Skip to content

Verneilh, Félix Joseph de, Comte

    Full Name: Verneilh, Félix Joseph de, Comte

    Other Names:

    • Félix de Verneilh

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 21 October 1820

    Date Died: 28 September 1864

    Place Born: Puyraseau, Dordogne, France

    Place Died: Périgueux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): archaeology and Medieval (European)


    French archaeologist, inspecteur divisionnaire de la Société française d’archéologie, historian and medievalist art historian. Verneilh was the son of the politician Baron Jean Joseph de Verneilh-Puyraseau (1756-1839). In 1851 Verneilh published L’architecture byzantine en France: Saint-Front de Périgueux et les églises à coupoles de l’Aquitaine, a work which ignited controversy by drawing attention away from Western classical models for medieval architecture and instead suggestion Byzantine models. In 1854 Verneilh wrote a paper on the identity of the meaning of the eight bas-reliefs on the outer lateral faces of the Martyrs’ Portal of the south transept of Notre Dame de Paris. The identity of these sculptures had never been solved, various attributions being to the life of St. Stephen or an unnamed miracle of the Virgin. Verneilh, however, doubted religious iconography, suggesting that the figures represented contrasting morality behaviors of the university students. The paper was rejected by the editor of the Annales Archéologique Adolphe Napoléon Didron as too far-fetched (Kraus). When in another writing Verneilh suggested that Limoge work was influenced by German modles, he was charged with being unpatriotic, “There is only one archeology; every country cannot have its own.” He died at his chateau at age 43. After Didron’s death in 1867, the Annales Archéologique published his interpretation of the Notre Dame bas-relief which ignited controversy again. Émile Mâle in his L’Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France sided with Didron in rejecting the theory outright in 1898. Verneilh’s L’architecture byzantine en France was groundbreaking. Though Alexandre-Albert Lenoir and Ludovic Vitet had suggested models other than the classical architecture were the inspiration for medieval architecture in the 1830s, Verneilh’s book suggested a direct link (Stamp). He arged that the domed churches of Périgord département (modern Dordogne), were directly inspired from Byzantine architecture through the model of St. Mark’s in Venice. In 1967 the art historian Henry Kraus posited that Verneilh’s sharp break from traditional art-historical scholarship–advancing a secular subject for the relief sculpture instead of religious–branded his theory outlandish to mainstream scholarship, despite Verneilh being a respected scholar. Summarily rejected in the 19th century, his interpretation has prevailed (Kraus).

    Selected Bibliography

    La cathédrale de Cologne; étude archéologique. Paris: Librairie archéologique de Victor Didron, 1848; Des influences byzantines: lettres à M. Vitet, de l’Académie Française. Paris: Didron, 1855; L’architecture byzantine en France: Saint-Front de Périgueux et les églises à coupoles de l’Aquitaine. Paris: V. Didron, 1851; L’Art du Moyen Âge et les causes de sa décadence, d’après M. Renan. Paris: V. Didron, 1862; [German sources debate:] “Les Émaux français et les émaux étrangers, mémoire en réponse à M. le comte F. de Lasteyrie, lu à la séance de la Société archéologique de Limoges, le 28 novembre 1862.” Bulletin Monumental (1863); Quast, Ferdinand von. “Les emaux d’Allemagne et les emaux Limousins.” Bulletin Monumental 26 (1867):109-130, 205-231; “Les bas-reliefs des l’université à Notre-Dame de Paris.” Annales Archéologique 22 (1869): 96-106.


    Daubige, Charles. “Inauguration du buste de M. Félix de Verneilh, au musée de Périgueux, le 29 novembre 1866.” Le Périgord 1867; Arbellot, François. “Félix de Verneilh, notice biographique.” la Société archéologique en historique du Limousin [dans sa séance du 25 juillet 1865]. Limoges: impr. de Chapoulaud, 1865; Kraus, Henry. The Living Theatre of Medieval Art. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1967, pp. 3-5; Andrieu, Jules. “Verneilh-Puyraseau, Félix de.” Bibliographie générale de l’Agenais et des parties du Condomois et du Bazadais. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1969 (originally:)Paris, 1886-1891; Stamp, Gavin. “In Search of the Byzantine: George Gilbert Scott’s Diary of an Architectural Tour in France in 1862.” Architectural History 46 (2003): 198; [obituary:] “Mort de M. Félix de Verneilh, inspecteur divisionnaire de la Société française d’archéologie.” Bulletin Monumental 10 (1864): 757-758; Des Moulins, Charles. “Nécrologie de M. Félix de Verneilh-Puyraseau. ” La Guienne (Bordeaux) October 12 1864.


    "Verneilh, Félix Joseph de, Comte." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: