The spectacular ensemble of stained glass decorating the upper chapel of the Ste-Chapelle in Paris includes two windows devoted respectively to the biblical heroines Judith and Esther (Figure 1, bays D-C and figures 2–3). Like the chapel’s other large-scale windows, these contain extended narrative accounts of their subjects, in this case two of the foremost heroines of the Old Testament. Louis Grodecki long ago identified these two windows, which occupy adjacent bays on the chape1’s south side, as products of the same atelier, an interesting conclusion, since although the windows do exhibit stylistic similarities in the depiction of figures and settings, the formal approach to the rendering of the two stories is vasdy different. Conventional distinctions between narrative and iconic modes of visual representation are not applicable to the differing realizations of the Judith and Esther stories. Both are narrative. The distinction between them lies more in the realm of narrative style or mood — what film historians would call the mise-en-scène — and is manifest through devices typically considered under the heading of artistic style, such as armature design, composition and palette. In this paper I will examine the distinctive visual approach used in each window and will suggest how these distinct realizations relate to the content of their respective stories. I will then consider parallel manifestations of differing narrative styles in medieval literature and, specifically, will juxtapose this visual phenomenon with a storytelling technique known as material style, which was employed in medieval literature and discussed in medieval rhetorical treatises. I will then suggest some potential parallels between these two windows, both of which focus on primary exemplars of medieval queenship, and the two Capetian queens who alternately dominated the court of Louis IX.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts
- Linguistics and Language
- Literature and Literary Theory