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Leonardo, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 202-205,1981 Printed in Great Britain. 0024-09JX/81/03020244 $02.00/0 Pergarnon Press Ltd. ONTHE SIGNIFICATIONOF DOORSAND GATES INTHE VISUAL ARTS MichaelMoore* *Psychologist,Dept. of Education in Technology and Science , Technion. Haifa 32000, Israel. (Received 12 Oct. 1979) 202 desheim, for the Church of St. Michael, in the beginning of the eleventh century [2, plate 221; and the main doorway in the Cluniac Abbey of Vezelay, with its tympanum and frieze exceeding in height that of the entrance itself [2, plate 321. I wish also to call attention to Auguste Rodin’s drawing for his ‘Gates of Hell’ (1886) and Marc Chagall’s ‘Cemetery Gate’ (1917) (Fig. 2). The following discussion, by necessity limited in its scope, is divided into major types of signification these and other doors and gates have: functional, sexual, social, religious and political. 2. THE DOOR AS A MEANSOF DEFENSE Before considering its diverse symbolic meanings, one should remember that a door is usually a functional object: ‘A movable barrier of wood or other material ...’, according to a dictionary [3]. The function of doors is strongly expressed in such styles as Art Nouveau (for example, C. R. Mackintosh’s ‘Door to the Room de Luxe of the Willow Tea-Rooms’ (1904) [4, plate 411) and Art Deco (for example, Jean Fig. 1. Lorenzo Ghiberti. ‘The Doors of Paradise’ of the Baptistery, Florence, Italy, bronze, 4.8 x 2.6m. about 1452. 1. INTRODUCTION This paper’s purpose is to examine and clarify the multiple meaning of doors and gates in the visual arts. Signs and symbols are important vehicles of artistic expression of both a culture and an individual‘s psychology. Doors and gates have served as favourite sources of symbolization in the visual arts and in numerous literary and religious works. I have discussed the signification of walls, another class of a frequently used sign, in an earlier article in Leonardo [l]. A noteworthy door in Europe is the East Gate, called the ‘Doors of Paradise’, of the Baptistery in Florence by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1452) (Fig. 1). In the Middle Ages doorways in churches attracted numerous artists. Examples among these are the main portal (1164) of the Cathedral at Chartres [2. plate 381; the bronze doors made for the Bishop Bernward at HilFig . 2. Marc Chagall. ‘The Cemetery Gate’, oil on canvas, 88x69~111.1917. The Sign@cation of Doors and Gates in the VisualArts 203 he wrote: ‘...it givesthe solutionto the problem raised by the Door by showingwhat it is: an opening ...’[8]. Magritte wrote similarly about his ‘La Perspective amoureuse’ (1935): ‘This closed door is nevertheless open. An openingpermits to pass through it as through an open door ...’ [8]. The merging of indoors and outdoors, as well as their indeterminacy, is also the subject of his ‘Le Poison’ (1939), ‘Germaine Mallens’ (1962) and ‘L‘Enfantretrouvt5’(1966). In Biblical times a city gate was so important that when speakingof a city’sdefenseor itsdestruction,gate came to mean the city itself. This is a militarily sound metaphor, for those who controlled the gates, controlled the city. The Romans elaborated on this metaphor and placed heavy emphasis on its duality in the cult surroundingthe two-facedgodJanus. Many ceremonial gateways were built in Rome; the best-known was Ianus Geminus, a rectangular bronze structure at the north sideof the Forum,with doubledoorsat eachend. When Rome was at war, the doorswere open; when at peace, the doors were closed. Fig. 3. RenLMagrine. ‘The UnexpectedAnswer’, oil on canvas, 77 x 51cm,1933. Dunand’s lacquered cabinet, exhibited in 1925,whose doors are decorated by Jean Lambert-Rucki’s psychedelicdog and hedgehog [5, plate 2411). A splendid collection of A r t Nouveau style gates, doors and doorways appearsin Ref. 6. It is with the function of ‘movable bamer’ in mind that other connotations must be viewed, and it is also this function that endows doors with an ambivalent meaning, for they are both barriers and means of admittance. Although they imply that passage is possible , it is by no means certain: The door that is open today may be shut tomorrow. This ambivalence is further enhanced by the fact that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 202-205
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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