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Rondel Depicting Holofernes's Army Crossing the Euphrates River
Rondel Depicting Holofernes's Army Crossing the Euphrates River, 1246-48
French
Stained and painted glass
Diameter: 23 3/8 inches (59.3 cm)
Purchased with funds contributed by Mrs. Clement Biddle Wood in memory of her husband, 1930
1930-24-3
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Looking and Discussing

Initial Observation
Have students work as a group to create a list of everything they see in the stained-glass picture. Encourage students to list colors, lines, patterns, and shapes, as well as objects and people.

Open Discussion
Begin an open discussion about the medallion by asking students to share their first impressions of the work. Encourage students to think further by asking them if they are responding to what they see in the picture, or if they are inferring things based on what they already know. What visual information in the picture is leading them to certain conclusions or assumptions? What life experiences are informing their responses?

Directed Looking
  • What are the people in this stained-glass piece doing?
    The knights are preparing to cross a river and go into battle. Two of them are having a conversation.
  • What visual clues tell you what is happening?
    The knights are dressed in full armor, mounted on their horses, carrying banners, and grouped tightly together as a troop. Note the blue wavy water under the horses’ hooves.
  • Tell students that this scene is one of forty medallions telling the story of Judith and Holofernes. Summarize the story for them. Where in the story would this scene take place: at the beginning, the middle, or the end? How can you tell?
    This scene is from the beginning of the story. The soldiers are shown dressed for battle but do not appear to have fought yet. They are marching across the Euphrates River, which they have to cross before attacking Damascus, and it is during their siege of the city that Judith gains access to their camp and kills their leader. Note that when it was part of a window in the Sainte-Chapelle, this medallion’s place in the story would also have been indicated by its position in relation to the forty other scenes in the window.
  • Which details in this medallion seem true-to-life? Which look less realistic?
    Realistic elements include: the colors of the water and sky; the folds in the clothing; the texture of the soldiers’ hair and their sleeves of chain-mail armor; the windblown banners on their lances; and the interaction between the two soldiers on the left. Unrealistic elements include: the pink and blue horses; the heavy black outlines around things; the number of horses compared to the number of riders; and the size of the horses compared to the size of the men.
  • Why make things look unrealistic when telling a story?
    Bigger, brighter shapes can be seen from a distance.
  • There are two different kinds of black lines in this image—heavy, thick ones and lighter, thinner ones. What different functions do they have?
    Explain to the students that this picture is made up of many pieces of colored glass separated and supported by strips of lead. Have them find where the lead strips outline important shapes and figures. Then have them find the details and textures that are painted in black onto the colored glass—hair, ripples in the water, etc.

Further Discussion/Research Questions

  • Where are visual images still used to tell stories or teach lessons? Compare and contrast these images with the stained-glass medallion.
  • Where can you see stained glass today?
  • How have different cultures around the world decorated their holy places? How have different cultures told stories with visual images?
  • The soldiers in this medallion are dressed in the armor of thirteenth-century French knights, but the biblical account of Judith and Holofernes is a much older story. How did soldiers dress in the ancient times told of in the Bible?
  • Locate Paris, Damascus, the Euphrates River, and Syria on a map. Find out more about the history, geography, and people of these places.

Activities

  • Have students choose a story and tell it only using pictures. Ask students what parts of this story would be most important to draw.
  • Have students cover the classroom windows with colored cellophane or plastic wrap. Discuss how this changes the light in the classroom.
  • Have each student make their own version of a stained-glass window, cutting black construction paper for the lead strips and colored cellophane or tissue paper for the colored glass.
 
 

For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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