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Lesson Plan: Stained Glass and Social Class in Medieval Europe

A stained-glass window depicting a man with yellow hair and a pointed beard, wearing a red cap, and holding a staff looking off to the left; a woman in a long red dress is kneeling in front of him, also looking off to the left, with her hands clasped in front of her as if in devotion

Stained-Glass Panel with a Lady and Her Patron Saint
About 1505–08
Pot metal, white glass, vitreous paint, silver stain; overall (with 1 T-bar): 62 3/4 x 21 7/8 x 1/2 in. (159.4 x 55.6 x 1.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935 (41.170.105a-c)

Collection Area: European Art, European Art Medieval
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts, World History
Grades: Middle School
Topics/Themes: Art as a Primary Resource, The Art of Belief


Goals

Students will be able to:
  • make inferences about social class and religious belief in medieval Europe; and
  • cite evidence from works of art to support their inferences.

National Core Arts Standards

Visual Arts
Creating: Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Creating: Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work
Responding: Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Responding: Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
Connecting: Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.


Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

History/Social Studies
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

*Art as text


Questions for Viewing

  • Begin by taking a close look at this stained-glass panel.
  • What appears to be happening in this panel? How can you tell?
  • Create a tableau vivant: ask two students to volunteer to replicate the pose of the two figures. Based on their pose, what might the relationship be between these figures?
  • Clothing and accessories can provide clues about a person's role or status in a community. Take a look at the woman kneeling. Describe her clothing and accessories. What might you infer about this figure?
  • Now focus on the man standing behind her. Describe his clothing and accessories. What might you infer about this figure?
  • Repeat the tableau vivant activity for the three other related panels: Stained-Glass Panel with a Knight and His Patron Saint, Stained-Glass Panel with St. Bernard, and Stained-Glass Panel with a Bishop and His Patron Saint.
  • These windows were created for a medieval German church. What do you think is the overall message of this work of art?

Activity

Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Colored tissue paper, waxed paper, liquid starch
Subject Areas: Visual Arts
Duration: 90 minutes

Create your own stained-glass window that illustrates a story of your choice. Begin by cutting colored tissue paper into geometric shapes and arranging them in different ways to tell your story. Once you have decided on a composition, tape down a sheet of waxed paper to use as the base for your stained glass window. Brush liquid starch over an area of the waxed paper. Begin laying pieces of cut tissue paper on the liquid starch–covered waxed paper, then brush more liquid starch over the piece. Continue adding layers of liquid starch and colored tissue paper until the waxed paper sheet is covered. Let dry, and then hang it in a window to let the light shine through.


Resources

"Central Europe (including Germany), 1400–1600 A.D.". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2002)

Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. "Stained Glass in Medieval Europe." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2001)

Family Guide: Let's Look at Stained Glass. 2006. (PDF)


Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Stained Glass Panel with a Knight and His Patron Saint
About 1505–08
Germany
Pot metal, white glass, vitreous paint, silver stain; overall (with 1 T-bar): 62 3/4 x 21 7/8 x 1/2 in. (159.4 x 55.6 x 1.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935 (41.170.104a-c)

Stained Glass Panel with St. Bernard
About 1505–08
Germany
Pot metal, white glass, vitreous paint, silver stain; overall (with 1 T-bar): 64 9/16 x 21 3/8 x 1/2 in. (164 x 54.3 x 1.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935 (41.170.107a-c)

Stained Glass Panel with a Bishop and His Patron Saint
About 1505–08
Germany
Pot metal, white glass, vitreous paint, silver stain; overall (with 1 T-bar): 64 1/2 x 21 3/8 x 1/2 in. (163.8 x 54.3 x 1.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935 (41.170.106a-c)


Author: Kevin Larkin
Affiliation: JHS 185 Edward Bleeker
Date: 2015

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