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Posted By jryder On August 14, 2011 @ 12:38 pm In | Comments Disabled

Antoine de Pise. L’art du vitrail vers 1400

Antoine de Pise. L'art du vitrail vers 1400.

Fig. 1. Antoine de Pise. L'art du vitrail vers 1400.

Claudine Lautier and Dany Sandron: Antoine de Pise. L’art du vitrail vers 1400 (Corpus Vitrearum France, Études VIII), Paris: Éditions du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques 2008, pp. 383, ISBN 978-2-7355-0659-0, EUR 96.00.

In April 2008 (Vidimus 17), we included a brief notice about the publication of this book. In view of the importance of this publication for all students of medieval glass painting, we asked the CVMA (GB) author David King to contribute a longer review.

Many students of medieval art will be familiar with the twelfth-century treatise on glass painting included in the De diversis artibus, written by a monk called Theophilus. Medieval treatises on this subject are extremely rare and those surviving vary in their length and usefulness, although all have something to contribute. That written in the very late fourteenth century by the glazier Antonio da Pisa, also a priest, has been published before, but never in such a complete and useful an edition as the present work. A number of features combine here to make this an outstanding publication. [Fig. 1]

The sole manuscript of this work is now, and has been for an unspecified time, in the library of the Sacro Convento di San Francesco in Assisi (ms. 692). The text begins: ‘Blessed Jesus. A memoir of the knowledge needed to make coloured glass windows and of all the other knowledge necessary for this art, proceeding clearly step by step, according to the method of Antonio da Pisa, a singular master of this art’ [all quotations from the French text have been rendered into English by David King – Ed.].

Antonio da Pisa may be the same as Antonio di Ciomeo da Leccio, born near Livorno, and mentioned in the archives of Pisa Cathedral from 1380 to 1400 for his ecclesiastical activities, and from 1380 to 1387 for his work on the cathedral glazing.

Detail of St John the Evangelist from nI.© Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

Fig. 2: Detail of St John the Evangelist from nI.© Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

In December 1395 he was also commissioned to make a window for the nave of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, then under construction, to a cartoon by the Italian artist, Agnolo Gaddi.

Most happily for historians of glass his window, nI in the nave, still survives. [Fig. 2]

If it is rare that we know the names of both the glazier and designer of an extant window (although more commonly in Italy, because of the fullness of the documentary record), it is unique that we are able to compare a window made by a known glazier with a treatise written by him and a large part of the book is devoted to examining in detail how far Antonio’s own work follows his own precepts. What turns the book from an interesting piece of art history into a ground-breaking study is the methodology used to achieve this comparison. This has two main elements. First, a series of experiments akin, but not identical, to experimental archaeology, in which Antonio’s recipes for each step of the process of making a painted windows are tested in practice, following as closely as possible his instructions and filling in the gaps that do occur with help from other medieval treatises. The second is a detailed art-historical and scientific examination of Antonio’s window in Florence Cathedral, including the use of a special technique to analyse in situ the composition of its glass and paint.

The icing on the cake of this many-layered book is the appendix containing transcriptions and French translations of five more medieval treatises, that is, all that are known apart from those of Antonio da Pisa and of Cennino Cennini (c. 1370–c. 1440), already the subject of a modern edition. The use of these treatises in the text for comparison, contrast and to fill in lacunae is crucial to the book and the publication of their texts adds much to its usefulness.

As was imperative for such an ambitious and multi-faceted venture, the book has many contributors, all brought together under the direction of the CVMA (France) authors, Claudine Lautier and Dany Sandron.

After a brief preface by Enrico Castelnuovo introducing Antonio’s life and work and the context for them, the opening chapter by Claudine Lautier describes the treatise and work of the Antonio da Pisa.

The treatise

There follows, also by Claudine Lautier, an introduction to the transcription and translation of the treatise. The manuscript is a little – and thus portable – book written by a professional scribe with twelve folios of reused parchment and paper. There is one small marginal illustration of a kiln and in a few places a hand points to highlight part of the text. Although the text is highly practical in nature, there are some omissions, notably concerning grozing and fixing. Earlier editions of the manuscript are then listed and the aims of the translation given. The priority here is usefulness, avoiding over-interpretation from existing knowledge. Two photographs on p. 23 have been transposed.

A coloured facsimile reproduction of the manuscript follows, with a transcription by Daniela Gallo and Dany Sandron with editorial side notes. After this is a French translation by Katia Bienvenu and Claudine Lautier, with very useful editorial and explanatory footnotes.

Cutting and grozing

The next part of the book is entitled ‘The Treatise of Antonio da Pisa put to the Test of Experimentation’ and is written by two conservators, Hervé Debitus and Laurence Cuzange, and an art-historian, Claudine Lautier. The experiments were carried out in Hervé Debitus’ workshop in Tours and are beautifully and fully illustrated in colour. These experiments confirm to a large degree the practicality of Antonio’s treatise and add considerably to our knowledge of the techniques of medieval glass painting.

The first experiments were to test the three methods suggested by Antonio for cutting glass. The first uses a variety of hard stones to cut the glass: diamond, zirconium, rock crystal, beryllium, magnetite, carborundum and flint. All were able to cut glass except magnetite, although as modern glass is harder than medieval, Antonio may have been able to use this on softer medieval glass.

St Lawrence, North Tuddenham, Norfolk. © Mike Dixon.

Fig. 3. St Lawrence, North Tuddenham, Norfolk. © Mike Dixon.

In her introduction, Lautier points out that this attested use of diamond cutting and of other hard stones is the earliest known. She suggests that their use may have been hidden by subsequent grozing and may date from the earliest times. The second method is the use of a hot iron run along the desired cutting line causing a crack to appear. Theophilus describes this technique, but it has subsequently been seen as a rough and ready method which always needed grozing to achieve the required accuracy and modern glaziers usually ignore it in favour of diamond or wheel cutting. However, experiments conducted by the authors show that it is relatively easy to use and enables cuts to be made for which other methods are not useable. For example, a rectangle with two right angles was cut from the edge of a piece of glass. This would explain how on a panel of St Lawrence, now at North Tuddenham in Norfolk, the glazier has cut out rectangles in the piece of glass depicting the gridiron to show the drapery behind the gridiron. [Fig.3]

Although it is true that grozing would have been needed in addition to this method of cutting, thus disguising its use, in many cases the original cut would have been enough, leaving a flat edge on the glass distinguishable from a break or a diamond-cut edge. I have found such flat edges on many pieces of excavated medieval glass. Antonio does not describe the tool used for cutting with a hot iron, but evidence from other sources suggested that the soldering iron was used and one was made for the experiment based on illustrations of early soldering irons. The third cutting method was probably used only for very thick glass, such as pieces of crown glass with bullions. It involves a thread soaked in sulphur, wrapped round the glass and ignited. The method was found to work, but to be not accurate enough to be very useful.

Glass-paints

All medieval treatises describe a glass-paint containing a copper oxide made of filings from heated copper. An analysis of Antonio’s window in Florence Cathedral, (described in a later chapter), shows that this was the type of paint used by him rather than the iron-based paint typically found in France. The paint made in the experiment from his recipe was found to fire correctly. Antonio also describes a paint made without a metallic oxide, which was used as a wash to lessen slightly the transmission of light. This has been found at Assisi in glass earlier than Antonio’s window. He also has a whole chapter on the use of the yolk and white of an egg with a chopped fig branch to make a binding medium for glass paint, a procedure clearly taken over from panel painting. The tempera disappears completely when the glass is fired, but experiment shows that it adds suppleness to washes and trace lines and allows several coats to be superimposed and precise relieving.

The treatise also has two recipes for cold painting and examples of unfired paint have been found on a number of windows in France, Switzerland and Belgium. This is sometimes difficult to detect and may only be visible in workshop conditions.

Antonio’s treatise has a section on yellow stain, although his window in Florence Cathedral, together with the three other nave windows made by another glazier, Leonardo di Simone, does not use this technique, perhaps on the instructions of Agnolo Gaddi, the artist who painted the cartoons, as the book suggests. The most interesting aspect of his recipe is that Antonio uses ground silver filings and not an oxide of silver as is now done. This was tried in an experiment and found to give good results.

Engraving/Abrading

Another chapter which experiments show contains perfectly useable recipes is that on the engraving of flashed ruby glass. Until recently it was thought that the only way that flashed ruby glass could be engraved to reveal the underlying white glass in the medieval period was by being abraded by a sharp stone such as a flint and many medieval examples show the marks of this technique. Modern glaziers use hydrofluoric acid to etch away the flash, but this chemical was not discovered until the eighteenth century. However, in 1999 German colleagues of the Corpus Vitrearum published a paper in which they recorded the discovery of acid-etched glass at Ulm dating from the 1430s. They carried out experiments using the recipes of Antonio and a manuscript from Bologna and achieved partial success, but did not analyse the glasses used for the tests.

Experiments carried out at Tours for this book using nitric acid showed that the method worked only on potassium glasses with a thin ruby flash. A later chapter in the book by Marie-Pierre Etcheverry on the manufacture and acid etching of ruby glass provides a detailed scientific study of the nature of flashed ruby glasses and their response to etching with acid other than hydrofluoric. As further confirmation of Antonio’s recipe, examples of its use were found on his window at Florence.

Leads and solders

Experiments were also carried out to test Antonio’s instructions for making lead moulds. He describes three types: those made of various kinds of stone; those made of copper-lead alloy and those made of iron. It appears that he did not himself make the latter type, which requires blacksmith’s skills, and which he claims never fitted properly together. It was not possible to make an experimental copper-lead mould under the conditions described by Antonio, because the melting points of the two metals are so different. In a later chapter by Annick Texier and Anna Zymla it is described how in the laboratory, using an electric kiln and an inert atmosphere to overcome problems of oxidation, it was possible to make such a mould which worked well in practice. What was possible in the workshop was the manufacture and testing of a stone mould using Antonio’s instructions. He recommended a soft sandstone, but chalk was chosen for the experiment, as it was used for the moulds which have been found in excavations. A mould 60cm long was made and successfully tested, giving leads of 50cm long, the maximum length used in several French cathedrals.

Antonio does not give advice on leading-up windows, as does Theophilus, but he lays great stress on the composition of the solder used and claims that his recipe is the best and cheapest. He also advocates the need to be careful how the glazing bars are positioned so that the intervals between them are regular and they do not spoil the design. His solder has one part of lead to one of tin, a lower tin content than others used, which in fact produces an inferior solder. The use of the same iron for soldering as for cutting, with a flux of fat and resin, proved perfectly practical. However, the experimenters failed in their efforts to cast rods of solder following Antonio’s instruction, a method which he described as a ‘secret’. Antonio gives six recipes for solder in all, some of them for soldering organ pipes. This unexpected venture into another craft raises issues of the contacts between craftsmen. Claudine Lautier points out that both glaziers and organ makers would have been present during the construction of a church. A later chapter by Florence Gétreau discusses in more detail Antonio’s recipes for organ-pipe solder and the contacts between the two crafts.

Kilns

Constructing the kiln. © Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

Fig. 4. Constructing the kiln. © Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

One of the most interesting parts of the book is its description of the experimental construction and use of a kiln to fire painted glass, as described by Antonio. Two kilns were built, the first having problems with the materials used for the walls and with the fact that it was built inside a small building. The early fifteenth-century treatise of Francesco Formica, a Siennese monk, which includes drawings of the kiln at various stages of firing, clearly indicates that the kiln was built inside the workshop opposite a window. The second kiln, however, was built outside with a lean-to roof to protect it from rain. I would add here that medieval images of bakers’ ovens show them built both inside and outside, sometimes with a lean-to roof (see the Medieval and Renaissance Material Culture website, accessed 31/08/2010). There are marked similarities between bakers’ ovens and glaziers’ kilns, and although the temperatures required are very different, I have noticed that in medieval Norwich there are many documentary references to glaziers and bakers buying the same properties, which has led me to speculate that the two trades may have found a way of sharing oven/kiln facilities. Certainly glaziers’ kilns would not have been in constant use for firing glass and could easily have been fired to the lower temperature required for baking bread. [ Figs. 4 and 5]

Fig. 5. Constructing the kiln. © Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

Fig. 5. Constructing the kiln. © Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

Antonio’s instructions for building, loading and firing the kiln were followed carefully by the experimenters, but there appears to be an omission in his text, as he does not describe the closing of the kiln when firing is complete for the slow cooling process needed to occur. Here, other treatises were used and a door was made of chestnut and clay. Between the lighting of the fire and the closing of the kiln five and a quarter hours elapsed and the kiln was then left overnight to cool. The results of the firing were not perfect, but perfectly acceptable for a first attempt. What was surprising was how easy and quick the building of the kiln proved to be. The question remains unanswered by this experiment as to how permanent kilns may have been in the medieval period. This may have depended on whether a glazier was peripatetic, travelling to a site to work and then moving on, as Antonio probably was at Florence Cathedral, or whether he had a permanent workshop. One small clue that the kiln used by him for his window in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was used for more than one window is the fact that, although no yellow stain was used for that window, a few smears of stain were found on it which must have come from the kiln when it was used for firing other windows. We do not know, of course, whether Antonio, who made just the one window in the cathedral, and was normally based at Pisa, built a kiln at Florence or used one already there. It may be that more solidly built and long-lasting kilns were used as well as the quickly constructed one described by Antonio.

Included in the section on experiments (although not involving an experiment) is a discussion of the chapter in which Antonio describes how to take the measurements of an arch at the top of a window and draw it on the bench for a window to be made for it. He gives two methods, which are explained in detail. No other treatise includes such information

There follow in the book the three more detailed chapters already mentioned on ruby glass and acid etching, alloy lead moulds, and solder for organ pipes.

Other treatises

Thereafter, Karine Boulanger contributes a useful account of the five medieval treatises on glass painting. Those by Theophilus and Antonio are the most extensive, but those by Francesco Formica, a fifteenth-century author known only as the monk of Zagan (a monastery in western Poland), and the Nuremberg Kunstbuch are complementary. Boulanger describes and discusses each in turn. Only Antonio as author can be set in a firm historical context, but all the authors derive from a monastic background. Theophilus’ treatise has as its object to raise the mechanical arts to the level of the liberal arts and is in Latin. Those of Antonio, Formica and the Kunstbuch were intended were written in the vernacular to be of use to practising glass-painters, with that of the monk of Zagan coming somewhere in between.

Antonio’s text was written by a glass-painter who had come from an established career in Pisa to make a single window (as far as is known) in the nave of Florence Cathedral, after the three other windows had been made by Leonardo di Simone. References to Florentine currency in the treatise suggest that it was written there before Antonio presumably returned to Pisa. As is said elsewhere in the book, a comparison of the window of Antonio with those of Leonardo show the former to have been a superior colourist and it is perhaps permissible to speculate (although none of the authors does so) that Antonio’s perceived excellence as a glass-painter by the Florentines caused him to be asked to write his treatise. A perhaps unexpected and hastily performed commission may explain the combination of a logical step by step approach, some out of sequence chapters, and the omissions signalled above, although the latter may be the result of mistakes by the copyist who wrote the only extant manuscript. In several places, as Boulanger shows, Antonio is keen to assert his mastery of the craft.

The windows

St Louis of Toulouse, from nI. © Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

Fig. 6. St Louis of Toulouse, from nI. © Centre André Chastel (UMR 8150).

Following several pages of beautiful colour plates of the four nave windows of Florence Cathedral by Leonardo di Simone and Antonio da Pisa (although the captions for plates II and III are reversed), Karin Boulanger takes up the reins again with a chapter on Antonio’s window, which provides a unique opportunity to compare what he says with what he does. The four side nave windows, all with cartoons by Agnolo Gaddi, provide an imposing unity of design, each with six standing figures of saints in canopied niches with wide borders, yet with subtle differences, the most obvious of which is the fact that the arrangement of glazing bars differs in every window. Leonardo completed one of the windows in 1394 and another in the following year. The two remaining windows were made in 1396, one by Leonardo and the other by Antonio. The latter’s window is characterized by its fine variety and balance of colours, and irregularities in the glass are skilfully used to suggest volume. Flashed ruby with acid abrasion is present, but a subtle flashed pale pink is also used for the flesh tones. Unfortunately only two of the heads are original, those of St John and St Anne. A comparison between Antonio’s use of colour in the window and his recommendations on it in the treatise shows that with a few exceptions in the canopy shafting, he adheres to his own principles. It is particularly his use as recommended of white glass for a third of the window which makes it the most luminous in the nave, contrasting with the darker and more saturated tones of Leonardo’s glass. A discreet use of ornament is made, including some delicate relieving and a tiny nude figure of Apollo on the morse (or cope brooch) of St Louis of Toulouse. Much of the decorative vocabulary in the three other nave windows is similar, but used in a more brash way. Although an examination of Antonio’s use of paint is hindered by its poor condition and numerous cold repaints by the restorer, its extraordinary delicacy is still visible, for example in the face of St Anne. Three shades of glass paint are seen on the window, one black or dark brown, a second brownish and a third very pale and almost transparent. X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) analysis has shown that the very pale paint is not the lead-based paint mentioned in the treatise but the same copper-based paint as the dark grisaille, with less metallic oxide. As already mentioned, yellow stain was not used for this window, despite being described in the treatise, whereas the acid abrasion recipe given by Antonio was used here.

Although all four windows of the nave were commissioned to be made from cartoons by the painter Agnolo Gaddi, including the choice of colours, the subtle differences in colour and technique between Antonio’s window and those of Leonardo show both that these glaziers did definitely paint the glass and not Gaddi and that Antonio was able impose his own individuality, but in a subtle way which does not destroy the overall harmony of the nave glazing. [Fig. 6]

Glass painting in Florence

In the next chapter, Karin Boulanger and Claudine Lautier join together in an essay on glass painting at Florence in the time of Antonio da Pisa, thus providing the art-historical context for his work and enabling a more thorough discussion of the relationship between painters and glaziers in Italy at this time.

Four buildings are discussed: the nave of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore; the Franciscan church of Santa Croce; the guild church of Orsanmichele and the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella.

At the cathedral, as we have seen, the chapter was responsible for commissioning the nave glazing, with cartoons by Agnolo Gaddi and glass by Leonardo di Simone and Antonio da Pisa. Gaddi was painter in the tradition of Giotto who had an active career in Florence from 1369 to 1396 as a painter of frescoes, panels and stained glass cartoons, often directing several operations at the same. Boulanger and Lautier show carefully and convincingly with well-chosen illustrations the close connections between the designs of the Florence Cathedral nave windows and the several frescoes by Gaddi in the city. At Santa Croce, they show that the cartoons for the side windows glazed in the 1380s are not by Gaddi, as suggested by Giuseppe Marchini, the author of one of the few books about Italian stained glass translated into English: Italian Stained Glass Windows (1956).

At Orsanmichele a first glazing campaign in the eastern part from 1380 to 1400 has scenes depicting miracles of the Virgin performed for members of the Compagnia di Or San Michele by the cult statue there. The cartoons for these busy Giottesque scenes have been attributed on the basis of style to three different painters, Agnolo Gaddi, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, and Giovanni del Biondo. The execution of the windows may have been by Leonardo di Simone, although another glazier is mentioned in the documents. In the western part, a window with the Annunciation to Joachim was made by Niccolò di Piero from a cartoon by Lorenzo Monaco made in 1410. The cartoons for other windows have been attributed to Lorenzo Ghiberti with glazing by Francesco di Giovanni Lastra and Bernado di Francesco between 1429 and 1432. The Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella received new windows in c.1360 and 1365, the earlier probably based on a cartoon by Nardo di Cione and the latter on a model by Andrea di Bonaiuto. The west window of 1386 is documented as having been made by Leonardo di Simone, probably on from a cartoon by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini.

For the earliest Italian windows such as those at Assisi of 1253–1260, the methods of production are not documented, but from the end of the thirteenth century names of painters appear, such as Duccio di Buoninsegna at Sienna in 1288, the Figline Master at Santa Croce in 1320–30 and Taddeo Gaddi in 1320–40 in the same building. The trend became generalised with Lorenzo Monaco and Lorenzo Ghiberti at Orsanmichele and when the eastern part and the dome of the cathedral at Florence was glazed Ghiberti, Donatello, Ucello and Andrea del Castagno provided cartoons.

Boulanger and Lautier draw attention to the chapter in Cennino Cennini’s Il libro dell’arte devoted to the making of painted windows, written about 1400 when he was a painter at Padua, having been earlier a pupil of Agnolo Gaddi. In his chapter Cennini says that cartoons were provided by painters, who also painted the glass, with the glazier merely assembling the window. Antonio da Pisa’s treatise and window provide an important corrective to Cennini’s view of the role of the painter and glazier in Trecento Italy, a view which was clearly partial and not true for Florence.

Concluding chapters

A chapter follows by Jean-Philippe Échard and Dominique Germain-Bonne which describes how the glass of Antonio’s window was analysed non-invasively and in situ by X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) and gives the results of this analysis. These showed that at least some of the glass was potash glass, identified some of the oxidants present in the coloured glasses and confirmed that Antonio had used a copper-based paint as recommended in his treatise. This method of analysis was experimental and showed that although limited in scope it can produce useful results.

Dany Sandron contributes a brief chapter on the career of Antonio da Pisa, giving full details of his activity at Pisa and Florence and showing that attempts to locate him also at Assisi, where the sole copy of his treatise is found today, are groundless.

He also provides a chapter on the building history of the enormous cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, from Arnolfo di Cambio’s beginning in the late thirteenth century, through Giotto’s bell tower in the fourteenth century, to Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome finished in 1437. He demonstrates how the work was organised and the various changes of plan which occurred, notably in the design of the nave, the building of which was completed by Antonio’s window of 1396, placed above the Mandorla door, the most sumptuous one in that part of the building.

The work is completed by the transcriptions of the other medieval treatises on making painted glass windows and of the documentary sources relating to the work of Antonio da Pisa, Leonardo di Simone, Agnolo Gaddi and others mentioned in the text. There is also an index and list of contents.

Claudine Lautier, Dany Sandron and their co-authors are to be warmly congratulated on the publication of this ground-breaking book which brings major new insights into the technique of medieval glass painting and provides important innovations in the methodology of its study.

David King

A Note on the French Translation

I would venture just one small comment on the translation. In footnote 7 on p. 68 the authors say concerning the word smalto in the last line of part 10 on f. 2r: ‘Further on, in the paragraph on “the colour white for shading”, Antonio da Pisa seems to say that the powdered rosary beads and the yellow smalto are the same thing. Therefore neither enamel nor smalt is meant, which is why we are keeping to the Italian word without translating it’. This refers to the sentence in part 11 on f. 2v ‘Tolli de la dicta polvere de paternostri overo de smalto giallo sença la decta scalglia de ramo e macina trito e questo è color bianco’ (Take some of the said powdered rosary beads, that is to say some yellow smalto, without the said copper scales and grind it finely). The crucial point here is the translation of ‘overo’ (‘ovvero’ in modern Italian), which in the medieval period was ambiguous, since it could mean ‘that is to say’ (‘c’est à dire’ in the translation), or ‘or else’, depending on whether the two words mentioned are the same thing or different but equivalent. In view of this ambiguity, it is possible that powdered rosary beads and yellow smalto were different and alternative and I would suggest that this should have been indicated.

Further Reading

  • An online review in German by Dr Frank Martin of the CVMA (Potsdam) is also available on the Arthistoricum website
  • One in French by Dr Isabel Lecocq is in Bulletin monumental, 168, 2010, no.2, pp. 212–214, and another by Michele Tomasi is in Revue de l’art, 162, 2008, pp. 103–104

Also

  • K. Boulanger and Michel Hérold (Eds) Le vitrail et les traités du Moyen Âge à nos jours: Actes du XXIIIe colloque international du Corpus Vitrearum Tours 3–7 juillet 2006, Peter Lang, Berne 2008

 

Name that Roundel! Solution

Name that Roundel!

Fig. 1. Name that Roundel!

This month’s mystery roundel shows the Old Testament story of the ‘Death of Jezebel’ or ‘Jezebel thrown to the dogs’.

According to the Book of Kings 3 and 4, Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, a king of the Sidonians, and the scheming wife of Achab, a Jewish king who worshipped the false God Baal. When her husband wanted a neighbouring vineyard for a garden and the owner, Naboth, refused to sell his ‘inheritance’ she conspired to have Naboth falsely accused and stoned to death. When the Lord heard what she had done he spoke, saying ‘the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the field of Jezrahel’.

After Achab’s death, the prophet Elisha chose a warrior called Jehu, the son of Josaphat, to overthrow the regime and slay the dead king’s sons. When one of the sons asked if there could be peace between them, Jehu replied, ‘What peace? So long as the fornications of Jezebel thy mother, and her many sorceries are in their vigour’.

Entering the city of Jezreel after killing Jezebel’s sons, the mounted Jehu saw her looking out of a window after she ‘had painted her face with stibic stone, and adorned her head’.

The Fourth Book of Kings, Chapter 9:30, describes what happened next, the scene depicted in our roundel:

And Jehu lifted up his face to the window, and said: Who is this? And two or three eunuchs bowed down to him. And he said to them: Throw her down headlong: and they threw her down, and the wall was sprinkled with her blood, and the hoofs of the horses trod upon her. And when he was come in, to eat, and to drink, he said: Go, and see after that cursed woman, and bury her: because she is a king’s daughter. And when they went to bury her, they found nothing but the skull, and the feet, and the extremities of her hands.

And coming back they told him. And Jehu said: It is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant Elias the Thesbite, saying: In the field of Jezrahel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezabel, And the flesh of Jezabel shall be as dung upon the face of the earth in the field of Jezrahel, so that they who pass by shall say: Is this that same Jezabel?

The late Dr William Cole ((1909–1997) attributed the design of the panel to a print by the Flemish engraver Hieronymous Cock (c. 1510–1570) of a drawing by Martin Heemskerck (1498 –1574), no 6 of a series of six on the story of King Achab and Naboth.

Note: the Quotations are from the Latin vulgate Douay Rheims Bible.

For more information about the church of St Mary in Shrewsbury visit the Churches Conservation Trust website.

To see more images of stained glass at the church visit the CVMA Archive.

Further Reading

  • W. Cole, A Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain, CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 1, Oxford, 1993, includes a catalogue of the roundels in the church of St Mary, Shrewsbury

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