The great cathedral at Chartres exemplifies the stylistic evolution of the Gothic, which can be traced in viewing its portals. Its west entrance, the earliest, built in the mid-12th century, displays rigid, columnar figures with schematic drapery and similar, almost undifferentiated facial expressions; the later portals, on the north and south transepts, show greater differentiation of personality and costume, and even convey movement by means of a Gothic S-curve given to the axis of the body. Chartres Cathedral”s sculpture, in addition, is a virtual encyclopedia of medieval knowledge; beyond the biblical narratives and depictions of various saints, one finds astrology, the labors of the months, the liberal arts, and the virtues and vices portrayed. Many French Gothic cathedrals have similar sculptural programs, and, as at Chartres, the sculptors” names are unknown.
By contrast, the name of a Flemish sculptor who worked in Dijon for the duke of Burgundy is known: Claus Sluter. Among his works the polychromed stone Well of Moses 1395-1403, Chartreuse de Champmol, Dijon, France, showing Moses and several other prophets, is unique for its capture of realistic details of anatomy, clothing textures, and distinct personalities. Also known is the name of one of the first women sculptors to be encountered in the history of Western art-Sabina von Steinbach-who assisted her father, the builder of Strasbourg Cathedral. She was responsible for the statues personifying the Church and the Synagogue both 13th cent., which are located near the south portals of the cathedral.
In Germany, Gothic sculpture frequently shows an emotional intensity and characteristic German expressionism. Pathos is conveyed in the 13th-century choir-screen carvings, at Naumburg Cathedral, of the crucifixion and the kiss of Judas. Medieval passion plays were a source of inspiration to many of the Gothic sculptors of northern Europe.
Not surprisingly, classical tendencies are found in the Gothic in Italy, where artists were acquainted with ancient Roman works, such as sarcophagi. Nicola Pisano c. 1220-84?, for example, created a marble pulpit-with a strong classical flavor in its architectural elements and sculptured panels-for the baptistery of Pisa Cathedral in the mid-13th century.