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Art History 161 Final Essay Outline

by Daniel Bornt

Note: My selections of five works from the four designated art-historical periods to illustrate our theme of “Spirit and Power” include immoveable architectural and sculptural structures. To represent them, I propose a combination of high-quality large-scale architectural models, interactive large-screen computer-generated 3-d virtual modeling walk-throughs (built upon a modeling software such as Alias|Wavefront Maya), along with narrations of the history and uses of the structures composed by art history experts who have extensively studied and written about them.

I. Prehistoric/Ancient

* Bison with a Turned Head, La Madeleine, France c. 11,000-9,000 BCE ( incised reindeer horn)

* Stele of Hammarubi, Susa, c. BCE 1780 (basalt)

II. Classical

* The Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece 448-432 BCE

III. Christian

* Sainte Chapelle, Paris 1243-1248

IV. Non-Western/Islamic

* Temple I (Temple of the Giant Jaguar), Tikal, El Petén, Guatemala, c. AD 700




The Medieval church of the thirteenth century exerted a strong social force. The concept of the "double-edged Sword" defined secular as well as ecclesiastic authority as united in God's Work. The theory of the State moved toward the concept Divine Right Monarchy, or at least, the blessing of secular authority through religious structure and ritual. The world of heaven was conceived as arranged in a hierarchical order, mirrored in the hierarchical structure of the state. Application of these ideas were made throughout Europe, but nowhere more successfully than by France’s king Louis IX. Louis was given the relic of Christ's Crown of Thorns by the Emperor of Constantinople in exchange for military aid defending the Byzantine Empire against Muslim invaders. The Papal letter of authorization stated to Louis that "Christ has crowned you with his crown of thorns." The King constructed a royal chapel as a monumental reliquary for this prize. The decorative programs illustrate continuity of Old Testament Kingship, Christ's Apostles, and France's monarchy, conflating them into a single, unbroken line of authority.


Arrangement of display (non-Chronological):

Parthenon, Stele of Hammurabi, Sainte Chapelle, Bison with Turned Head, Temple of the Giant Jaguar

The Parthenon introduces the visitor to the display, as the epitome of man’s ideal conception of enclosed space for a deity, expressing exterior-oriented sculptural qualities with a harmony of rhythm, balance, and scale, along with the overt psychological projection of a deity (Athena’s) power, and with "man being the measure of all things," the signifying projection of humankind’s own power to approach the abilities of the gods.

The Stele of Hammurabi presents the basis for man’s civilizing propensities that could culminate in a structure such as the Parthenon. The divine plan of order is transmitted through the servants of the gods, those rulers who implement that order throughout their realm with divine imperative, impelling the subjects to obedience as a religious obligation.

Saint Chapelle represents the pinnacle of the fusion of divine and secular authority. The royal chapel, with its gilded surfaces and infusion of heavenly light through expanses of stained glass, balances its vision of paradise and divine order with a primitive-like veneration of fetish relics. This affinity for a fetish can be traced back to the next selection...

Bison with a Turned Head may be the penultimate fetish relic. A carved alumet or talisman for the Paleolithic warrior, its portability may have given the hunter confidence of good fortune in the never-quest of the hunt.

Temple of the Giant Jaguar,