Seated Malaleel [Mahalalel], 13th century

The Work

In the Biblical book of Genesis, after Cain killed his brother Abel, Adam and Eve had a third son, whom they named Seth. Seth became one of the Patriarchs of the Bible, and was the ancestor of Methuselah, Noah, Jesse, David, Joseph, and Jesus. The possible subject of this window is Mahalalel, Seth’s great-grandson. The representation of Christ’s ancestors was a frequent theme in religious images, to reinforce the connections between the Old and New Testaments.

Historical Moment

Near the end of the twelfth century, progress in architectural knowledge made it possible to construct very tall buildings of stone, leading to the spread of the gothic cathedral. The decoration of a medieval church attempted to reproduce the kingdom of Heaven on earth, and to put the devout worshipper in visual contact with the holy persons and the splendors that would be encountered during eternal life.

The Genre

The medieval stained glass window was composed of colored glass, and the pieces were joined together with lead. When sunlight penetrates the window during the day, a person inside the building sees intense colors, like precious stones. Since stained glass windows were normally placed very high in a church, a person could not distinguish the scene or the people who were represented, but he or she knew from the priests that they existed. The window was therefore a metaphor for religious faith, in which one believes without being able to see it. And the artist worked for the eyes of God, not for mankind.

French embassy