Art History: Grade 5 Lesson 5

Home     Kindergarten   Grade 1   Grade 2   Grade 3   Grade 4   Grade 5   Grade 6  
Artists Timeline     Periods in Art History 


This lesson is intended to serve as a brief introduction to basic elements found in Mediaeval art. What we call the "Middle Ages" extends from the decline of pagan classicism in the fourth century to the Christian revival of classical styles and values, which we call the "Renaissance", at the end of the 15th century - a span of eleven centuries. Examples have been chosen to illustrate a variety of media present in the art of this period.

MATERIALS (Don't forget the box!)

  1. Architectural Plans for 2 Churches, c.1200,  Photographic enlargements.
      Romanesque c 1100               Gothic c 1200

    The people of the Middle Ages built magnificent cathedrals, such as Notre Dame in Paris and Canterbury in England. The churches and cathedrals were the gifts of long years of labor and love from the people, both rich and poor. Not everyone could write earnest prayers or beautiful hymns or go on a pilgrimage, but almost everyone could take part in the building of a cathedral. Sometimes a skilled worker would work for years carving one beautiful figure in stone. Care, patience, skill and devotion helped to make the churches built in the Middle Ages among the finest ever erected. These works of superb beauty were fashioned not ‘for art’s sake’ as the Greeks had done, but chiefly for the greater glory of God.

    Until the 12th century Christian churches were usually built in what is known as the Romanesque style of architecture. They had small, arched windows and heavy, thick walls to support the vaulted stone ceiling. A new style of architecture called Gothic developed in Western Europe in about the 12th century. In contrast to the Romanesque style, it had thin walls and many tall, beautifully designed windows, and pointed arches. Its floor plan was always in the form of a cross. Gothic architecture was made possible by the discovery that a flying buttress, a column-like support outside the walls, would hold up a heavy ceiling (providing support from above) as well as heavy walls. The flying buttress is one of the main characteristics of Gothic architecture.

    1a. Gargoyle contemporary plaster reproduction casting. (In Box)

     About Gargoyles

    The word "Gargoyle" shares a root with the word "Gargle"; they come from "gargouille", an old French word for "Throat". A true gargoyle is a waterspout. An unusual carved creature that does not serve that purpose is properly called a "Grotesque". 


  2. Samson and the Lion, 1181, Nicholas of Verdun, Flemish (c.1150-1210), detail from the Klosterneuberg Alterpiece (Austria), gilded copper and champlevé enamel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibit poster
    An altarpiece is an ornamental carving or painting, etc. above and behind an altar They typically are Bible scenes and characters. This example is of tempera paint on a wooden panel. The conventionalized face with the rimmed, staring eyes, angular patterns, linear contours and strong outlines everywhere were repeated with local variations from generation to generation from the 6th century into the 12th.

    Klosterneuberg Alter


    bulletNicholas of Verdun Biography 


  3. The Flight to Egypt, 15th century, Flemish, leaded stained glass window, Photographic reproduction 
       The precise origin of this panel is difficult to ascertain since Flemish and French glass painters worked in both countries. Typical of Flemish realism in art are the meticulous representation of the carpenter's tools that Joseph carries on his shoulder and the maternal tenderness of Mary nursing the child, Jesus. Technical advances in glass painting are also evident in the work. As in all late Flemish glass, color is primarily deep in tone, used sparingly, and restricted to garments and details of landscape. White glass predominates, heightened in its effect by additions of silver stain. When seen in a window, these white areas lend clarity to the design. In this
    particular example the greatest color contrast is reserved for the pearly mantle and deep blue robe of the Virgin, making her the center of attention. Her head and that of the Child are exquisitely painted, while the rest of the scene i rather sketchily drawn. By the end of the Middle Ages, the glaziers’ shops were highly organized and a master employed numerous assistants. This panel is undoubtedly an example of several members of a workshop.

    The art of making stained glass, given new impetus by the Gothic style in the 1140’s, was raised to its zenith a half century later, The glassmakers' basic formula called for sand, salt and ashes. Stained glass was made by heating this mixture into a molten mass then coloring it with metallic oxides — copper for red, iron for yellow, cobalt for blue. Thin fragments of colored glass were worked into the grooves of malleable lead frames, forming panels. Only after all the panels had been mounted in the window could the glaziers judge the brilliance of their colors and the impact of their design. Before assembly, enamel paint was applied in certain places to create shading, lines, and details, and the individual pieces were fired in a kiln to harden the pigment. The windows glowed like huge jewels. Much original glass has been destroyed, but the remains indicate that the windows were brilliantly colored visual teaching aids for the church.

    3a. Stained glass samples - Contemporary colored glass tiles (box)
    bullet Mediaeval stained glass with pics


  4. The Unicorn in Captivity, c.1500, Flemish, tapestry, Musee de Cluny, Reproduction Print.
    The years between 1480 and 1520 witnessed the height of Flemish tapestry excellence. Tapestries had advantages over wall paintings in that they were portable, could be taken
    down and re-hung elsewhere, added warmth to cold castle walls, and helped reduce echoes in stone-walled halls. The materials, dyed wools and silks, and even gold and silver threads added luxurious textures and colors to the interior environments.

    The process was lengthy and costly; from an idea sketch an artist would create a full-size painting on a paper, called a cartoon, and from this the highly skilled weavers set up their looms. The entire tapestry was woven on a huge loom, thread by thread. The design is made by winding the horizontal threads around the vertical threads. they press the stitches tightly against each other so that the colored horizontal yarns entirely cover the undyed vertical yarns. Unlike the rug weaver, the tapestry weaver faces the back of the fabric as he works.

    Valuable state collections of tapestries are preserved throughout Europe. Among the finest Gothic tapestries of the 1500s is a set of six called "The Lady and the Unicorn" in the Cluny Museum in Paris.

    The unicorn is a fabulous animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion and a single horn in the middle of the forehead. It was believed that with his single long horn he had the power to purify the forest waters and absorb the poison that the serpent spread on them to kill the forest animals.


  5. Field Harnesse for Sir Edward Bucklethorpe,  Geoffrey Pike, English heraldic graphic illustration. Reproduction print.
    Geoffrey Pike - Armourer

    Thomas Le Parker - Illustrator

      5a. Castles, photographic reproduction

    Calendar of photographs; poem "Prisoner of Chillon", Lord Byron

      5b.  Coat of Arms 


  6. Britain, Land of History: 1982, contemporary illustration, Barry Evans, English, Poster
    Mary Stuart Queen of Scots (1542-1587), was destined for great splendors and tragic miseries. Some milestones are shown here .. Rizzio was her secretary; he was murdered by her second husband, Lord Darnley. her son was born at Edinburgh castle and became King James who united England and Scotland. Holyrood House was Mary's palace while she reigned. her third marriage, to the Earl of Bothwell, so enraged her people that they besieged the couple at Borthwick Castle. They escaped, but soon after, Mary was captured in England. Queen Elizabeth I considered her a potential rival for the throne and held her captive until the insecurities of the age led to Mary's execution.
    bulletMary Queen of Scots - biography


bulletReturn to the Top



Back Home Up Next    

Email : webmaster with questions about this web site
Copyright © 1999 - 2019  Cape One            
Last modified: January 05, 2019  



privacy policy