincts. If he gave way to his urges he would become an animal himself. He must grasp his desire and grapple with it to prevent himself falling into the sin of Luxuria.