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Record numbers of visitors are making the Schnütgen Museum’s Rheinische Glasmalerei: Meisterwerke der Renaissance one of the most successful exhibitions of stained glass ever held (Fig. 1). Six years in the making, it opened on 3 May, and will close on 29 July. In all, 119 panels are on show from the cloisters of four Cistercian monasteries once scattered around Cologne: Altenberg, Mariawald, St Apern and Steinfeld. A newly acquired single panel from the Cologne monastery of St Cecilia, showing the patron saint with donors, is also being displayed.
The exhibition has two themes: first, a careful reconstruction of how the glass was arranged in the cloisters of the four monasteries and the subjects they showed; second, an exploration of the wider artistic climate in early sixteenth-century Germany, and how the work of artists like Albrecht Dürer and Martin Schongauer influenced glass painters such as the Master of St Severin, a painter of outstanding ability whose work can be seen in some of the exhibits.
The exhibition is arranged in three parts. A modern foyer houses the glass from Altenberg and St Apern; much of this focuses on episodes from the life of St Bernard. It is particularly helpful in showing representations of the same subject from the two different locations, as with the scene of Bernard praying during a harvest (Figs 2 and 3). The nave of the museum itself (a former church) houses a cloister-like structure built for the exhibition, with panels from Mariawald are arranged on the four outside walls, and drawings by Dürer and Schongauer that may be compared with the imagery created by the glass painters displayed inside. Finally, an upper gallery area is devoted to panels from Steinfeld Abbey. Each part of the exhibition has helpful information boards in English and German, and every visitor receives as part of their entry fee a small guide book that includes for each panel a sentence in English describing the subject.
‘Visitors have been extremely impressed with the extraordinary beauty and colour of the paintings’ Museum Director, Dr Hiltrud Westermann-Angerhausen, told Vidimus. ‘The fact that people can stand directly in front of these masterpieces and look at them as closely as they would a small panel painting or an illuminated manuscript has changed how they ‘see’ and think about stained glass. Some visitors have told me that it makes them feel good. I tell them – it’s called a little light therapy!’ An on-line exhibition of some of the glass will appear in a future edition of Vidimus.
Visitors to Cologne might also like to take the opportunity to see other late medieval and Renaissance glass in the city. These include panels in the north aisle of the world-famous cathedral, panels in the north aisle of St Maria in Lyskirchen, and finally (next door to the museum itself), the magnificent Renaissance windows of St Peter’s.
For details of the excellent two volume catalogue which accompanies the exhibition see our Books page.
After a decade of being shrouded in scaffolding, York Minister’s famous St William Window has finally been unveiled to the public. Located in the north choir aisle of the minster, the window commemorates the life of the city’s own saint, St William of York. Dating from the early fifteenth century, it was probably painted by John Thornton of Coventry, the master glazier who was also responsible for creating the Great East Window in the same church.
The window is one of the largest in the minster. It is 78ft high and has 95 panels telling the ups and downs of William’s life, and the miracles said to have occurred posthumously at his tomb or shrine. A major conservation project undertaken by the York Glaziers Trust has seen the window cleaned, unsightly mending leads removed and protective isothermal glazing installed. Some scenes in the lower half of the window that chart the story of William’s life and the first miracles said to have occurred at his tomb have also been re-ordered, correcting earlier repairs that saw panels wrongly assembled and the original narrative disrupted.
Commenting on the work, the Very Revd Keith Jones, Dean of York said: ‘This is an epoch in the art of conservation. As we celebrate this achievement, we shall position the altar during the festivities where it once stood between the St William and St Cuthbert windows, and so catch something of the original layout of the minster. The huge window as restored is amazing, and sets the scene for the even greater challenge of the east window. It shows what we can do!’
St William (born c.1080) is best known for the controversy surrounding his election as archbishop, the miracle of the Ouse Bridge collapse, and his suspicious death in 1154. Before his first election as archbishop in 1140, William had been treasurer of the minister. His promotion was bitterly opposed by some members of chapter and most of the senior Cistercian hierarchy in Yorkshire who accused him, inter alia, of simony and fornication. Although consecrated in 1143, William failed to obtain the pallium (the white circular band embroidered with six purple crosses granted by the Pope to archbishops) and was eventually deposed in 1147. Six years later, however, after the death of his successor, Henry Murdac, the Abbot of Fountains Abbey, William returned to Rome to seek his re-instatement and was appointed to the post for a second time. When he returned to York in triumph a year later, in 1154, the wooden bridge across the River Ouse collapsed under the weight of well-wishers and spectators. Miraculously no-one died.
Further controversy erupted when almost immediately afterwards he fell ill and died amid suspicions that he had been poisoned. After miracles were attributed to his relics in 1177 he was venerated as a saint, and was formally canonized by Pope Honorius in 1226. His remains now rest in York Minster’s western crypt.
The reordering of the window was the result of pioneering research by Dr Christopher Norton, Reader in the History of Art at the University of York, and a member of the CVMA (UK) Project Committee.
Acknowledgents: grateful thanks to Elena Balycheva, Louise Hampson and Alix Peacock.
The Austrian committee of the CVMA has recently set up a homepage with details of its research and researchers, a list of publications, a picture gallery, and contact details. The site is in German, but even if you do not speak the language, you should at least browse through the wonderful pictures of stained glass from various regions of Austria under ‘Galerie’.
The website of the British CVMA has also been further updated recently: a conservation bibliography has been drawn up from the texts published on our conservation pages, and the conservation texts themselves adjusted accordingly. The bibliography can be accessed both from the Further Reading page and from the Conservation page.
Three quatrefoil panels of fourteenth-century glass that local parishioners thought had been lost forever, have been re-instated in a south wall window of St Lawrence’s Church, Bramshall, Staffordshire, by Steve Clare and his team from Holy Well Glass in Wells, Somerset. The restoration was supported by grants from The Glaziers’ Trust and the Council for the Care of Churches. The project also included the fitting of protective isothermal glazing.
Like many churches, St Lawrence’s has had a chequered history. The present church was built in 1835 by Thomas Fradgley of Uttoxeter, at the expense of Lord Willoughby de Broke. It has a substantial west tower and Perpendicular windows with Y tracery. Prior to the installation of the three panels by Steve Clare, some other fragments of fourteenth-century tracery glass from the former east window had already been assembled in the same south window (sV). The church also has an important collection of fourteenth-century heraldic glass in the north aisle bearing the arms of the de Broke family.
‘Given up as lost, it was incredible to find the glass again,’ the Revd John Lander told Vidimus. ‘The Diocesan Advisory committee has been incredibly helpful and the return of the glass has been like icing on a cake for those parishioners who have been raising money for crucial repairs and renovations to the Church. We will celebrate its safe return with a special service.’
The first major exhibition in Britain devoted to the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder (c.1472–1553) will open at London’s Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London, later this month. Temptation in Eden: Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve will run from 21 June until 23 September 2007. Apart from the artist’s famous image of Adam and Eve (Fig. 1), painted in 1526 when Cranach was at the height of his powers, the exhibition will display a number of Cranach’s other works that express the same themes of temptation and beauty (Fig. 2). They include the Royal collection’s Apollo and Diana (Fig. 3), the National Gallery’s Cupid Complaining to Venus, and the J. Paul Getty Museum’s A Faun and his Family.
A complimentary exhibition of German drawings from the Courtauld’s own collections will add to the riches on display. Two major works by Albrecht Dürer will be among the highlights: The Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund, the design for a large painting of the two emperors intended for the Heiltumskammer (a special room in Nuremberg where the imperial insignia of the Holy Roman Empire were kept the night before an annual ceremony during which they were displayed to the people); and One of the Wise Virgins, a brown ink drawing made in 1493 to illustrate the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.
For further information about the exhibition visit the gallery’s website. The exhibition will be open daily from 10am to 6pm, last admissions 5.15pm. Adults £5, concessions £4. Admission free on Mondays, 10am to 2pm, and at all times for under 18s and full-time UK students.
For an example of a Cranach painting used as a model by stained-glass artists, see Virginia Raguin’s Protestant and Catholic Imagery in Swiss Stained Glass.
This year’s British Society of Master Glass Painters (BSMGP) autumn lecture will be held on Friday 19 October, 6.30 for 7pm at the Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London, WC1. Sarah Brown (MA, FSA, Hon. FMGP and Chairman of the CVMA (GB)) will be speaking on ‘The judge, the traitor, his wife and her lover: the medieval glass of Tewkesbury Abbey’. Admission is by ticket only. For further details, email the BSMGP, or telephone 01582 764834.
As reported in the last issue of Vidimus, two important stained-glass windows were recently sold at auction in Canada. Last month we looked at the larger and more complete of these lots, a sixteenth-century window by Valentin Bousch. This month, Jim Bugslag, Canadian CVMA member and Associate Professor in the School of Art at the University of Manitoba, takes an in-depth look at the second window – a fifteenth century figure of a praying clerical donor from the cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Toulouse, France (Fig. 1).
‘The panel was first identified as part of a scheme in the Royal windows at the cathedral by the combined efforts of by Ariane Isler-de Jongh, of the Canadian CVMA committee, and Nathalie Frachon-Gielarek, of the French CVMA committee. [‘Un Personnage des verrières royales de la Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toulouse’, Gesta, xxxvii/2, 1998, pp. 186–91, pl. 2] Formerly in the collection of William Randolph Hearst, the panel was bought at the Hearst auction in 1952 by the Canadian chocolate tycoon, Fritz Ziegler, and installed in his house at Langley, just outside of Vancouver. It was accompanied by an unrelated and incomplete canopy which is either entirely modern or very heavily restored (Fig. 2).
‘When it was in the Hearst collection, the donor figure panel had been associated with an unrelated fifteenth-century architectural plinth which, together with the rest of the canopy, is now in the Forest Lawn collection at Glendale, California. Hearst may have acquired the ensemble from the Duveen Galleries in London, but the American CVMA committee has traced the related architectural base in Glendale, through the dealer Lucien Demotte of Paris, to the Michel Collection, also in France. The clerical figure’s provenance prior to the Hearst collection, however, is still uncertain.
‘Although the damask background in the panel is now disordered and there may be some overpainting of facial features, the figure itself is in fairly good condition. It represents a kneeling cleric, probably a canon of Toulouse Cathedral. It came from the cathedral’s St Joseph chapel, which was formerly dedicated to St John the Evangelist and, possibly as well, to St Louis of France. This chapel, which is located in the chevet just south of the axial chapel, has from the nineteenth century been glazed with a heterogeneous collection of glass, partly belonging to this location but partly gathered from elsewhere in the cathedral. Previously, the three windows of this chapel had been glazed between 1437 and 1439 to commemorate King Charles VII’s 1437 voyage through Languedoc. The side windows now contain important personages, all of whom took part in the royal progress, being presented by patron saints, presumably to a subject that formerly occupied the top register of the central window. Still apparent in the right window are the Dauphin Louis being presented by St Louis of Anjou above Denis du Moulin, the Archbishop of Toulouse, being presented by St Catherine. Opposite, in the left window, is Charles VII being presented by St. John the Baptist.
The rest of the glass is no longer in situ. The identification of this canon figure as part of the programme not only adds an important element to its complete reconstitution, but also suggests that the cathedral chapter played a role in its commission. Moreover, it may identify the glazier who created the praying canon. Style analysis relates this ensemble with surviving glass in Gerona Cathedral in Catalonia, which is documented as having been made by the Toulouse glazier Antoni Tomas. This displaced figure of a kneeling canon is thus not only a significant work of art in its own right, but valuable evidence for the glazing of the Royal windows in Toulouse Cathedral.’
This month celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s move to its present site in South Kensington, London.
The museum had begun collecting medieval and Renaissance stained glass in the 1850s, with sixteenth-century French panels from Rouen (Saint-Pierre-du-Chatel), among its first acquisitions. More panels from different sources followed in the 1860s and later, until the collection was transformed during the keepership of Bernard Rackham (1876–1964).
The gift of glass – and other objects – from the American millionaire John Pierpoint Morgan in 1919 and a later donation of glass by Ernest Cook from the chapel of Ashridge Park in Hertfordshire in 1928 helped to make the museum’s holdings second to none in the world. To see more than 700 items from the museum’s collection in the CVMA Picture Archive, click here. For details of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s stained-glass gallery, click here.
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