This month’s double feature bill looks at sixteenth-century Renaissance glass in France and Switzerland – great works of art produced around the same time but in very different styles and circumstances.
The French glass was made for churches in Chartres, best known for its famous cathedral, and glows with religious imagery intended for public audiences. The Swiss glass by contrast was smaller, often secular, more ornate and made for domestic settings.
Both articles are full of fascinating information about painters and techniques, guild rules and the ravages of belief, war and plague. We are delighted to publish them.
Rescued Renaissance Glass: Superb Exhibition at the Centre International du Vitrail in Chartres
Before the French Revolution, the French city of Chartres boasted not only superb twelfth-, thirteenth- and fourteenth-century glass in the cathedral of Notre-Dame and in the former Benedictine abbey church of Saint-Père respectively, but also a rich legacy of late fifteenth-century and Renaissance glass.
However, with the exception of a surviving in situ window in the cathedral chapel of Saint-Piat, and others in the comital church of Saint-Aignan, most of this later glass was lost when dozens of the city’s parish churches were demolished or vandalised during the anti-clerical excesses of the Revolution and its aftermath.
Fortunately a few panels from these destroyed churches were rescued at the time and can now be seen in a superb long-term exhibition in the Centre International du Vitrail just a few minutes walk from the cathedral. They mainly date from the sixteenth century but also include a few instances of slightly earlier or later work. Photographs of the glass in the chapel of Saint-Piat, and from the church of Saint-Aignan, complement the exhibits. [Fig. 1]
The exhibition triumphs on many levels.
First, it sheds light on the town life of the city in the late Middle Ages when forty churches and chapels were crammed inside its walls. Although it has proved impossible to say from which of the now destroyed churches the rescued glass came, the inclusion of donor images in some of the panels points to a thriving commitment by local residents to beautify their parish churches in exchange for communal prayers. [Fig. 2]
Wealthy patronage was responsible for a second feature of the glass – the exceptional quality of the finest pieces in the exhibition. Almost every type of expensive technique can be seen in the eye-level display boxes which make its presentation so enjoyable.
These include ‘jewelling’, abrading, different types of silver-staining, including staining on blue glass to produce tones of green, the delicate use of reddish sanguine for flesh tints and various virtuoso painting techniques. [Fig. 3, 4 and 5]
Although not as showy as the best of the Renaissance panels in the exhibition, some of the c.1500 pieces also display skilful techniques. The inclusion of some seventeenth-century enamel painted panels provides opportunities for contrasting and comparing the way in which artists working in different periods depicted similar objects and subjects.
Among ten panels from an estimated twenty-panel window of 1530–1539 depicting scenes from the Legend of St Claude the Thaumaturge (c.AD 607–699) is a scene of the saint’s coronation as bishop of Besançon in eastern France. It includes several instances of ‘jewelling’, the insertion of small pieces of coloured glass into a larger panel. Examples can be seen in the mitres worn by two of the figures, as cloak fasteners and as rings. Reputedly from the church of St Hilaire (until its demolition during the Revolution, a small church near St Père), the legend of St Claude revolves around his election as bishop after the death of his predecessor, St Gervais, in AD 685. With town and clergy divided over the choice, a stalemate seemed inevitable until an angel appeared and told them to stop troubling themselves as God had chosen Claude. Parts of the inscription survives:
L’ANGE LEUR DEXIT: NE VOUS TROUBLEZ […] DIEU […..] (CL) AUDE EURE
A number of windows in the exhibition include excellent examples of abrading techniques, mainly on ruby red, but also on blue. Sometimes the ruby glass has been ground or scratched away to reveal the white sub-strata below; on other occasions, the white has been silver-stained to a yellow.
A good example of ruby abrading with yellow stain can be seen in the coat worn by the archangel Gabriel in part of an Annunciation, dated 1500–1510. [Fig. 4]
Staining can be seen in most of the pre-1600 panels. Yellow-staining on blue to create ‘green’ leaves is just one of the pleasures of an outstanding Tree of Jesse of c.1540 which also employs staining to highlight the crowns and sceptres of the kings who cling to the Tree. A panel of c.1480 showing St Bernard of Clairvaux holding a chain which would have been attached to a demon if the remainder of the scene had survived, relies heavily on yellow stain to enliven an otherwise sternly monochrome composition. [Figs. 5 and 6]
The use of pink to red-brown sanguine paint can be seen in probably the most complete Renaissance panel in the exhibition, a c.1540 painting of the Circumcision of Christ from a cartoon attributed to the Parisian glass-painter, Jean Cousin. In the nineteenth century, some writers called this pigment ‘Jean Cousin Red’ because of this artist’s fondness for this ‘carnation’ colour (see Further Reading).
It can be seen to good effect in the thick lips of two women watching the Circumcision ceremony. [Fig. 7]
Stickwork can be appreciated in the highlighting of hair in some of the apostles shown in a c.1500 cycle of panels depicting the Death of the Virgin. [Fig. 8] Excellent painterly skills can be seen in several different impressions of fur. They can be found in the sleeve of a cleric in the St Claude window while a king attached to the Tree of Jesse scheme appears to have an arm band made of lion mane. [Figs. 9 and 10]
The Renaissance paintings in the exhibition and elsewhere in the city show the influence of contemporary architectural designs and motifs. These also include the painting of portrait-like faces and the creation of panel-type paintings in whole windows. [Figs. 11 and 12]
Another interesting feature of the exhibition is the iconography of some of the panels.
These include five from a series depicting Le Pressoir Mystique, an allegory equating wine with the blood of Christ. The first scene depicts Old Testament patriarchs planting vines, followed by the prophets tending the vineplant, and another showing the apostles harvesting the vines. A fourth shows St Peter, symbolizing the Pope and the Church, carrying the grapes into a press where it will be made into wine. The Four Evangelists then store it, symbolizing its everlasting power.
Although dated to around 1540 the imagery of the Tree of Jesse scheme with the kings gripping branches can be compared to the c. 1522–24 example at the church of Saint-Etienne in Beauvais where the kings sit on lily leaves (not illustrated in the exhibition). [Fig. 13]
Some of the panels in the exhibition have been attributed to well known Renaissance glass-painters. The most outstanding of these is Jean Cousin who often painted two fingers of a hand held closely together as if glued. Good examples can be seen in both the Tree of Jesse scheme and in the Circumcision of Christ window. Similarities between the priest in the Circumcision panel and a sculpture of a priest presenting the Christ Child in bay 13 of the cathedral choir screen (begun in 1514 by Jean de Beauce), have prompted suggestions that the sculptors may have had access to Cousin’s cartoons. [Figs. 14 and 15]
Other painters whose work can be seen in the exhibition include Pierre Courtois to whom a window depicting the Dormition of the Virgin (c.1465–90) in the church of Saint-Aignan has been attributed and Jean Jouan who made St Michael Defeating the Rebel Angels for the same church in 1547 (see Figs. 12 and 16).
The Chapel of Saint-Piat
Although only appearing as a photograph in the exhibition, visitors to Chartres before 9 October, will be able to see this window in situ during an exhibition of the work of the South Korean artist, Kim En Joong in the chapel. Dating to c.1510 the window shows a donor kneeling before the Virgin and Child. [Fig. 17]
This is a superbly curated and presented exhibition. French texts describing the glass are by Françoise Gatouillat and Guy-Michel Leproux with iconographical additions from Félicité Schuler-Lagier. English-speaking guides are available. The exhibition was designed by the Centre de Vitrail’s senior conservator, Jean-Marie Braguy. A well-produced catalogue, Les vitraux de la Renaissance à Chartres by Francoise Gatouillat and Guy-Michel Leproux, is available. It has 196 pages, a huge number of colour photograohs and costs 38 euros. Postage is extra. [Figs. 18 and 19]
Apart from staging the exhibition, the Centre International du Vitrail is also showing a collection of twelfth- and thirteenth-century glass, including a twelfth-century panel of the Ascension of Christ which may have come from the cathedral. Other outstanding features of the Centre are a gallery with reproductions of all the Chartres Cathedral narrative windows and rooms showing how stained-glass windows are made. The Centre also specialises in the conservation of early glass and runs training courses in the art of stained glass. The Director is Dr Jean-Francois Lagier.
For details of the exhibition and other activities of the Centre see the Centre International du Vitrail
The church of Saint-Aignan is within walking distance of the cathedral and is normally open. The Cathedral chapel of Saint-Piat can be visited free of charge until 9 October 2010.
Figs 1–18 are © YM Pictures.
- O. Schalm; K. Janssens; F. Adams ; J. Albert; K. Peeters; J. Caen, ‘A Chemical and Historical Study of the Glass Paint – Jean Cousin Red’. in Dossier de la Commission Royale des Monuments , Sites et Fouilles, 3, Forum pour la Conservation et la Restauration des Vitraux , Liège, 1996
Superb Swiss glass Painting in Schaffhausen
In the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries the northern Swiss city and canton of Schaffhausen was one of the major centres of glass painting in Europe.
More than fifty resident artists produced huge numbers of windows, not only for churches, but also for town halls and government offices, private homes and workplaces.
Although none of these windows survive in their original locations, an important new book by Rolf Hasler, one of the world’s leading experts on Swiss Renaissance glass painting, catalogues the 194 panels in private and public collections of the canton Schaffhausen made between 1500 and 1800. Rolf is one of the authors of the Swiss Corpus Vitrearum based at the Vitro-centre in Romont. Last month Vidimus spoke to him about his lavishly illustrated new book and the artists who made the windows. He said:
Schaffhausen is a border city on the river Rhine in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. During the sixteenth century it became extremely prosperous as a commercial trading centre and many of its leading citizens commissioned glass painters to produce what are often called ‘donor windows’.
Typical panels included figures such as halberdiers, ‘wildmen’ or allegorical figures framing coats of arms, with smaller scenes painted in the upper corners. Names and dates were often recorded. Some scenes included religious imagery. Wealthy people gave such panels as presents to friends, family and business associates, most often on the occasion of the construction or renovation of their houses. Heraldic panels were also installed to enhance public buildings, such as Town Halls.
The Protestant Reformation also spawned many panels. Before the Reformation glass painters had made many windows for churches. To make up for this lost work and to encourage a sense of local and political/religious identity, the Schaffhausen city council gave windows with armorial inserts to more than five hundred individuals and institutions when they moved into new homes and premises. This was a delicate issue in Schaffhausen as the canton was almost totally encircled by Catholic states, with which it shared jurisdiction in some areas. Elsewhere in Switzerland inter-canton religious clashes between Catholics and Protestants erupted into open warfare with one of the leading lights of the Reformation, the priest Huldrych Zwingli (b. 1484), dying at the battle of Kappel in 1531. [Fig. 1]
Such communal commissions helped to sustain a thriving network of glass-painters and glaziers in the city and surrounding areas. Between 1500 and 1700 more than fifty – mainly native – glass-painters were active in Schaffhausen alone. Although only a few of the panels they produced are formally documented by signatures or other sources, it is still possible to identify some of the work of these artists. The panels were copied/traced from pen and ink designs. Many were extremely elaborate and full of tiny details. After 1550 most painters worked in enamels. Occasionally they added their monograms.
The first important master was Lienhard Brun († 1538). His commissions included a window of c.1529 for the Bendictine monastery of Allerheiligen (All Saints) in the centre of Schaffhausen, which had been secularized at this time. [Fig. 2]
After Brun died, Hieronymus Lang (c.1520–1582) became the leading glass-painter in the city. Admired both as a designer as well as a painter he rapidly built up a large clientele in Southern Germany (especially in Swabia and the Upper Rhine region) and helped to cement the reputation of Schaffhausen as a major centre for glass painters. [Fig. 3]
Among those who set up a workshop in the city around this time was Tobias Stimmer (1539–1584), a versatile artist who painted on wood and plaster – as well as glass. Although much-restored, the design of one of his wall painting schemes made between 1568–70 can still be seen on the facade of the ‘Haus Zum Ritter’ in the city. (Fragments of the original can be seen in the Museum zu Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen –Ed).
Although he had never formally trained as a glass-painter Stimmer seems to have produced a number of panels (see Fig. 1) before finally, in 1568, Lang, together with Felix Lindtmayer (1523/24–1574) and other glass-painters in the city, asked the council to stop him from undertaking any further glass-painting work. Although their pleas were unsuccessful, Stimmer nonetheless left Schaffhausen shortly afterwards and settled in Strassburg (French, Strasbourg – Ed) in 1570.
In the old Swiss Confederation the overlapping of the glass-painting and panel-painting professions was widespread. Whereas a town such as Basel tried to prevent this happening, it was officially sanctioned in Schaffhausen. According to regulations put into force by the council on 9 February 1588, glass-painters were allowed to work as painters, and painters were allowed to paint on glass and to do glazing. Furthermore, glaziers were able to engage glass-painters; in other words glaziers’ workshops could also produce stained-glass panels. The regulations of 1588 are preserved in the cantonal archives of Schaffhausen, as are the lists of the names of the master glass painters, glaziers and painters (1588–1827) and of their apprentices (1588–1653) and the minutes of their official meetings (1610–1672). These documents afford a fascinating insight into the organisation and evolution of these three professions.
Having seen off Stimmer, local glass-painters flourished. Artists such as Daniel Lang (1543–after 1602), Daniel Lindtmayer the Younger (1552–1603), Werner Kübler the Elder (1555–c.1587) and Marx Grimm (1556–1609) continued to produce outstanding work. The best of these painters was Daniel Lindtmayer whose designs were highly sought after thoughout the whole upper Rhine region. But at the peak of his powers something happened. For reasons we do not understand he suddenly stopped painting on glass in 1577 and never took up his brush again. His decision remains an inexplicable mystery. [Fig. 4]
Stained glass painting reached its zenith in Schaffhausen around 1600, when at least 15 master glass-painters were living and working in the city: an astonishing number. The best known were Hans Caspar Lang (1571–1645) who served as burgomaster of Schaffhausen from 1642 until his death 1645, and Werner Kübler the Younger (1582–1621).
Although their richly painted and ornamented panels were produced in massive quantities only a few of their panels equalled the artistic quality of their predecessors. Then disaster struck. In 1611 and again in 1629 Schaffhausen was devastated by outbursts of plague. Inevitably some glass-painters were among the 3,000-plus victims of these terrible epidemics which caused havoc in the city. By 1630 only three painters lived in the town, namely Hans Caspar Lang, father and son, and Hans Martin Spleiss (1592–1671) and their numbers would never rise significantly again.
A combination of disease followed by a political constitutional crisis in 1688/89 which saw the power of the government curtailed and fewer windows commissioned, together with the impact of changing tastes and fashions, saw a sharp fall in the demand for stained-glass panels as the century drew to a close. As a result no more than four master glass-painters worked in the town between 1650 and 1712. Of these, Hans Heinrich Ammann (1637–after 1692) was the most eminent while his brother Christoph (1646–1712) was the last before the country was invaded and conquered by revolutionary France in 1798. [Fig. 5]
The situation in the nearby town of Stein am Rhein, 12 miles up-river from Schaffhausen, deserves mention, as it too had some glass-painters in the sixteenth century. Despite its proxinity to Schaffhausen, at that time it was actually under the control of Zürich and did not become affiliated to Schaffhausen until 1803. As a result the local workshops were dominated by ‘foreign masters‘ mainly from Zürich, rather than from Schaffhausen. These ‘foreigners‘ included Carl von Egeri (c. 1510/15–1562) and the brothers Christoph (1558–1614) and Josias (1564–1630) Murer, two of the best painters of their generation. Local painters such as Andreas Schmucker (1575–1650) had little chance against such competitors, as when the Murer brothers won the commission to produce a large cycle of heraldic glass panels for the church in Stein am Rhein in 1600. Against such a background and the wider factors I mentioned earlier, perhaps it is not surprising that Andreas began to work as schoolmaster in the town from 1620 onwards and from then on was rarely active as glass painter.
Although Stein am Rhein was never as important a place for stained glass as Schaffhausen, a heraldic cycle of panels made for its town hall around 1542–43 by the Zürich workshop of Carl von Egeri, are among the most famous survivals of old Swiss glass painting. [Fig. 6]
Today both the panels themselves and the designs from which they were drawn are highly-sought after collectors’ items across the world.
Finally we asked Rolf to name his favourite artists.
Hieronymus Lang and Daniel Lindtmayer were both outstanding, but Lienhard Brun has my casting vote!
* Die Schaffhauser Glasmalerei des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts by Rolf Hasler, hardback, 478 pages, numerous colour & b/w illustratuions (German text), Peter Lang publishing, 2010, SFR 129; £ 74.90.
This beautifully illustrated book is a major contribution to Swiss stained glass studies. Apart from cataloguing and illustrating one hundred and ninety four panels in private and public collections in Schaffhausen and Stein am Rhein, the author provides biographical entries for more than a hundred glass painters, designers of stained-glass panels and glaziers active in the region between 1500 and 1800; a hugely valuable undertaking. Another special feature of the book is the publication of the records of the Schaffhausen glasspainters guild. As with previous publications of the Swiss Corpus Vitrearum, the production standards are superb and the colour illustrations amount to a master class in Swiss glass painting in their own right!