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Trevor Cooper, ed. The Journal of William Dowsing: Iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, hardback, xxiv + 551 pages, including 78 b/w plates, 40 maps, 27 tables, 2001. Includes contributions by John Morrill, John Blatchley, Robert Walker, and S. L Sadler (now available from the publisher as a print on demand volume) £50, ISBN 978-0-85115-833-4.
Out-of-print until recently, the renewed availability of this book is extremely welcome. It focuses on the activities of William Dowsing (1596 -1668), probably the most well known – and certainly the most thorough – Puritan iconoclast of the mid-seventeenth century. As such it will be of great interest to stained glass historians who do not already own a copy.
The events it describes were triggered by parliamentary ordinances of August 28, 1643 and May 9, 1644 enjoining the removal from churches of all monuments of superstition or idolatry. Among the targets were fixed altars, altar rails, chancel steps, inscriptions imploring prayers on behalf of the dead, and most ominously, ‘crucifixes, images of the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, saints, and angels’. Images in glass were not exempt from these proscriptions.
Like others who emerge from relative anonymity during times of great religious and political upheavals, there seems to have little in Dowsing’s character prior to the events described in this book to suggest any propensity for notoriety. By background a prosperous yeoman farmer he seems to have a devoutly religious man whose passions were intensified by war and opportunity. Having effectively applied for the job he was no doubt thrilled when he was appointed ‘commissioner for the destruction of monuments of idolatry and superstition’ in the Eastern counties by the 2nd Earl of Manchester, the commander of the parliamentary armies of East Anglia, in 1643. Certainly he did his utmost to live up to his title. In less than a year his team of ‘breakers’ had visited at least 100 churches in Cambridgeshire and another 150 in Suffolk (plus others in Norfolk) before shuddering to an abrupt stop in October 1644. In their wake they left behind them a trail of shattered stained glass, ripped up monumental brass inscriptions, broken communion rails and razed crucifixes and crosses that must have resembled the debris from a twister tornado roaring across the American mid-west.
An instinctive bureaucrat, Dowsing kept a detailed account of these visits, recording and what he saw and did. Trevor Cooper’s engrossing book reproduces a complete and reliable edition of this manuscript and includes informative accompanying annotations for every entry.
Chapters detailing Dowsing’s life, the role of his deputies, a definitive history of the Journal after his death, where else he might have visited which is not recorded in the Journal, iconoclasm in other counties under the jurisdiction of the East Anglian commander, and Dowsing’s attacks on the Cambridge University colleges, add to its comprehensive breadth. Appendices which methodically discuss the final scale of the destruction of stained glass, monumental brasses, bells and other damage wreaked by Dowsing, together with extracts from church warden accounts compiled at the time about these activities, complete what only can be described as a magnificent and gripping volume. [Fig. 1]
The normal Modus operandi was for Dowsing to arrive (sometimes unexpectedly) together with a party of soldiers, charge a standard fee of 6s.8d to make an inventory of offensive items, smash what he could, and then depart leaving orders specifying what else had to be destroyed and by when. Entry after entry records his triumphs. Arriving in Sudbury (Suffolk) on January 9th 1644 he reports an initial visit to St Peter’s church where, ‘we brake down a picture of God the Father, and, pictures of Christ, about an hundred in all’, before switching his attention to the main church of the town the following day next day where ‘We brake down 19 mighty great angels in glass, in all, 80′. Sometimes the totals were much higher. The entry for Hadleigh (Suffolk) sums up a typical working day:
‘Feb 2. We brake down 30 superstitious pictures, and gave order for the taking down of the rest, which were about 70; and took up an inscription, ‘quorum animabus propitietur deus’; and gave order for the taking down of the cross on the steeple; gave 14 days.’ [Fig. 2]
The 273 entries which catalogue these visits, are given an aching vividness as the author retraces Dowsing’s footsteps and matches the words in his Journal to the physical evidence of the churches themselves and what contemporary records said about what the scale of the damage and the costs of repair he caused..
As a result, we learn of churches where his visits were anticipated and windows broken in advance (Haverhill, Suffolk) and of Puritan-inclined parishioners acting as his accomplices (Ickleton, Cambs). At the opposite extreme we see local people refusing to help him to raise ladders to destroy glass he could not reach from the ground (Coverhithe, Suffolk) and of glass being removed and hidden for safe-keeping, as at Barton (Cambs) and possibly at Peterhouse college, (Cambs), or installed in private houses, as at East Harling (Norfolk) where the glass now restored to the church would otherwise have been smashed during one of Dowsing’s forays into Norfolk. In other instances fragments of schemes survive, either as salvaged pieces or as ignored tracery lights. At Maddingley (Cambs) reset pieces of medieval glass, including representations of the Virgin and child and St John the Baptist, may be among the images Dowsing saw and recorded when he visited the church on March 6th 1644. [Fig. 3]
A few entries enable us to discover exactly what was lost, as at Blythburgh (Suffolk), where the author’s annotations reveal that among the glass condemned by Dowsing was a window depicting the history of St Anthony which had been given to the church in 1457. At Barking (Suffolk) an image of ‘St Catherine with her wheel’ was targeted, probably in a window in the north aisle where Catherine wheels form part of a low relief foliating trail on the splayed jambs. [Figs. 4 and 5]
Donor figures and inscriptions which alluded to the doctrines of purgatory and pleaded for the living to pray for their souls – Orate pro animabus – were a particular target. Yet as we wade through page after page of destruction we are also reminded of glass that was excluded from Dowsing’s savagery. Heraldic panels and royal insignia were exempt from the Puritan ordinances and in the best traditions of a conscientious bureaucrat, that which he was not authorised to destroy, he left intact.
Among the endless fascinating details which saturate this book is an entry in the church warden accounts for Metfield (Suffolk) which chronicle the aftermath of one of these window-smashing visitations. Items include payments ‘for beere when the glasiers did come to mend the windows’, after the glass had been broken by one of Dowsing’s deputies, Francis Verdon.
For Vidimus readers perhaps the biggest ‘what might have been’ is the story of Dowsing’s visit to King’s College Cambridge, where the Journal entry records: Dec 26 (1643) steps to be taken and one thousand superstitious pictures, the ladder of Christ, and theves to go upon, many crosses , and Jesus writ on them.
Based on what happened elsewhere, it seems obvious that Dowsing would not have flinched from destroying the chapel’s famous sixteenth century east window glass. And yet it never happened. Why not? The author suggests several possible answers, ranging from an intended revisit that never occurred, to inner unease and uncertainty about the lawfulness of his own authority, and finally, to possible worries about the inconvenience which defenestration on such a colossal scale might inflict on the parliamentary troops billeted in the college and who used the chapel for training purposes. [Fig.6]
Appendix 12 of this book asks how much glass was destroyed during Dowsing’s spoliations. The results are fascinating in themselves and for the light they shed on the impact of the initial Reformation as well as post-Puritan losses. The author concludes that 18 per cent of the churches that Dowsing visited contained no glass that needed breaking and that in 77 per cent of cases the churches had fewer than 45 pictures – or panels – apiece, sufficient perhaps for an impressive east window. If so, it suggests that the earlier campaigns had destroyed most of the offending images and that Dowsing’s general culpability extended to one or two windows. But there were significant exceptions. In about a quarter of the churches he visited he seems to have destroyed two or three times this much, or more. The most extreme example seems to be King’s Lynn (Norfolk) where the cost of reglazing the church after his visit suggests colossal damage, perhaps to every window.
Why did he stop? The most likely answer is that his authority drained when the Earl of Manchester’s own standing waned. Certainly it would seem no one else was given similar powers in other parts of the country to enforce the ordinances with such vigour, although Richard Culmer (1597-1662) seems to have had some sort of commission to demolish windows in Canterbury Cathedral. Elsewhere Sir Robert Harley (1579 -1656), the Presbyterian chairman of the Committee for the Demolition of Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry in London, seems to have had a particularly ferocious streak. At his country estate in Herefordshire the glass at Leintwardine was taken out of the church, ‘broken small with a hammer’ and then thrown into the River Teme. In the capital itself he is said to have jumped up and down on a piece of painted glass from the New Chapel at St Margaret’s church, Westminster, treading it to pieces and crowing that he was, ‘dancing a jig to Laud’ (see: Spraggon, pp. 84 – 85 below).
Although this last allegation may be a piece of embroidered royalist propaganda, the reference to Archbishop William Laud (1573 – executed 1645) is a useful place to draw this review to a close. [Fig.7]
For in many ways it was suspicion of his ‘popish’ tendencies which provoked the violent Puritan backlash embodied by Dowsing, a man whose enthusiasm for image-breaking has often led to him being slammed as a ‘fanatic’ and going around as ‘a bedlam’ causing uproar and confusion. But, according to one contributor to the book this was – and remains – shades of a caricature. Indeed in the context of the times, Dowsing was probably closer to mainstream Puritanism than political extremism. As the war dragged on he became disillusioned with his more firebrand colleagues. He was appalled at the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the abolition of the monarchy and in 1650 turned his back on his erstwhile companions by refusing to sign ‘The Engagement’, a solemn promise to be true to the new Commonwealth republic.
His final years were spent at Dedham (Suffolk) where his life finally ebbed away in 1658 apparently without regret for his earlier activities. Although there is no direct monument to him in any church, his depredations can still be seen in East Anglia where defaced statues, sawn off bench ends and mutilated fonts serve as poignant – and brutal – reminders of the day he came to ‘brake’ the windows.
* M. Aston, England’s Iconoclasts I: Laws Against Images, Oxford, 1988
* M. Aston, ‘Puritans and iconoclasm, 1560 – 1660’, in C. Durston and J.Eales The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560 – 1700, Basingstoke, 1996, pp. 92 – 121
* M. Aston, ‘Iconoclasm in England: official and clandestine,’ in Iconoclasm vs Art and Drama C. Davidson and A.E. Nichols (eds.), Michigan 1988: 47 -91
* G. Chainey, ‘The lost stained glass of Cambridge’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 79, 1991, pp.70 -81
* W. D. Caroe, ‘Canterbury Cathedral choir during the Commonwealth and after with special reference to two oil paintings’, Archaeologia, 62, 1911, pp.353 -66 (Discusses iconoclasm at Canterbury)
* E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1440 – 1590, Yale University Press, 1994
* J. Phillips, The Reformation of Images: Destruction of Art in England 1535 – 1660. Berkeley, 1973
* J. Spraggon, Puritan Iconoclasm during the English Civil War. Woodbridge, 2003
* C. Woodforde, ‘The fifteenth-century glass in Blythburgh church’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, 21, part 3, 1933, pp. 232 -23
And for iconoclasm and stained glass in particular:
* R. Marks, Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages, London & Toronto 1993: particularly Chapter 11.
The Stained Glass of A.W.N. Pugin by Stanley A. Shepherd.Photographs by Alastair Carew-Cox. Published by Spire Books Ltd, Price: £34.95 ISBN 978-1-904965-20-6
This significant book is the first to address in depth and scholarly fashion the groundbreaking work in the field of stained glass of the greatest English Gothic Revivalist of them all – Augustus Welby Pugin. Although over a period of time Stanley Shepherd has written some articles on various aspects of this theme, particularly in Pugin: a Gothic Passion (the publication accompanying the V&A’s 1994 Pugin exhibition) , an extended work such as this was overdue. As long ago as 1980 Martin Harrison, in his Victorian Stained Glass, commented: ‘Of Pugin’s own designs for stained glass it is impossible to speak too highly. A comparison of his work and that of almost any of his contemporaries in the late 1840s will show the full measure of Pugin’superiority’. Now Dr Shepherd, with the help of the fine photographs of Alastair Carew-Cox, has made it possible for us to consider far more widely the extraordinary achievements of Pugin as a pioneering stained glass designer and dedicated and informed reviver of ‘the true thing’, as he called the stained glass of the Middle Ages. [Fig.1.]
As Stanley Shepherd points out, there was already in the early nineteenth century a growing interest in medieval glass, and indeed antiquarian studies of all sorts were developing at this time. It was becoming the fashion from the late eighteenth century onwards for connoisseurs and antiquarians, such as Horace Walpole, to collect historic glass, and there was a need, too, for artists who would be capable of setting such panels, roundels, or fragments into appropriately designed surrounds. Nor was Pugin entirely alone in recreating medieval glass in Britain. The firm of Betton & Evans, for example, had already made an entirely new replica window in Winchester College chapel in 1821, replacing fourteenth-century glass, and Thomas Willement (1786-1871) had been creating (mainly) heraldic glass for some time. It was Pugin, however, who soon emerged as a leader in the field, particularly after the fine windows he designed for Oscott College Chapel in 1837 (made by William Warrington [1796-1869]). He continued to advance to pre-eminence throughout his short but intensive career as a stained glass designer. [Fig.2.]
He was assisted by his ever-increasing understanding of the medieval idiom and fired always by his zeal, particularly because of his conversion to Catholicism in 1835, for reviving the arts of pre-Reformation England and Europe. For Pugin, who had been designing glass in the medieval style from the time when he built his first house, St Marie’s Grange, near Salisbury in 1835, the nadir of glass painting and design was exemplified by the late eighteenth-century west window at New College, Oxford designed by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In this sort of glass the pictorial scene often extended across the window, and there was very little reference to composing two-dimensionally, or within the shapes formed by the mullions and tracery. It was against this style that Pugin was reacting, and with such authority.
There are nine chapters in this book, in addition to a comprehensive gazetteer. The chapters cover, amongst other aspects, an account of the various glassmakers Pugin used, his untiring efforts to seek out, often through visits to the great Gothic cathedrals of France, the right references and ‘authorities’ as he called them, for his work, and his approach to, and problems with, the different styles of glass design in the Middle Ages, that is, Early, Decorated and Late. [Fig. 3.]
His ongoing and intensive quest for the most authentic-looking colour and consistency of glass needed for revived medieval work, a search assisted latterly by experiments undertaken by James Hartley (1810-1886) of the Wear Glass Works, Sunderland, his relationships with clients, and his attitude to subject matter, both for domestic and church glass, are also covered. The account of the working procedures that evolved between Pugin and the Hardman manufactory is particularly interesting, giving many insights into the day-to-day difficulties that had to be overcome. Pugin’s assistants, each with their particular skills, are described, three of the most significant being John Hardman Powell (1827-95), who became chief designer for the firm after his master’s death, the stained glass artist Francis Oliphant (1818-59), who made cartoons for Pugin, and Thomas Early (1819-93, sometimes spelt Earley), painter, decorator, and itinerant window fixer for the firm, who occasionally helped out also with cartoons. The last chapter, ‘After Pugin’, describes how the Hardman firm fared after this seminal designer’s death, and gives some analysis of the work of John Hardman Powell and his artistic development. The Hardman firm, it should be noted, is still in existence in Birmingham today. [Figs.4 and 5]
The gazetteer is perhaps the largest part of the book. Although it covers Pugin’s windows from his earliest designs onwards, made for him by Thomas Willement, William Warrington and William Wailes (1808-1881), it is the entries for work from 1845 onwards which probably receive the fullest attention. Since 1838 Pugin had been designing ecclesiastical metalwork, made by the John Hardman firm, but in 1845 he started to work closely on stained glass with this good friend and colleague, whom he had by now persuaded into starting a manufactory for this purpose. Pugin, from his home The Grange in Ramsgate, made the designs for the windows, and supervised, very closely, the drawing of the cartoons there. This gave him a good measure of control over the work. These were then sent to the Hardman workshop in Birmingham, where further assistants were responsible for painting, leading and putting together the windows and then sending them out to their final destinations. The gazetteer contains detailed descriptions of individual windows. Each entry is followed by sections headed: ‘Office records’ and ‘Letters’. This means that every window is very thoroughly documented, and the Hardman firm’s First Glass Day Book, all part of the remarkable Hardman Archive in Birmingham Central Reference Library, is closely examined. The ‘Letters’ section also draws particularly on the same source, a rich, if labyrinthine, seam to mine. Stanley Shepherd has given readers a treat by transcribing here so many of the revealing and characterful letters which Pugin wrote to John Hardman. They throw much light on how he thought and how much he expected of others. His worries about the need to maintain the highest possible artistic standards, his trenchant comments and often, it must be said, his criticisms of Powell and others of his assistants, and not least his straight-spoken remarks concerning money and business matters, are all illustrated here. Problems with difficult clients, alterations, complaints about windows not being installed on time, the pressure of the mighty, though profitable, glass workload at the Houses of Parliament – all these points, so conducive to harassing even further a man already always in overdrive – are revealed.
As Mrs Oliphant, widow of the unfortunately short-lived Francis, mentioned above, later wrote of Pugin, in 1861: ‘It would be a hard heart which could refuse a throb of sympathy and admiration for this heavily-burdened, hard working, indomitable soul’. It certainly would, but further, what this book highlights in particular is Pugin’s continued readiness to always learn and develop, bringing not only himself but the firm of Hardman’s to the forefront, and his unswerving commitment to his art, whatever the cost. The magnificent results of his industry and vision can be seen and studied here, in Stanley Shepherd’s invaluable and meticulously researched account, for which all those who admire and study Pugin will be grateful, and with which both he and Spire Books have every reason to be well pleased.
Die Elisabethkirche in Marburg by Daniel Parello. Meisterwerke der Glasmalerei 4, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi [Freiburg], Schnell & Steiner, 2009. Softback, German text only, 27.8 x 16.2 x 0.8 cm, 80 pages, 86 colour illustrations, 12 b/w, Euros 12.90.
This is the latest (and fourth) volume in the excellent Masterworks of Glass Painting series produced by the Corpus Vitrearum in Freiburg. As with the earlier publications it is beautifully produced, lavishly illustrated and crisply written. Although largely drawn from the Marburg section of the author’s recently published catalogue of medieval stained glass in central Hesse – which was reviewed and discussed in Vidimus 27, March 2009 – Daniel Parello nonetheless succeeds brilliantly in using this smaller format to explain the glass in this famous church to a wider audience. An introductory history of the church is followed by descriptions of each window, including makers and comparative examples elsewhere. Footnotes and a bibliography complete what is a satisfactory blend of the popular and the scholarly.
An important theme of the book is the political context and propagandising functions of the early glass, none more so than with sII, a window with two lancets made between 1245 and 1250 depicting the Life and Good Works of Marburg’s greatest saint, St Elizabeth of Hungary. [Fig .1] For non-German readers, a brief summary of the main arguments might be helpful.
Born in 1207, Elizabeth was a daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary. When she was fourteen she married Ludwig IV, the Landgrave (roughly equivalent to a Duke) of Thuringia. She soon acquired a reputation for piety. When her husband died at the Italian port of Otranto in 1227, en route to Palestine as part of the sixth Crusade, Elizabeth renounced her position at court and flung herself into a life of poverty working among the poor and sick. Within a short time she had become the medieval equivalent of a ‘Peoples’ princess’ whose exemplary life was being contrasted to the avarice of the ruling elite. After her death in 1231 miracles were reported occurring at her graveside. Anxious to prevent her being adopted as a figure-head by their critics, the aristocrats who had rejected her in life appropriated her memory in death. Led by her brother-in-law, the Landgrave Konrad of Thuringia (1206–1240), and the Teutonic Knights of which he was a member, a vigorous campaign for her canonisation saw her confirmed as a saint by Pope Gregory XI only four years after her death.
The same year the foundation stones for a shrine church were laid with the Holy Roman Emperor, Fredrick II, attending the ceremony.
Although the windows in the north transept formed part of the shrine area of the church, no opportunities were missed to identify the saint with the Landgraves and the Teutonic order who were claiming her as their ‘own’. The tomb itself was decorated with a sculptured relief showing the body of St Elizabeth being adored by assorted saints and, in the centre, Christ and Konrad of Thuringia wearing the cloak of a Teutonic knight while the right-hand lancet of sII also promoted his family and the Order of which he was the Grand Master. [Fig.2]
The lowest, light in this lancet showed a now lost scene of Elizabeth’s husband deciding to join the crusade to the Holy Land. Thereafter, the scenes are intact and depict Elizabeth and Ludwig saying farewell to one another; two riders bringing news of his death, Elizabeth embracing a life of poverty, Elizabeth giving her money to the poor and finally, Elizabeth on her death bed and nimbed as a saint. [Fig.3]
These narrative scenes were set opposite six others in the left hand lancet which show a nimbed Elizabeth performing various Acts of Mercy, precepts of Christian love which finally elevate her to sanctity alongside St Francis and the blessings of the Virgin Mary.[Fig. 4]
Wolfgang Kemp, the author of the influential study Narrative Windows in Gothic Stained Glass thought that this arrangement could have been inspired by typological models which paralleled events in the Old and New Testaments.
Two other significant points about the window are made by the author. The first is the immediate visual impact the glazing would have made on pilgrims pouring into the transept. The glass is extremely richly decorated and its cost literally shines through the ornate designs which surround the central scenes. A second feature is that its narrative pattern made it perfectly suited for a friar to explain the life and moral lessons of Elizabeth’s sanctity to visiting pilgrims. After having heard of her noble husband, her sorrow, and her determination to embrace Christian virtue they could see her rewarded in heaven by the Virgin Mary.
Initially, the church, its shrine and windows attracted thousands of pilgrims and then quite suddenly in the fourteenth century visitor numbers plummeted. Why? According to the author, just as the creation of her cult at Marburg was political, so too were the causes of its decline.
Seventy years after her death the priorities of the Langraves and the Order had changed. The immediate political imperative to claim Elizabeth’s sanctity and altruism for themselves had passed. Moreover, they had achieved the canonisation of their personal royal saint and her presence was articulated throughout the church both in the apse where the glazing exalted St Elizabeth alongside references to the military triumphs of the Teutonic friars and in the south transept which functioned as a mausoleum for the Landgraves. The Order also had other goals as it focused on its eastern territories, the Ordensstaat, where vast swathes of modern day Baltic eastern Europe, were under its rule.
St Elizabeth was not as important to them as once she was and so her shrine was no longer promoted in the same way, despite her continuing popularity elsewhere, especially in Germany, Italy and Spain.
One last point. As with other publications in the same series the book represents exceptionally good value. At about £10 in English money (cheaper if exchange rates were not so moody) it shows what could, and should, be achieved elsewhere.
Scripture for the Eyes: Bible Illustration in Netherlandish Prints of the Sixteenth Century by James Clifton and Walter S. Melion, Museum of Biblical Art, New York and D.Giles Ltd., London 2009. Exhibition catalogue. Hardback, 224 pages, 240 x 280mm (11 x 9 ½ in.), landscape, 66 colour and 70 b/w illustrations, price £45.00/US$65.00, hardback.
Sixteenth-century Netherlandish roundels form a distinctive group in the history of stained glass. Often based on designs produced by leading artists of the day, the panels are highly collectable, even if some scenes can be difficult to identify.
This book will be a worthwhile addition to the libraries of those interested in this distinctive genre. Published to accompany a two-venue exhibition in the USA of nearly 80 prints and engravings by artists such as Lucas van Leyden, Maarten van Heemskerck, Philips Galle, Hendrick Goltzius, and Hieronymus Wierix, it helps to explain why such designs multiplied in the sixteenth-century Low Countries (present day Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) and how they were seen and used by different audiences. The authors combine a thorough knowledge of the prints themselves with a deep empathy for the scriptures from which they are drawn. Particular emphasis is placed on the way that Biblical images provided, ‘ a clarifying lens through which the word of God was received, pondered and interpreted by sixteenth-century European readers and audiences’ at a time of intense religious upheavals (the Reformation) and political uncertainty (the struggle of the Dutch against Spanish rule).
The book follows the traditional format of scholarly exhibition catalogues; a major introductory essay, in this case by Walter S. Melion, individual catalogue entries, and an extensive bibliography. Production values are high and the illustrations are well reproduced, although it would have been better if all the exhibits had been shown, rather than a selection.
The story begins with the adoption of moveable type printing and the publishing of the first Bible in the Low Countries in 1477 (the Delft Bible). Within fifty years, Amsterdam (in the northern province of Holland) and Antwerp (in the southern province of Flanders) had emerged as major centres for the new technology. Between 1535 and 1543, for example, the latter’s printing district was the main international source for vernacular bible editions, not only in Dutch, but also in French, English, Danish, Italian and Spanish.
The availability of bibles encouraged a new culture of popular bible study. The first printed edition of the bible in Dutch in 1526 included fifty illustrations derived from woodcuts, some by the German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder. When other editions followed shortly afterwards they included designs by two Dutch artists well known to stained glass collectors, Jan Swart (listed by the authors as ‘of Gouda’ but as ‘Jan Swart van Groningen’ by Timothy Husband, see below) and Lucas van Leyden.
The translation of the bible into the vernacular was inseparable from the translation of the Bible into imagery and the pre-eminence of Netherlandish printing provided opportunities and context for Dutch illustrators to thrive and prosper. As the century proceeded, new markets arose for their work, including the sale of individual prints or sets of designs of biblical scenes, as well as the supply of designs bought, copied or imitated by for artists working in other fields, including stained glass. These included scriptural roundels for religious settings, such as abbey cloisters and ‘close-looking’ in the homes of the devout.
The illustrations were intended not just to illuminate texts but also to prompt readers to explore scriptural truths via the imagery. Some designs were intended for dual or multi- velant ‘reading’ with the same image offering an array of possible meanings depending upon context. The author suggests that the prints were often a ‘spiritual machina (apparatus) for readers to test the nature and potency of their scriptural understanding’.
Within the exhibition the prints/engravings are arranged under five thematic headings: ‘Sacred History and Geography’; ‘Visual Exegesis’; ‘Worship; ‘Morality’ and finally, ‘Politics and Polemics’.
Summarised briefly, the first category focused on the study of biblical events, places and chronology. It also includes engraved maps of the Holy Land produced so that viewers could immerse themselves in the landscapes and towns described in the Bible. ‘Visual Exegesis’ refers to the way that images complemented the systematic interpretation of scripture with reference to other authoritative sources. ‘Worship’ encompasses liturgical events and stimuli, such as scenes from the Passion of Christ and the Last Supper [representing the Eucharist] designed to aid viewers in their journey towards repentance and renewal, while ‘Morality’ embraces images such as the Works of Mercy which underlined how a good Christian should live. The final category – Politics and Polemics – propels readers from quiet study and personal contemplation into the often violent passions of sixteenth century religious and national fervour. Indeed as the century progressed, thousands of people looked to scripture for answers to the flux and turmoil of their lives.
Two subjects often depicted in stained glass roundels of the period illustrate the point. The story of the prodigal son, a boy who is welcomed home by his loving father despite wasting his inheritance, gambling and consorting with prostitutes, and being reduced to a lowly swineherd was a popular and uncontroversial morality subject. [Fig 1]
But as religious differences intensified, the same story was interpreted by Roman Catholics as a parable showing the institutional Church (the loving father) welcoming back penitent errant reformers whereas protestants may have identified the same loving father as God the Father welcoming back the corrupt but contrite Roman Church.
Again, stories of Solomon, the wise and just king could be used by both sides and none. An engraving by Hendrick Goltzius (1558 -1617) illustrates the tightrope artists walked. In an adaptation of the famous Old Testament story of the Judgement of Solomon, Goltzius substitutes the female disputants for figures representing the True and False church without indicating which is which.
Other examples could be expressly partisan. A set of prints designed by Philips Galle (1537 – 1612) depicting the Old Testament story of how Daniel exposed the false god, Bel, and survived an ordeal in the lion pit, included images of the evil priests tonsured, suggesting an anti-Roman Catholic slant
Although not about roundels, [see further reading below] this book nevertheless contributes to a wider understanding of the ideas and climate that influenced scriptural stained glass of the same period. It will make us use our eyes differently and encourage us to see deeper than we did before. It will certainly repay several readings.
For sixteenth-century roundels see:
* P.V. Maes, Leuvens Brandglas, Leuven, 1987 (Museum catalogue)
* T. B. Husband, Stained Glass before 1700 in American Collections: Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels, Corpus Vitrearum USA, Checklist Series, IV, Washington, 1991
* W. Cole, A Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain, Corpus Vitrearum Great Britain, Summary Catalogue 1, Oxford, 1993
* T. Husband, The Luminous Image: Painted Glass Roundels in the Lowlands, 1480 -1560, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995. C.
* J. Berserik and J. M. A. Caen, Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels before the French Revolution, Flanders, Vol. I: The Province of Antwerp, Turnhout, 2007
* K. Tiedermann, Gemalt auf Glas & Licht (Painted on Glass and Light), Dettelbach, 2009
Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Glass in Birmingham by Alastair Carew-Cox and William Waters, Abbots Morton, 2009. Softback, 6.75 inches x 8.25 inches, 31 pages, 46 colour illustrations including 10 full-page plates, price £7 including p+p, from a_careewcox [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk
This is a revised edition of a booklet originally published in 1998 by the governors of King Edward IV School, Birmingham, on the centenary of their former pupil’s death. It will be enjoyed by anyone interested in Burne-Jones’ contribution to stained glass and hopefully presages a fuller study of this influential artist by the authors. [Fig. 1]
The text by William Waters summarises Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833 -1898) formative life. He was born in Birmingham in 1833. His father had a small frame-making business while his mother died soon after his birth. After excelling at school, he entered Oxford University where he met William Morris (1834 -1896). The two men had much in common. Both were tempted to become Anglican priests. Both shared an enthusiasm for the writings of John Ruskin, and the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists who used allegory and symbolism to offer insights into the nature of God. Neither found Oxford rewarding.
In 1855 Burne-Jones abandoned his studies and joined the studio of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 -1882), one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite movement (along with Holman Hunt & John Everett Millais), a group of artists so-named after their rejection of the ‘mannerist’ style of painting which had been adopted by European painters post-Raphael (c.1483 -1520).
When William Morris also decided to pursue a career as an artist, initially as an architect, the two friends were reunited in London and in 1861 Burne-Jones became a founding partner in Morris & Co, acting as the firm’s most prolific designer and, after 1875, its sole contributor of stained glass designs, some of which continued to be reproduced and adapted after his death.
This book concentrates on Burne-Jones’ designs in Birmingham, a Victorian city brimming with wealth, vibrancy and confidence. Four sites are discussed and illustrated: St Martin in the Bull Ring; St Mary the Virgin, Acocks Green; St Margaret’s, Ward End; and the cathedral church of St Philip in the heart of the city. They include examples of some of his most popular works including ‘The Good Shepherd’, (originally designed for St Martin’s Brampton, Cumbria in 1880), and ‘Charity’, (originally designed for Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, in 1870). The best of the four schemes can be seen in the cathedral church where the influence of medieval, particularly Romanesque, illuminated manuscripts on Burne-Jones artistic output is especially pronounced.
Although short, the book – and its stunning photographs – whet the appetite for more. For this reader, it cannot come soon enough. In the meantime good examples of Burne-Jones’ other work can be seen at: All Saints, Cambridge; Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge; Peterhouse College, Cambridge; St Ladoca, Ladock (Cornwall); St Martin’s Brampton, (Cumbria); Ponsonby parish church (Cumbria); St James, Staveley (Cumbria); St Helen, Darley Dale (Derbyshire); All Saints, Youlgreave (Derbyshire); All Saints, Culmstock (Devon); St John the Evangelist, Torquay (Devon); Waltham Holy Cross, Waltham Abbey (Essex); All Saints, Selsley (Gloucestershire); St Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst (Hampshire); St Leonard, Ribbesford (Worcestershire); All Saints, Wilden (Worcestershire); St Mary, Furneux Pelham (Hertfordshire); St Etheldreda, Hatfield (Hertfordshire); St Michael, Waterford (Hertfordshire); St Helen’s, Welton, (Humberside); All Saints, Langton Green (Kent); St Mary, Speldhurst (Kent); St Cuthbert’s , Lytham (Leices); All Saints, sheepy (Leics); Holy Trinity, Chelsea (London) Christ church, Enfield (Greater London); Victoria & Albert Museum (London); St Stephen, Rochester Row, Westminster (London); Albion Congregational church, Ashton-under-Lyne (Manchester); St John the Divine, Frankby (Merseyside); St John the Baptist, True Brook (Liverpool); Norwich cathedral (Norfolk); St Mary and All Saints, Sculthorpe (Norfolk); All Saints, Middleton Cheney (Northants); St Mary, Bloxham (Oxon); St Mary, Buscot (Oxon); St Michael, Eaton Hastings (Oxon); Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (includes pre: Morris & Co design); Harris Manchester College, Oxford; St Edmund Hall, Oxford; Holy Trinity, Calverhall, (Shropshire); Holy Trinity, Meole Brace (Shropshire); St Editha, Amington (Staffordshire); All Saints, Madeley (Staffordshire); St Editha, Tamworth (Staffordshire); St Margaret, Hopton (Suffolk); St Bartholomew, Haslemere (Surrey); St Michael and All Angels, Brighton (East Sussex); St Margaret, Rottingdean (East Sussex); St Mary the Virgin, Rye (East Sussex); Marlborough College chapel, Marlborough (Wiltshire); St Mary, Sopworth (Wiltshire); Cartwright Hall (art gallery), Bradford (West Yorkshire); St Martin’s, Scarborough (North Yorkshire).
Aufbruch in die Gotik: Der Magdebburger Dom und die Späte Stauferzeit. Volume I Esssays and Volume II Katalog. Edited by Matthias Puhle. Magdeburg Museum, Verlag Philip von Zabern [Mainz], German text only, 2009. Volume I includes thirty seven articles about Magdeburg Cathedral and Gothic art and architecture. Volume II is a catalogue of the exhibits themselves. Volume I has 500 pages and 287 illustrations; Volume II has 624 pages with 493 illustrations. Hardback, 21 x 28 cm. Special price € 69.90 (until 31.01.2010), followed by 89.90 €. Copies are available from the Kulturhistorisches Museum website.
A short guide to the highlights of the exhibition is also available: 120 pages, 85 colour illustrations, available only from the museum, price € 4.90
After a century blighted by two world wars and the subsequent post-1945 division of Germany a large proportion of that country’s greatest medieval treasures remain relatively little known, even within its own frontiers. These beautifully illustrated scholarly catalogues – and the exhibition on which they are based – are a welcome part of a continuing process towards redressing that imbalance.
Thirteenth-century Magdeburg was one of the most important cities in Europe and the centre of a thriving artistic culture. The Essays volume includes an article by CVMA president Dr Brigitte Kurmnan-Schwarz on the relationship beteeen Gothic architecture and stained glass ( pp 150 – 165) and a contribution by Elisabeth Rüber-Schütte on wall paintings of the period which includes illustrations from Pretzien where a important scheme surrounds the windows [glass sadly lost]. The Stained Glass entries in the catalogue volume appear in a separate chapter (pp 125 -131) and feature exhibits from the Unser Lieben Frauen (Our Beloved Lady) Monastery in Magdeburg and the Market church in Goslar.
Both volumes discuss and describe numerous examples of sculpture, metalwork and illuminated manuscripts. Among the most interesting are the statue of the Egyptian saint, St Maurice (ca. 1250), depicted as a black man with African features holding a sword and wearing chainmail, and the earliest surviving copy of Eike von Repgow’s Sachsenspiegel, a compilation of thirteenth-century German customs and laws written in the vernacular by Eike von Repgow between 1220 and 1235. At the opposite extreme, the show also includes items of everyday use in thirteenth-century Magdeburg including pottery cooking pots and quite remarkably, an astonishingly well-preserved leather shoe.
The catalogues are extremely well produced and deserve a wide international audience. Hopefully at least some of the essays will be translated in English at some stage. No one interested in medieval German art would want to be without them.
Dr Paul Taylor of London’s Warburg Institute writes:
This is probably a scene from the book of Esther, one of the historical books of the Old Testament. Set in the third year of Ahasuerus, a king of Persia, it tells a story of palace intrigue and genocide thwarted by a Jewish queen of Persia.
The book begins with the story of a feast organized by Ahasuerus at which he commands his wife to display her beauty before the guests. When she refuses she is dismissed and Ahasuerus orders a beauty pageant to find her successor. His choice falls on the orphaned Esther who is being fostered by her cousin Mordechai. Shortly afterwards, Mordechai discovers a plot by two courtiers, Bigthan and Teresh, to assassinate Ahasuerus. They are apprehended and executed, and Mordechai’s service to the king is recorded.
Ahasuerus is always shown holding a sceptre – it’s an important attribute, since it finds its way into Immaculate Conception iconography. I suggest that this roundel is Esther XII: 5, Mordecai receiving gifts from Ahasuerus for uncovering the plot of the two eunuchs, Bagatha and Thara. The eunuchs in the background are being condemned by Ahasuerus; Esther herself appears in both scenes.
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