Saint-Denis and French Gothic


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The overall purpose of the present research is to scientifically prove that art is a product of its context by analyzing three different and original examples of art. In addition to this, the present study aims at showing that each time period and culture makes use of characteristic conventions of representations and a method of delivering the art.

A piece of art is a product of its context which is shaped by a culture/time period within which this product is manufactured.

Saint-Denis and French Gothic

The initial analysis of Saint-Denis unveils that the meaning and role of this building was predetermined by the cultural peculiarities of different historical periods within which the building functioned. Thus, under the dominance of the Benedictine order, the building was the abbey. Afterwards, the building became the Carolingian basilica which played the role of France’s royal church. In order to prove that the aforesaid creation of art was a product of its context, it is importantly to scrutinize the rebuilding of Saint-Denis under the incentive of Abbot Suger. According to Kleiner, Suger was regent of France and he always dreamed about the possibility of decorating the church of Saint-Denis in which most of monarchs of France had been buried for almost 500 years (341). That is, Suger started embellishing the Carolingian basilica within15 years of being elected as the abbot of Saint-Denis. The embellisher accentuated on the costly furnishings and the light-filled spaces.

Therefore, the new church of Saint-Denis made Suger feel as if he were dwelling in a strange sector of the universe. A mental note should be made that the rebuilding of Saint-Denis was influenced by the specificities of the Medieval time period. As is generally known, the Middle Ages were driven largely by religious precepts and confrontations. The main idea of the Gothic style was to convey the religious purity (Kleiner 340).

In Saint-Denis, the religious purity was conveyed in a very specific way – the new church of Suger incarnated the purity of Heaven. In Suger’s eyes, the aforesaid gorgeous piece of architecture, embellished with gold and precious gems was some sort of a way station from the inferior Earthly life to the higher world. Hence, it follows that Saint-Denis became the true product of its context.


Dura-Europos is an outstanding example of how the cultural and social peculiarities of Late Antiquity affected the art. Dura-Europos is a remote outpost of the Roma Empire which is located on a promontory overseeing the Euphrates River in Syria (Kleiner 209). This sight was called Europos by the Greeks and Dura by the Romans. Moreover, the town was probably founded shortly after the death of Alexander the Great.

The main peculiarity of the site is the synagogue – a splendid piece of art embellished with an extensive cycle of mural paintings (Kleiner 210). To put it briefly, interior of the synagogue was decorated with wall paintings of Old Testament themes and the niche housing the sacred Torah.

Paintings of the synagogue clearly demonstrate the relationship between specific cultures/time periods and representations of artistic products. Thus, the synagogue emerged as a conversion of a private house. Additionally, walls of the synagogue contained depictions of biblical stories, notwithstanding the fact that no illustrated Bible of that period survived (Kleiner 210).

Another salient feature of the site lies in the fact that the murals of Dura are predominantly devoid of action, even in situations where the subject is a narrative theme. It is possible to notice that the artist intended to tell the stories by means of stylized gestures, figures, which made features expressionless and deprived of shadows and void (Kleiner 211).

All these facts help to arrive at the conclusion that the cultural and political peculiarities of the Late Antique style affected the ways in which the biblical stories were told and depicted. The styles artists used in their biblical depictions indicate on the political and social situation in that geographic location.

Regolini-Galassi Tomb

Regolini-Galassi Tomb was stocked a wealthy Etruscan family at Cerveteri. The tomb was embellished with bronze cauldrons and gold jewellery of Etruscan manufacture and Orientalizing style (Kleiner 144). It was apparent that Oriental motifs made critical influence on the decoration of Regolini-Galassi Tomb. The technique of embellishment demonstrated the richness of the Etruscan culture. The fact is that Etruscans were highly skilled seafarers who established contacts with the East. The Etruscan connections with the East feasibly affected their art.

Kleiner writes that the jewellery retrieved from the Regolini-Galassi Tomb, such as a golden pectoral and two gold circlets, should be regarded as the newly acquired wealth. These pieces of art indicate on the existence of trade relationships between Etruscans and other folks. Given this, it is possible to claim that Regolini-Galassi tomb is not merely a representative of Etruscan art. As a matter of fact, the analysis has shown that the tomb in itself is a product of cultural and social developments in the framework of the Etruscan society. The tomb incarnate trade relations between Etruscan and other folks and helps to understand the historical time period better. 

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