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Has the Tate discovered Hugo's Quasimodo inspiration?

18th August 2010

Documents held in the Tate Archive could shed light on the inspiration for Victor Hugo's Quasimodo - the iconic character from his 1831 masterpiece Notre-Dame De Paris.

Adrian Glew, an archivist with the gallery, claims that the handwritten autobiography of 19th-century British sculptor Henry Sibson mentions a man on whom Hugo could have based Quasimodo.

Sibson was in Paris during the 1820s to carry out carving on the Cathedral of Notre Dame and met many of the other men working on the project - including one known as 'M Le Bossu', or the hunchback.

'All that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers,' the sculptor's autobiography revealed.

Glew commented: 'I spotted the references when I was cataloguing the Sibson archive and knew I had to delve further.'

He noted that Hugo took an interest in the 19th-century restoration of the cathedral and also resided in the same arrondissement of Paris that many of the carvers are known to have lived in - making it likely that he encountered M Le Bossu at some point.

In June, University of Manchester science historian Dr Jay Kennedy claimed to have solved another literary mystery, by suggesting that ancient Greek philosopher Plato placed hidden messages with a 'musical structure' in his texts.
 

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