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Medieval Art and Architecture after the Middle Ages. Edited by Janet T. Marquardt and Alyce A. Jordan, Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Newcastle upon Tyne, 2009, hardback, 389 pages, £39.99
This book presents sixteen papers, given at conferences in 2004 and 2006, concerned with how people in different periods have understood, appropriated and reinvented medieval works of art relative to their own religious, political and aesthetic agendas. It is a subject of enduring interest and debate, well served by the eclectic mix of readable essays in this neatly designed volume. Contributions range from how a medieval psalter (book of psalms) might have resonated with the catholic Queen Mary I of England as she attempted to reverse the English protestant Reformation, to efforts by war-time Nazis to ‘prove’ Germany’s racial superiority by references to its medieval past.
For Vidimus readers the most appealing chapter is likely to be Alyce Jordan’s essay on the nineteenth-century restoration of the stained glass windows in the Sainte- Chapelle in Paris, one of the most beautiful and powerful statements of medieval kingship ever made.
Built by Louis IX between 1241 and 1245 to house the Crown of Thorns, the most sacred relic in Christendom, the upper storey of the chapel was lit by spectacular windows depicting the lives of exemplary Old Testament kings. In addition, one window seems to have been reserved for Louis’s own ‘Royal’ biography, his birth, coronation, victories, and finally, the acquisition of the relic which linked him and the Kings of France directly to the Kingdom of Heaven.[Fig.1]
As a symbol of monarchy, the chapel was inevitably targeted during the French revolution. From 1790 and 1792 it was stripped of its treasures and perhaps as many as a third of its windows damaged. In 1793 even its spire was taken down so that the royal emblems it displayed could be removed. Thereafter it suffered other forms of neglect. In 1803 approximately two metre’s worth of glass from the lower portions of the windows was removed to facilitate the chapel’s use as a judicial archive.
Serious restoration of the windows did not begin until 1848 (finished 1855) and was – at the time – trumpeted as representing the most well researched and accurate restoration ever undertaken. The author reveals, however, that the original theme of Louis’ ‘royal window’ was altered by restorers to make it less politically offensive to republicans and more acceptable to a group of catholics involved in the restoration, men known as ‘ultramontanes’, those who looked ‘beyond the mountains’ to Rome for spiritual leadership.
The original window had emphasised crowns, kings and royal prerogatives. The restored window added, in its lowest register, scenes based on the story of the Legend of the True Cross, a medieval tale of how St Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great had discovered the cross on which Christ had been crucified (see Notes). Other scenes were removed and rearranged in order to replace its pre-restoration focus on kings and royal authority with a new ‘politically correct’ emphasis on Louis’ acquisition of the relic and the body of Christ.
By such means the Royal window of medieval France has become the Relics window of world-wide fame – and misconceptions – today.
The book also includes contributors from several CVMA authors writing on non-glass topics and enough variety to make this reviewer look forward to further conferences and resultant publications along similar lines.
Anne Rudloff Stanton, ‘Queen Mary and her Psalter: A Gothic Manuscript in Tudor England’; Kerry Paul Boeye, ‘Re-Framing Saint-Denis for the Sun King: A Spectacular History’; Grażyna Jurkowlaniec, ‘Remnants of a Shared Past: Medieval Monumental Crucifixes after the Reformation’; Elizabeth Carson Pastan, ‘Montfaucon as Reader of the Bayeux Tapestry’; David Walsh, ‘An Image of Cluny by Emile Sagot’; Marian Bleeke, ‘George Petrie, the Ordnance Survey, and Nineteenth-Century Constructions of the Irish Past’; Mary B. Shepard, ‘L’Oeuf Sacré: Alexandre Lenoir’s Cour Arabe and the Pointed Arch’; Nancy M. Thompson, ‘Reviving “the past greatness of the Florentine people”: Restoring Medieval Florence in the Nineteenth Century’, Alyce A. Jordan, ‘Nineteenth-Century Restoration Politics: Recrafting Monarchy in the Stained Glass Windows of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris’; Meredith Cohen, ‘Branner’s “Court Style” and the Anxiety of Influence’; Andrea Worm, ‘The Study of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts in German Scholarship, ca. 1750–1850′ ; Donna L. Sadler, ‘The Persistence of the Royal Past on the West Façade of Reims Cathedral’; Kathryn Brush, ‘The Capitals from Moutiers-Saint-Jean (Harvard University Art Museums) and the Carving of Medieval Art Study in America after World War I’; Elizabeth Emery, ‘The Martyred Cathedral: American Attitudes toward Notre-Dame de Reims during the First World War’; Laura Morowitz, ‘The Cathedral of Commerce: French Gothic Architecture and Wanamaker’s Department Store’; William J. Diebold, ‘The Early Middle Ages in the Exhibition Deutsche Größe (1940–1942)’.
The Legend of the True or Holy Cross can be found on the Medieval Sourcebook website.
Glasgow Cathedral: The Stained Glass Windows by Iain Macnair, Johnstondesign, s/b, 106 pages, 105 colour illustrations, 2 diagrams, Glossary, 2009: £12.00 available from http://www.iainmacnair.com/
This is a welcome addition to the popular literature about stained glass in British cathedrals and Glasgow in particular.
A brief introduction to the glazing history of the cathedral is followed by short descriptions of every window, each accompanied by a colour plate (s). Diagrams showing the location of the windows and summary biographies of the main artists who worked at the cathedral complete a 106 page large format guide which is certain to be appreciated by visitors.
Glasgow cathedral is of great interest to stained glass enthusiasts for four reasons. The first is a Scottish piper’s lament for what has been lost. Like other Scottish medieval monuments, its pre-Reformation artefacts have almost entirely vanished All that remains of the church’s original glazing are a few thirteenth- and fourteenth-century fragments found during a nineteenth-century restoration campaign. Slight in themselves they serve as a powerful reminder that medieval Scotland was as colourful and catholic as the whole of western Christendom.
The second area of interest is the nineteenth-century glazing of the church. Apart from windows by artists such as Clayton & Bell, Ballantine & Allan, Pompeo Bertini and Thomas Willement, this mainly centres upon the so-called ‘Munich Controversy’ of 1857 when a decision to employ a German company to install sixty stained glass windows in the lower church provoked an outcry which still rumbles on today. All began with the best of intentions. A committee of the ‘great and good’ was formed to oversee the installation of a ‘harmonious’ scheme incorporating Old and New Testament parallels (typology). Advised by Charles Winston, the leading expert of the day, the committee chose the Royal Bavarian Stained Glass company in Munich to carry out the work, partly based on Winston’s opinion that the firm was producing stained glass superior to anything in Britain. In the event, it proved to be the equivalent of throwing gunpowder into a glass furnace.
The appointment of foreign artists provoked a nationalist backlash in Scotland with opponents of the choice attacking the decision as a ‘libel on British art’ and complaining that the dark colours of the Munich glass would ‘ruin’ the cathedral by plunging the building into ‘semi-darkness’.
Resentment, grievance and dissatisfaction with this glazing scheme continued to smoulder and in 1935 moves began to replace it – triggering the third and most recent period of interest in the glazing of the cathedral.
Most of Iain Macnair’s book is concerned with the glass installed in the past seventy years which he says now constitutes, ‘one of the finest collections of modern glass to be found anywhere in Britain’.
The role-call of artists is impressive, with windows by Douglas Strachan; John K. Clark; Harry Stammers; Gordon Webster; William Wilson; Francis Spear; Herbert Hendrie; Carl Edwards; Edward Liddal Armitage; Sadie McLellan/Pritchard; Marion Grant; and Christopher Webb. Their work can also be compared directly to that of the Munich painters as selected panels of the ‘Munich’ glass are currently exhibited in display cabinets in the lower church. [Fig.1]
The final part of the book illustrates some of the pre: 1700 continental glass imported into the church after the Second World War. This consists of twelve sixteenth-century Flemish roundels in windows of the south wall of the lower church and four panels of possibly German or Swiss work in the Blacader Aisle. They were donated by Dr and Mrs Nevile Davidson. Dr Davison was Minister of the Cathedral from 1935 to 1967 and a key figure in the creation of the Society of Friends of Glasgow Cathedral.
•Alford, S., ‘The stained glass of Sadie McLellan: reflections on modernism’, Journal of Stained Glass, 30 2006, pp. 151–162
•Cormack, P., ‘In praise of Douglas Strachan (1875–1950)’, Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, pp. 116–128
•Donnelly, M., Scotland’s Stained Glass: making the colours sing. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1997. See also: http://www.scotstainedglass.com/
•Driscoll, S.T., Excavations at Glasgow Cathedral 1988–1997, Society for Medieval Archaeology Monographs, 18, 2002.
•Fawcett, R., Medieval Art and Architecture in the Diocese of Glasgow. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions, 23, 1999
•Fawcett, R., Bambrough, M. (Ed.). Glasgow’s Great Glass Experiment: The Munich Glass of Glasgow Cathedral. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 2003.
•Moody, R. H. ,‘Images of Broken Light; William Wilson (1905–1972)’, Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, pp. 140–150.
•Moody, R.H., ‘200 Scottish stained glass artists’, Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, 164–189. This article includes additional biographical information about some of the artists who contributed windows to the cathedral.
•Rush, S., ‘The Königliche Glasmalereianstalt & the reglazing of Glasgow Cathedral’, in Richardson, Carol M.; Smith, Graham (ed.), Britannia, Italia, Germania: Taste & Travel in the Nineteenth Century, Conference papers, Edinburgh Visual Arts Research Institute Occasional papers, 1, Edinburgh: Visual Arts Research Institute, 2001, pp. 91–97
•Rush, S.,’”John Knox would have kicked this out of the window”: Edinburgh and the Early Stained Glass Revival’. Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, pp. 80–100.
De kunstglasramen in de Sint-Gummaruskerk van Lier, by Karel Geenen and Bert Mattijs, Hardback, 27×23 cm, 124 pp, diagram, 150 colour illustrations, Gilde Heren van Lier, 2009 Dutch text with brief summaries in English and French, Price 35 Euros.
This is an extremely attractive book about the impressive stained glass windows in the church of Saint Gummarus in the Belgian city of Lier, twenty kilometres from Antwerp. It includes a diagram of the windows, an introduction by Madeleine Manderyck, the President of the Flemish Committee of the Belgian Corpus Vitrearum , a brief history of the church and then plenty of meat for Vidimus readers, a hundred-page informative guide to the glass. Organised by period (medieval; renaissance; nineteenth century; modern), each of four sections) is lavishly illustrated with extremely well reproduced photographs. Two-page summaries in English and French add to the book’s rounded appeal as does a complete bibliography.
Rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the church contains important examples of late medieval and renaissance glazing, notwithstanding protestant iconoclasm, neglect and shell fire during World War I which saw the south-east side of the church struck by German mortars and the immediate loss of several windows. Fortunately better precautions were taken in the run-up to 1939 when the glass was removed and stored in shelters. Had the windows remained in situ they would have certainly been destroyed. An inventory compiled after the war showed that 300 ‘empty’ window panels had been hit.
Today six gothic and nine renaissance windows take pride of place. Among the former is a beautiful depiction of The Coronation of the Virgin which shows the influence of Flemish artists like Dirk Bouts and Rogier van der Weyden on local glass painters of the period. [Fig 1] Other windows of a similar date show St Barbara, St Lambert, St Michael and elsewhere donors being presented to a three light scene of St Catherine and the Virgin Mary flanking the Crucifixion. Yet another window also features full-length figures of saints, including St Gummarus (an eighth century knight and hermit who founded the abbey at Lier) who is shown wearing the cross of the Canons of Lier. [Fig.2] Together they form the finest collection of fifteenth-century glass in Belgium. More famous are the renaissance ‘Royal windows’, a gift to the city from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and his grandson – Charles V. They are dated 1516 and portray the emperor and his family centre-stage accompanied by their patron saints. One particularly interesting feature of the window is the inclusion of Mary of Burgundy who had died 34 years earlier; serving both to remind audiences of Hapsburg dynastic authority and to importune prayers on her behalf.
Both sets of windows were restored in the nineteenth century by the glass-painter Jean Baptiste-Capronnier (1814–1891) and relocated to their present positions by the gothic revivalist architect, Jean-Baptiste Bethune (1821–1894), the so-called ‘Pugin of Belgium’.
The church also contains 30 later windows from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The former includes work by Capronnier; the latter, a window by Michel Martens.
For more information see De kunstglasramen in de Sint-Gummaruskerk van Lier website.
Leuchtende Beispiele. Zeichnungen für Glasgemälde aus Renaissance und Manierismus by Ariane Mensger. 172 pp with 138 colour and 39 b / w illustrations, Size 24.5 x 30.5 cm. Softback cover, German-text only, Price: €38.00.
This is the catalogue to an exhibition of the same name currently on show at the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe.
It consists of an excellent overview introductory essay by Ariane Mensger discussing how drawings were made and copied, how the panels were shown and why, some descriptions of the glass painters themselves followed by a very thorough catalogue of the exhibits divided by initially by date and thereafter by area and the principal artists working within them. Most of the designs are after 1550. A sixth section discusses the different types of clients who commissioned the glass and the designs they sought while the final part discusses models and examples. One tip to readers is to have a magnifying glass close to hand. Although the designs and drawings are well reproduced, only a magnifying glass can bring out the stunning quality of the detail they contain. Brief biographies of the key artists and a sensible bibliography complete a very attractive volume which will be of great interest to collectors and curators across the world.
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