Cave paintings (France)


Cave paintings in France are famous for their ethereal beauty and aesthetics. The paintings are so well structured and depict the tiniest of details mostly of the animals that were native to the area. The famous and oldest French cave is named Lascaux.

French: Grotte de Lascaux (Lascaux Cave). It is a network of caves at Montignac in the Dordogne department of south-western France. The cave's inner walls and ceilings are covered in about 600 parietal wall murals. The paintings generally depict huge creatures that are representative of current local fauna and correspond to the Upper Palaeolithic fossil record in the area. They are the work of several generations, and the age of the paintings is now generally estimated to be over 17,000 years old, despite ongoing debate (early Magdalenian).

Lascaux was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 as part of the Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley because of its remarkable prehistoric art.

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Because of their outstanding quality, scale, sophistication, and antiquity, Lascaux is known for its Palaeolithic cave paintings, which are found in a complex of caverns in the Dordogne region of south-western France. The paintings, which are thought to be up to 20,000 years old, mostly depict huge animals that were originally local to the area. Since the turn of the century, several other decorated caverns have been discovered in the Vézère Valley, including Lascaux (For example, Les Combarelles and Font-de-Gaume in 1901, Bernifal in 1902). Lascaux is a large cave with multiple sections (Hall of the Bulls, Passage gallery).

Sections of the Lascaux Caves

The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines have all been recognised as sections of the cave.

Approximately 2,000 figures are found in the cave, which are further divided into three categories: animals, human figures, and abstract signals. The majority of the important motifs were painted on the walls with natural pigments, while other designs were carved into the stone.

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Equines are the most common animals found in the depictions. There are 90 stag paintings. Cattle, bison, felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human are also represented. Four massive black bulls or aurochs in the Hall of the Bulls are among the most recognised photographs. One of the bulls’ measures 17 feet (5.2 metres) in length, making it the largest animal ever discovered in cave art.

Moreover, the bulls appear to be moving. Even though reindeer were the artists' primary source of food, there are no representations of them. A picture known as The Crossed Bison found in the Nave chamber is frequently cited as an example of the Palaeolithic cave painters' talent. The ability to use perspective is evidenced by the crossed hind legs.

The Great Hall of the Bulls

Lascaux's most phenomenal composition is the Hall of the Bulls. Because the calcite walls are not appropriate for engraving, it is solely covered with paintings, many of which are massive, measuring up to five metres in length.

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Two rows of aurochs, two on one side and three on the other, face each other. On the north side, there are two aurochs, 10 horses, and a gigantic enigmatic animal with two straight lines on its forehead, earning it the nickname "unicorn." Three big aurochs, painted red, stand next to three smaller aurochs, as well as six little deer and the cave's only bear, overlaid on an aurochs' belly and impossible to read.

Cattle and horses, as well as deer and ibex, are depicted on the Axial Diverticulum. 2.50 meters above the ground, a drawing of a fleeing horse was brushed with manganese pencil. The ceiling is decorated with creatures that appear to roll from one wall to the next. Many signs are intermingled with these depictions, which necessitated the construction of scaffolding (sticks, dots, and rectangular signs). The passage's ornamentation has greatly declined, owing to air movement.

The four groupings of figures in the Nave are as follows −

  • The Empreinte panel

  • The Black Cow panel

  • The Deer Swimming panel

  • The Crossed Buffalo panel

Many perplexing geometric signals accompany these pieces, including colored checks that H. Breuil referred to as "coats of arms."

The Feline Diverticulum gets its name from a group of felines, one of whom appears to claim its territory by urinating. There are engravings of wild creatures in a pretty naïve manner there, which are very difficult to approach. Other animals are paired with signs,including a frontal view of a horse, which is unusual in Prehistoric art, when animals are typically depicted in profiles or from a "twisted viewpoint." More than a thousand engravings matching animals and signs may be found in the apse, some placed on paintings. Lascaux is home to the world's only reindeer.

The Well depicts Lascaux's most puzzling scene: an ithyphallic man with a bird's head appears to be lying on the ground, possibly knocked down by a buffalo gutted by a spear; at his side is an elongated object surmounted by a bird, while a rhinoceros goes away on the left. There have been many different interpretations of what is being shown.

In this composition, there are two groups of indicators to be aware of -

  • Three pairs of digitalized punctuation marks were discovered at the bottom of the Cat Diverticulum, at the cave's most distant part, between man and rhinos;

  • A complex barbed sign under man and bison can be found almost identically on other cave walls, as well as on paddle points and a nearby sandstone lamp.


Q1. What are the main themes of the paintings discovered at Lascaux Cave?

Ans. The themes covered paintings of wild animals such as rhinos, cattle horses, etc.

Q2. What were the different sections of the Lascaux Cave?

Ans. The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines were the different sections of the Lascaux Cave.

Q3. What is the most enormous section of the Lascaux cave?

Ans. The great bull is considered to be the most beautiful section of the Lascaux cave.

Q4. In which year was the Lascaux cave discovered?

Ans. Lascaux cave was discovered in 1940.


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