Shapes within doors

The recent “Talbots Doors” thread jogged something in my long-ago memory, something I only think about when I’m painting a door.

The doors.

When I was a wee lad, my father once told me that doors had this design because the top part symbolized Christianity (the cross), and the bottom part symbolized Judaism (the tablets of Moses). Has anyone else heard this theory, and is there any historical truth to it . . . or did my father make it up?

I’m pretty sure it symbolizes the fact that it used to be hard to make large clear panes of glass.

But even internal doors, without glass, have the same configuration.

And it seems to date back to pre-Christian times, so I think your dad’s theory is hooey. Check the Pompeiian folding doors at wiki; same sort of rectangular panels.

The same principle applies. You don’t need a thick slab of wood. Note that modern doors are usually hollow. The structure holds with a few cross pieces. That gives you lighter, thinner areas for decoration. Less wood is less expensive and easier to manipulate. It’s a sensible and adaptable design. Look at the Tibetan door on that page and the door from the Villa Boscoreale, for variations on the decorative theme.

The symbolism is also hard to maintain. You have to chop off the cross in the middle to make it work, because you really have a double cross, and then you’re going from the foreground (the cross) to the background (the insets) to make the tablets of Moses. Sounds very much like folk etymology, something somebody reads into an existing situation.