Roundels of Light
For centuries glass collectors have admired Flemish roundels – the small generally round unipartite panels made from single sheets of white glass, painted with yellow (silver) stain and black/brown glass-paint, and produced in large numbers by artists working in the Low Countries between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries; from the seventeenth century enamel colours were introduced.
Now a new book by art historian Kees Berserik, M.A., and glass-restoration specialist and glazier Professor Joost Caen – Silver Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels before the French Revolution in Flanders, Volume 1: The Province of Antwerp – takes existing research about this specialized type of painting to a new level, with a comprehensive checklist describing the silver-stained unipartite panels surviving in public and private collections in and around Antwerp, the Flemish city at the centre of their production. It is a ‘must-have’ reference work for anyone interested in stained glass and North European art.
.Typically roundels depicted a wide range of subjects, including biblical and apocryphal scenes; secular subjects such as months and seasons; mythological or allegorical stories, often with moralizing themes; and heraldry. They were bought by both institutions and private individuals. Religious bodies such as convents used them to decorate cloisters, and wealthy businessmen presented the ‘panels’ as gifts to friends and partners. Although many of the scenes depicted were copied or derived from graphic designs made by professional artists, a significant number of these panels are now recognized as masterpieces in their own right.
Published by the Belgium CVMA, the checklist describes and shows around 400 panels from the Antwerp region and includes nearly a thousand illustrations (over 400 in colour). The text is in English. Further details can be found in our Books section. Volume 1 will soon be followed by similar checklists for the provinces of West and East Flanders (Vol. 2), and Limburg and Flemish Brabant (Vol. 3). An inventory of roundels in The Netherlands is also planned which will complete a major project of international value.
Although sixteenth-century Antwerp glowed with painted glass, a combination of wars, revolution and decay has meant that the largest collections of surviving roundels are now found abroad. A number of English churches possess examples donated by wealthy benefactors in the nineteenth century. Examples on the CVMA on-line picture archive include Berwick-upon-Tweed (Northumberland); Birtles and Cholmondeley Castle Chapel (Cheshire); and Nowton (Suffolk).
The CVMA of Great Britain has published two catalogues of roundels to be found in the country: William Cole’s A Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain (CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 1, London, 1993) and Kerry Ayre’s Medieval English Figurative Roundels (CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 6, London, 2002). The forthcoming county surveys of Lancashire and Cheshire will publish further roundels not included in Cole’s or Ayre’s volumes.
Silver or yellow stain is a silver-compound paint that is diffused into the glass when fired. The paint was applied to the exterior side of the glass and was made from a variety of silver salts, or exceptionally a silver oxide, with a clay or yellow ochre as the binding medium. Depending on factors such as the amounts of paint used and the length of firing, the hue of the stain could range from pale lemon to orange-brown. The earliest dated examples of the technique in North Europe (from the first decade of the fourteenth century) are to be found in Normandy. Meredith Parsons Lillich has suggested that the recipe found its way to Paris around 1300 via a translated version of the Lapidario, an Arabic manuscript acquired by Alfonso X of Spain in 1243.
Timothy Husband, The Luminous Image: Painted Glass Roundels in the Lowlands, 1480 – 1560, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995
Meredith Parsons Lillich, ‘European Stained Glass around 1300: the Introduction of Silver Stain’, in Elisabeth Liskat (ed.), Europäische Kunst um 1300, Akten des XXV. Internationalen Kongresses fur Kunstgeschichte, Vienna, 1986, VI, section 6, pp. 45–60.
East Harling Lecture
CVMA author David King will be speaking on the fascinating fifteenth century glass of East Harling Church, Norfolk, at a special lecture of the British Society of Master Glass Painters (BSMGP) on the 14 March at the Artworkers Guild Hall, London.
The East Harling glass was commissioned by the wealthy thrice-married heiress Anne Harling and has been tied to her ultimately fruitless efforts to conceive a child and the political support that she and her second husband, Sir Robert Wingfield gave to the Yorkist monarch, Edward IV. Circumstantial evidence also points to a link between the glass and the contemporary N-Town cycle of religious plays. (These plays are associated on linguistic grounds with East Anglia and named after the words ‘.N. town’ in the banns (opening proclamation), presumably standing for ‘nomen’, thus allowing the producers to insert the name of the town where they were touring into the script.) It is possible some of the plays may have been performed at East Harling, during a royal visit in 1469, and that the cast included the glaziers who made the windows.
David King is the author of The Medieval Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich (CVMA (GB) V, London, 2006).
For further information and booking details about what promises to be a fascinating lecture, email the BSMGP.
Marc Chagall Best-seller
The enduring power of Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows at Chichester Cathedral and All Saints church, Tudeley (Kent), has been underlined by a record-breaking third reprint for the Otter Memorial Booklet edited by Professor Paul Foster. First published by the University of Chichester in 2002, the booklet includes essays by June Osborne and Patrick Reyntiens. Other contributors describe the commissioning of the windows and the themes depicted in the Tudeley scheme. Forty-eight colour illustrations add to the appeal of this best-seller.
The Tudeley glass was commissioned by the by the family of Sarah Venetia d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, after her tragic death by drowning in 1963 aged twenty-one. The lower half of the east window includes a famous image of the voyage of Sarah’s soul on its journey to heaven, depicted against a background of perpetually swirling blue glass.
To purchase a copy see our Books section. For those interested in Marc Chagall’s work in stained glass, check out our the News section of Vidimus 10 in our Archive, and the excellent catalogue of his work produced by the Vitromusée in Romont, Switzerland, announced in the Books section of the same issue.
Art of Light
There is still time to catch the fascinating Art of Light: German Renaissance Stained Glass exhibition at London’s National Gallery before it closes on 17 February. The exhibition marks the first time that stained glass has been exhibited in the National Gallery, and pairs some of its stunning fifteenth- and sixteenth-century German paintings with contemporary stained glass windows lent by the Victoria & Albert Museum. A reconstructed window from Mariawald Abbey dominates the show.
By exploring differences and similarities in techniques and approach, the exhibition opens visitors’ eyes to the astonishing achievements of glass-painters and their relationship with other artists in medieval and Renaissance Germany. The exhibition also includes an explanatory section on the making of stained glass, with tools and glass fragments on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral. A short guide by the curator Dr Susan Foister complements the exhibition – see further our Books section.
Sunley Room, The National Gallery, admission free. The exhibition is sponsored by Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer.
Normandy On Line
The Musées de Haute-Normandie have added some pages about stained glass in Normandy to their website. Each page is devoted to an aspect or a period of stained glass and includes some beautiful illustrations of windows still in situ or preserved in the Musée des Antiquités in Rouen. The texts have been written by or derived from the research of Astrid Castres, Géraldine Deshayes, Salima Hellal, Sophie Leconte, Geneviève
Sennequier, Laurence Flavigny, Michel Hérold, Alban Duparc, and Delphine Campagnolle. To see the (French text only) pages, visit the website of the Musées, point your mouse at the ‘À DÉCOUVRIR’ option, then click on the stained-glass image to the left, at the start of the picture navigation bar that will appear. Copies of Michel Hérold’s informative 32-page guide to the Musée des Antiquités stained-glass collection, Les vitraux du Musée des Antiquités, Rouen, are available (at 3.8 euros plus postage and packing) by emailing the museum directly.
John Thornton Memorial
One of medieval England’s best-known stained glass artists has been commemorated – six hundred years after the completion of his master piece. John Thornton of Coventry was contracted in 1405 by the Dean and Chapter of York Minster to paint, design and oversee the production of the focal point of the church’s newly rebuilt choir, its great east window. His spectacular achievement at the minster seems to have prompted a thriving stained-glass business for Thornton, based out of both York and his home town, Coventry. The plaque has been erected as close as possible to the site where Thornton is known to have lived, in the Burges district of the city. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows.
John Thornton Master Glass Painter
John Thornton was the most famous of Coventry’s medieval craftmen. He is best known for designing the Great East Window at York Minster, which was constructed between 1405 and 1408 and is the largest expanse of medieval glass in the country.
Coventry was the centre of a flourishing glass painting industry. John Thornton is known to have lived and probably worked near this spot. His house would have stood partly in the pavement, as The Burges was widened on this side in the 1930s.
The design of the plaque is based upon the window at York Minster.
Vidimus wishes to thank George Demidowicz, Team Leader for Conservation and Archaeology at Coventry Council, who was much involved in the creation of this memorial to John Thornton, for bringing it our attention