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On 30 November, the lowest panel in an important thirteenth-century lancet window (s.28) in the south transept of Lincoln Cathedral was smashed by an intruder. [Fig. 1. The complete window, s.28. © Gordon Plumb] Cathedral sources told Vidimus that the unknown intruder may have hidden in the cathedral until it was closed before attempting to steal one or more valuables. Thwarted by security beams that triggered alarms, he (or they) then broke out of the cathedral by smashing the lower part of one of four lancets and jumping fifteen feet to the ground below.
According to CVMA (GB) author Nigel Morgan, the glazing of the lancet windows was created in the eighteenth century from assorted surviving thirteenth-century medallions from the choir and other locations in the cathedral. The medallions in the damaged window show scenes from the life of Moses that may have belonged to one of several possible schemes:
•a narrative window focusing on the life of Moses, such as at Le Mans in France
•a typological arrangement with events in the Old Testament depicted as precursors for episodes in the life of Christ, such as at Canterbury Cathedral
•a special programme designed to illustrate a particular theological idea, possibly centred around the life of Moses and the Mosaic Law, similar to a window known to have existed at Saint-Denis in Paris around the same time
The damaged panel was made before 1280 and shows a dialogue between Moses, who stands on the left, dressed in white and purple robes and holding a yellow staff, facing a group of figures on the right. Because of its unspecific character, it has proved impossible to identify the scene precisely. [Fig.2. The panel before damage. © Gordon Plumb] Despite the substantial damage, conservators in the stained glass workshop at the cathedral believe that it can be repaired. ‘It is difficult to explain’, studio director, Tom Kuper reflected. ‘The window had survived iconoclasts, the Civil War, the English weather and modern day pollutants, only to be shattered by a scoundrel. Whatever it takes, we will restore it.’
•N. J. Morgan, The Medieval Painted Glass of Lincoln Cathedral, CVMA Great Britain, Occasional Paper III, London, 1983
•J. Lafond, ‘The stained glass decoration of Lincoln Cathedral in the thirteenth century’, Archaeological Journal, ciii, 1946, pp. 119–56.
Last month’s two-day masterclass on the context, meaning and conservation of York Minster’s famous Great East Window attracted a large audience of conservators and art historians. [Fig. 1. The Great East Window. © NDP Leeds] Organized by the University of York’s Art History Department in conjunction with the new MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management team, the event included lectures and site visits.
The Great East Window was made between 1405 and 1408 by the Coventry-based glass painter John Thornton. It is dominated by scenes of the Apocalypse. The window, currently undergoing conservation by the York Glazier’s Trust, is also arguably the largest stained-glass window in Great Britain.
The first day of the masterclass explored the art history of the window, the second day focused on the practical issues concerning its conservation.
CVMA Project Director, Anna Eavis, began the proceedings with a description of the artistic context in which the window was made, focusing in particular on the shift from the heavy linear painting of the mid-fourteenth century to the new softer international Gothic style represented at York. [Fig. 2. Anna Eavis responding to questions.]
Anna was followed by Nicola Costaras, the senior paintings conservator at the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), who spoke about an altarpiece in the museum’s collection also depicting scenes from the Apocalypse, created by the German artist, Master Bertram of Minden (c.1340–1414). The complexity of the imagery provoked an interesting discussion about how much of the painting was the product of the artist’s imagination and how much was supervised by the theologians belonging to, or attached to, the commissioning patrons. Significantly the contract between John Thornton and the Dean and Chapter of York seemed to encompass these same points, for as well as requiring Thornton to paint ‘in the best manner and form that he possibly could’ it also insisted that he ‘paynt the same where need required according to the Ordination of the Dean and Chapter’.
The meaning of the window’s complex design and iconography was discussed in the afternoon lectures by CVMA (GB) committee members, Professors Christopher Norton and Nigel Morgan. The former explained how the window would have been seen ‘through’ or behind the image of a great cross (the rood) and described how sacred number symbolism can be found in the arrangement and design of the main lights of the window, with three groups of three panels (symbolic of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) in the lowest row, making nine panels representing the religious history of York; three rows of nine (that is, twenty-seven) ‘typographical’ panels of Old Testament scenes in the section immediately below the tracery lights; and nine rows of nine (that is, eighty-one) scenes depicting the Apocalypse. When these figures are multiplied together (9 x 27 x 81), they come to 19, 683, the number of years some medieval authors thought represented the history of the world from its creation to the final day of judgement.
Nigel Morgan demonstrated the typological presence of apparent iconographical omissions – namely scenes of Christ’s life, his infancy and Passion – in the three rows of Old Testament scenes (types), each of which foreshadowed events in Christ’s life (ante-types). Examples he cited included David’s victory over the Philistine giant Goliath, which prefigured Christ’s victory over the devil in the Harrowing of Hell. Future issues of Vidimus will examine some of these ideas at greater length.
The second day saw lectures by the minster architect, Andrew Arrol, and other experts on the stonework of the east front and why major repairs were necessary. This was followed by a talk from CVMA (GB) Chairman Sarah Brown about how the window glass will be conserved over the next ten years. The final sessions saw members of the masterclass visit the minster to inspect the window at close quarters before being given a tour of the newly refurbished medieval Bedern Chapel, which will be a ‘showcase studio’ for the conservation of the window. Delegates were also able to see a selection of panels and ask questions about what is undoubtedly the largest and most demanding conservation project of its kind ever undertaken in England. [Fig. 3. Delegates inspect the interior stonework at the apex of the window © Peter Martin; Fig. 4. The figure of God who sits at the top of the apex © Peter Martin; Fig. 5. A detail of one of the panels shown to delegates (9c) depicting Angels with the Winds and the Seal, Revelation 7: 1–3; Fig. 6. Conservators working in the Bedern Chapel studio: left to right, Janet Parkin and Anna Milson. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of York.]
Reactions to the masterclass were immensely positive and as the event drew to a close, there was great delight when Sarah Brown announced that further masterclasses would be organized next year. Details will appear in Vidimus as soon as they become available.
A special ceremony was held in Frankfurt an der Oder last month to commemorate the return of six fourteenth-century stained glass panels taken by the Soviet army at the end of the Second World War [Fig. 1. German and Russian officials inspect the glass] When reinstated, the six panels will complete a unique 117-panel, 20-metre triple east window scheme. The panels were removed from the city’s famous Marienkirche for safe-keeping during the war, only to be discovered by Russian soldiers in 1945 and shipped to Moscow.
Following negotiations between German and Russian governments, 111 of the panels were returned on the 750th anniversary of the church in 2002. They had been kept in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. At the time, most art historians thought the missing panels were lost forever, but in 2005 the final six were unexpectedly found in a store outside Moscow belonging to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.
The six panels show episodes from the Book of Genesis, including depictions of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s Ark. [Fig. 2. A returned panel with the church windows in the background] Sandra Meinung, a stained-glass restorer who worked on the first batch of Marienkirche windows, told Vidimus that it will take her more than a year to refurbish the glass after decades of storage in inhospitable conditions.
Russia and Germany have long sparred over priceless art objects taken from Germany at the end of the Second World War. Germany argues that these were taken illegally, but Russia has declared that the art was seized as retribution for the 27 million Soviet lives lost and the destruction of entire Soviet cities during the conflict. In recent years, Germany has returned some of the Russian cultural treasures looted by Nazi troops and has paid for the restoration of others, including the famed Amber Room — named for its ornate amber inlay — at the eighteenth-century Catherine Palace in Tsarksoye Selo outside St Petersburg.
For earlier stories about the Frankfurt an der Oder glass, especially the famous Anti-Christ window, see Vidimus 11 and Vidimus 19.
Vidimus is particularly grateful to Sven Henrik Häseker of the mayor’s office in Frankfurt an der Oder for his help with this item.
A remarkable collection of 11,000 slides of mainly French medieval and Renaissance stained glass can be seen at the Index of Christian Art at the University of Princeton, New Jersey, USA. The photographs are indexed alphabetically by country and location. Each is accompanied by a brief entry citing the position of the window shown, the subject depicted, and, wherever possible, a cross-reference to the appropriate CVMA volume, for those readers who wish to know more about the glass. It is an extremely valuable resource.
The photographs were taken by two American stained glass artists/scholars, Gertrude and Robert (Bob) Metcalf, during visits to Europe between 1937 and 1939. Using the newly patented Eastman Kodak colour-slide film, Kodachrome, Gertrude and Bob compiled a unique record of pre-Second World War glass in Austria, England, France, Germany and Switzerland. The collection is particularly strong in French cathedral glass.
Last month Vidimus spoke to Robert Metcalf Jr, a stained-glass artist in Oregon, about his parents and their astonishing achievement.
‘My mother and father met in a stained-glass studio and learned their craft in the 1920s. In the 1930s, they settled in New York and ran their own studio, but after their business was destroyed during the depression they moved to Dayton, Ohio, to teach stained glass in the city’s Art Institute. My father became interested in photography, and when Eastman Kodak brought out their new colour slide film, Dad saw its pioneering potential and decided to go to Europe and record the medieval glass he loved. Fortunately the institute’s main benefactor shared his enthusiasm.
After a preliminary visit in 1937, my parents arrived in Europe in the summer of 1938. [Fig.1. Robert and Gertrude Metcalf’s passport: reproduced with the permission of Mr Robert Metcalf Jr] Their initial plan was to start in Germany before moving on to France, and their passport stamps show that they entered that country on at least eight occasions. However, the final haul of photographs include relatively few from Germany. Perhaps something happened. Certainly their hotel room was ransacked by the Gestapo.
For much of the time they were based in Paris. The political situation was obviously very tense. You can still sense the atmosphere in the letters they sent home. When in Chartres photographing the glass in the church of St Pierre from the triforium, they heard American voices below them saying that Germany had just invaded Czechoslovakia and that war was about to be declared. They kept to a busy schedule, even as the authorities were removing historic glass for safekeeping. Sometimes, as at Bourges Cathedral, they photographed the glass as it was being dismantled. [Fig. 2. Stained glass being removed at Bourges Cathedral. © Metcalf Collection]
In the summer of 1939, my grandparents took me to Europe to join my family. Although I was only six, I remember the experience vividly, especially the voyage home, when the ship was packed with people trying to escape the impending war. Sadly this meant that my parents were never able to photograph English stained glass on a scale they had intended.
Back in the US they staged an exhibition of their work. [Fig. 3. Part of the 1940 exhibition; Fig. 4. Bob and Gertrude Metcalf inspecting the slides. Reproduced with the permission of Mr Robert Metcalf Jr.] Unfortunately, owing to the war they were unable to finish cataloguing the photographs until 1947.
For almost sixty years thereafter, the slides remained in a filing cabinet in the institute, largely forgotten and neglected. One consequence is that some suffered colour deterioration and others have a pink tinge. In time it might be possible to rectify this problem. Fortunately, Colum Hourihane and the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University heard about the collection, persuaded the Dayton Institute to allow them to make digital copies of the slides, created the current website and brought the collection to a global audience where they can be studied and enjoyed by future generations – exactly as my parents always hoped that they would be.’
Vidimus is extremely grateful to Robert Metcalf Jr. for his generous help with this article. Thanks are also due to Colum Hourihane and everyone involved in the Princeton project in making this pioneering resource freely available.
A previously unrecorded roundel of c.1500 depicting the miracle of St Bernard about to receive the embrace of the crucified Christ has been discovered.
St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) was a prolific author and a towering figure in twelfth-century western Christendom. He was a leading member of the Cistercian order, and following his intervention in the papal schism of 1130–1138 Innocent II was recognized as the legitimate Pope. He also preached the Second Crusade at Vezelay.
The roundel shows Christ stepping down from the cross to embrace the kneeling tonsured haloed figure of St Bernard. [Fig. 1. St Bernard Receiving the Embrace of Christ. © C. J. Berserik] A monk watches the scene from behind a pillar. This image (in different versions) was one of the most popular Bernardine representations of the later Middle Ages, with examples appearing in manuscripts, woodcuts, sculpture, altar paintings (retables) and, occasionally, stained glass. [Fig 2 . Stained-glass window of St Bernard receiving the embrace of Christ, from Wettingen Abbey, Switzerland, dated 1521]
Known as the Amplexus or Amplexus Bernardi it is one of four iconographical topoi whereby St Bernard can be identified easily (the other three are listed at the foot of this article). The theme of Christ’s embrace may be based on sermons given by St Bernard and written down by monks at the time, in which he spoke of the ‘Cross of Christ – not the wooden cross on which he hung, but the cross of charity on which, then, as now, he was outstretched as if to embrace us with his extended, loving arms.’
A good account of St Bernard receiving such an embrace appeared in Conrad of Eberbach’s Exordium Magnum, a collection of stories probably compiled shortly after 1200, which reads: ‘The religious man, Lord Manard, former abbot of Mores which is a monastery neighbouring on Clairvaux, told the following miraculous story as if it had happened to someone else but which we believe referred to himself: I heard of a certain monk who once found the blessed abbot Bernard alone in the church deep in prayer . As he was prostrate before the altar, a cross with its crucified appeared placed on the floor in front of him. This the most blessed man devoutly adored and kissed. Then that Majesty removed his arms from the branches of the cross and he seemed to embrace the servant of God and draw him to himself. The monk who witnessed this, having watched for a while, was beside himself with amazement. Afraid of offending his saintly father if seen observing so closely his secrets, he left in silence, for he knew that all the prayer and the life of this saintly man was beyond the human condition.’
Amplexus images were almost entirely concentrated in German-speaking areas, and there are no examples of the motif in the British Isles or the Iberian peninsula.
CVMA author C. J. Berserik told Vidimus: ‘This roundel is a puzzle. It is painted in a charming primitive and unique style. Although it can be dated to around c.1500, determining its nationality is more difficult. It does not appear to be Netherlandish or French, and neither does it seem to be English. The most likely possibility is that it is German, although it would be helpful if anyone knew of any similar panels or related roundels elsewhere.’ If any reader is able to throw any light on this puzzle, please email the editor of Vidimus.
Note The other three topoi of St Bernard are: St Bernard receiving Mary’s Milk (the Lactatio); St Bernard receiving a Vision of the Virgin Mary (the Doctrina); and St Bernard with the devil on a chain.
J. France, Medieval Images of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Kalamazoo, 2007.
The refurbishment of the redundant church of St Peter Hungate, in the heart of medieval Norwich, is well under way in preparation for its reopening as a Centre for the Medieval Arts in April 2009. [Fig. 1. Repairing the walls of St Peter Hungate. © Mike Dixon]
Stained glass will be at the heart of the new centre, which will include permanent and changing exhibitions of medieval craftsmanship in Norfolk/East Anglia. CVMA (GB) supporter Claire Daunton is curating the exhibits, which, in turn, will be linked to twelve church trails devised and written by Anthony Barnes and Kate Weaver. CVMA (GB) author David King is contributing specialized guides to the glass in these churches.
Kate Weaver is overseeing the refurbishment. The exhibition and template for the trails was designed by a group of freelance exhibition planners and designers based in south London and known as The Exhibitions Team . Photographs for the exhibition and church trail publications were taken by Mike Dixon.
For more information about this exciting project see Vidimus 23.
To see nearly, 3,500 images of stained glass in Norfolk visit the CVMA Picture Archive .
The Institute of Conservation (ICON) and the Heritage Lottery Fund are advertising a six-month internship as part of the fourth year of the innovative scheme for broadening access to careers in heritage conservation in the UK and diversifying its workforce. A bursary is offered for a work-based internship starting in March 2009 in the studio of Jonathan and Ruth Cooke, West Yorkshire. The stipend is £14,750 p.a., pro rata. The placement is designed to lead into the new Conservation of Stained Glass MA at the University of York later in 2009 and is aimed at new entrants to conservation from arts, science, craft or broader heritage-related backgrounds. Note that candidates will need to meet university criteria for the MA, as well as those for the placement. Information on the internship and details of eligibility can be found on the ICON website. The closing date for applications is 19 January 2009.
2 December until 16 January 2009 Winter Exhibition of Art of the Middle Ages, at Sam Fogg, 15D Clifford Street, London, W1S 4JZ. The exhibition features some rare stained glass, including a finely painted roundel showing Saint Martin as a young man on horseback dividing his cloak to clothe a half-naked beggar. The roundel, which is thought to be French and is datable to 1500–1510, was formerly in the Sibyll Kummer-Rothenhäusler Collection, Zurich. [Fig. 1. © Sam Fogg ]
Until 4 January 2009 Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA..The exhibition includes four panels of stained glass. For further details, see Vidimus 15 and the High Museum website.
29 March to 2 August 2009 Glass and Light. An important exhibition of stained glass from a private German collection at the Knauf-Museum, Iphofen, Germany.
1–3 June 2009 Forum for the Conservation and Restoration of Stained-Glass Windows, Metropolitan Museum, New York. More details will be available in the New Year.
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