- OBITUARY: RÜDIGER BECKSMANN (1939-2012)
- New Curator Appointed for the Stained Glass Museum, Ely
- Update on the Herkenrode Windows at Lichfield Cathedral
- Corpus Vitrearum XXVI International Colloquium in Vienna, 10–14 September 2012
- News from the British CVMA
OBITUARY: RÜDIGER BECKSMANN (1939-2012)
With the death of Professor Dr. Rüdiger Becksmann on the 19 May the world of stained glass scholarship has lost one of its most eminent figures.
After studying history of art together with classical and Christian archaeology at the universities of Freiburg and Berlin, Rüdiger became personal assistant to Hans Wentzel, whose Meisterwerke der Glasmalerei (‘Masterpieces of Stained Glass’, 1951) was the first monograph on German medieval glazing in which the then-current methodologies of art history were fully deployed. Wentzel was also one of the founders of the international Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi project, but the establishment of the German Corpus organization was primarily Rüdiger’s achievement. In 1970, he founded the Arbeitsstelle (now the Forschungszentrum), which moved from Stuttgart to its present location in Freiburg twelve years later. Relations with funding bodies were not always easy, but thanks to his leadership and tireless efforts, the CVMA for Germany was set up with a structure and level of support that remains the envy of every other national committee. After the collapse of the DDR, Rüdiger played a key role in integrating the two German organizations while retaining their separate centres in Freiburg and Potsdam. He remained head of the former until his retirement in 2004. Between 1970 and 1988, he served as secretary to the German CVMA national committee and in 1991 became its president; between 1975 and 1987 he was vice-president of the international CVMA committee. In 1981, he was appointed to an honorary professorship at Stuttgart.
Rüdiger’s books and articles are distinguished by both quality and quantity, an output which was unaffected by his retirement. His first monograph was the publication in 1967 of his doctoral dissertation on the relationship between Gothic architecture and stained glass (with particular reference to Strasbourg) – a topic that remained an abiding interest. This was followed by Deutsche Malerei des Mittelalters (‘German Stained Glass of the Middle Ages’, 1995), no fewer than three magisterial CVMA volumes (one co-authored), with another in preparation at the time of his death, and numerous articles. No less important was his role in bringing medieval stained glass to wider audiences through exhibitions and their catalogues, above all Himmelslicht (Cologne 1998–09). The hallmarks of Rüdiger’s work were his encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject, painstaking research, thoroughness, persistence and tenacity, the last attribute often displayed during conferences in advocating (or defending) a conclusion he had reached. To see him merely as a stained glass specialist does not however do justice to his contribution to the discipline of art history as a whole. His interests spanned architecture, panel and manuscript painting and metalwork between the ninth and the sixteenth centuries. He was also the founding editor for the publication of new research on German art by the Deutsche Verein für Kunstwissenschaft.
The regard in which Rüdiger was held by scholars across the international spectrum was manifest in the Festschrift presented to him in 2004 to mark his retirement as head of the Arbeitstelle; his responses to contributors were marked by a characteristic blend of courtesy, expertise and insight. Rüdiger’s enduring memorial will be his enormous contribution to the study of the medieval stained glass of Germany, as author and editor (in which role his insistence on the highest standards of design, layout and presentation as well as content was to the fore). For this achievement his place in the pantheon of the subject is assured. But to end on a personal note, alongside respect and admiration for his scholarly achievements, I will treasure fond memories of Rüdiger at home with his family, dispensing exquisite Weisswein and listening to and discussing music.
New Curator Appointed for the Stained Glass Museum, Ely
Vidimus is delighted to report that Jasmine Allen has been appointed Curator of the Stained Glass Museum in Ely, and will take up her post in March 2013.
Jasmine completed her undergraduate studies in the History of Art Department at the University of York, where stained glass became her passion and specialism at an early stage. After completing a Master’s degree at York, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), she worked for the Stained Glass Museum between 2008 and 2009, conducting research into the museum’s collection and assisting former Curator Susan Mathews. She then spent some time cataloguing the collection of stained glass at the Yorkshire Museum, before returning to the University of York in October 2009 to begin her AHRC-funded doctoral studies and take on undergraduate teaching duties.
Jasmine’s doctoral thesis, entitled “Stained Glassworlds”: Stained Glass at the International Exhibitions, 1851–1900, examines the classification, display, iconography and international circulation of stained glass at selected international exhibitions held in Britain, France, the United States of America and the British colonies in Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century. This project, and her interest in the medium, has taken Jasmine to the USA, Australia, and across Continental Europe to study glass, visit archives, and meet other specialists. Vidimus readers will remember that Jasmine authored a series of Panel of the Month articles between 2009 and 2010, and since then she has presented numerous conference papers, and published an article entitled ‘Stained Glass and the Culture of the Spectacle, 1780–1862’ in Visual Culture in Britain, xiii/1 (2012). In 2010–2011, she was also involved in ‘Sensory Stories’, an AHRC-funded public-engagement project that trained doctoral researchers to communicate their research to a wider audience using touch, taste, smell, sound, object-interaction, and performance.
Jasmine told Vidimus: ‘I am very much looking forward to taking up my new post at the Stained Glass Museum in March 2013. I hope to build on the museum’s success in public outreach and interpretation of its collection through a variety of exhibitions and events, alongside the current Friends’ and education programmes. My long-term goals are to ensure full recognition of the museum’s status as both a national and international centre of excellence for display, interpretation, education and scholarship in the field of stained glass.’
Update on the Herkenrode Windows at Lichfield Cathedral
The conservation of the important sixteenth-century created for the abbey of Herkenrode (near Hasselt, Liège, in present-day Belgium) in the 1530s and installed in the Lady Chapel of Lichfield Cathedral since 1806 is approaching the half-way stage. Conservators at Barley Studio, near York, led by Keith Barley FMGP ACR, have completed the windows on the south side on the chapel and have now begun work on the east window.
The chapel has seven large windows of early Flemish glass. Five of the seven contain scenes from the life of Jesus, from the Annunciation, through the Passion and the Resurrection, to the Day of Judgement; the final two windows contain a collection of donor panels. The windows date from the very end of the medieval period and show remarkable Renaissance-style painting effects, including a heightened use of perspective and shadowing. A detailed study of the windows is currently being prepared by the stained glass historians Yvette Vanden Bemdem and Isabelle Lecocq, supported jointly by the English and Belgian CVMA, as the current conservation work offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the glass at close quarters.
Keith Barley and Alison Gilchrist of the Barley Studio take up the story: ‘The current conservation work combines relatively modest intervention to the leadwork (the 1890s leadwork of Burlison and Grylls is reasonably sympathetic to the glass and is still in good condition) with some conservation innovations. There are many ‘strap’ leads, which were probably added when the windows were removed for safety during the Second World War; these are being removed – a straightforward process – and the glass pieces are being edge-bonded using conservation-grade silicone or epoxy adhesives where necessary. In some cases it is also possible to remove mending leads added during the 1890s restoration and to edge-bond the pieces together in a similar manner. In many cases however the edges of the glass have been grozed – that is, a small amount of glass has been removed in order to create space for the mending lead. Although the edges cannot be glued back together in these instances, the visual intrusion of the mending lead can still be reduced, by removing the surface leaf of the lead so that only the thin line of the heart remains between the glass pieces. This type of intervention is also possible in areas towards the centre of the panels where pieces cannot be easily removed for edge bonding.
In many scenes, the painted detail has suffered, due to corrosion of the glass and paint on the internal surface. It is this detail that makes the scenes readable and gives expression to faces and hands in particular, and so loss of this detail can greatly detract from the artistic value of the glass. As the outside (mostly unpainted) face of the glass is in very good condition, we are strengthening lost painted detail in key areas of the imagery by painting on the reverse of the glass using a cold (unfired) paint mixed from traditional glass pigment and gold size. This paint is reasonably robust to water and scratching once dry, but will remain easily removable in the future with an organic solvent such as ethanol.
It is only possible to undertake these conservation interventions because when the windows are reinstalled, they will no longer have to act as the weather shield for the building. Indeed, if you visit Lichfield Cathedral today, you will find the window openings of the Lady Chapel occupied by new plain glazing. When the Herkenrode glass returns in 2015, it will be mounted to the inside of this plain glazing, providing an internally ventilated, external protective glazing system to prevent moisture from reaching the original glass, whether atmospheric moisture from the outside or condensation on the inside. Keeping the glass dry in this way will help to preserve both the conservation work and this wonderful glass for many generations to enjoy in the future.’
Corpus Vitrearum XXVI International Colloquium in Vienna, 10–14 September 2012
Every two years the Corpus Vitrearum holds an international colloquium in a different country to allow members to give and hear lectures, to exchange new information and discoveries, to meet and discuss informally, and to visit sites with important stained glass and conservation workshops. In recent years, the colloquia have also included stained glass up to the nineteenth century. This year’s colloquium was held at the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austrian Academy of Sciences) in Vienna, and was the second to be held in Vienna – the first there took place nearly thirty years ago, in 1983. After the opening speeches of welcome and progress reports – the French series of Recensements (census) volumes is nearing completion! – the first day was given over to a series of lectures devoted to the theme of the colloquium, ‘Dynastic Representations in Stained Glass’. In the evening we were conveyed by tram to a delightful Heuriger on the outskirts of Vienna, where the local cuisine and wine were much appreciated.
Day two took us to Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna, to the castle, which has been a military academy since the time of Maria Theresia. Here the Chapel of St George, built in the 1440s and 1450s, has very unusual glass of about 1550, painted in a late Gothic style, perhaps in imitation of the early glazing of just after 1500, small remains of which still survive in the main east window. This window also contains two large donor figures of the Emperor Maximilian I, who was both christened and buried in the chapel, and his wife Bianca Maria Sforza. After lunch in the castle, we visited the Cistercian monastery of Heiligenkreuz in the Vienna Woods, founded in 1133 by Margrave Leopold III and his wife Agnes. The cloister retains much grisaille glass of the period 1220–50, with designs based on Islamic art and conforming to the strict rules of the order forbidding coloured and figurative glazing, although compensating for these restrictions in the exuberance and complexity of the patterns used. The well-house in the cloister however has glass of c.1285–90 that does include both colour and figurative work, with figures of the Babenburg dynasty, depictions of the Heiligenkreuz and Klosterneuburg monasteries, and coloured pattern windows. In the choir of the abbey church the glazing dates from before 1295 and includes figures of prophets and saints and a great variety of coloured pattern windows. All the glass at Heiligenkreuz is partly restored, but much original work survives to make this a key site for medieval Austrian glass-painting.
Day three was devoted to further lectures on the colloquium theme followed by a visit to the cathedral of St Stephen in Vienna to see the remains of the choir glazing of c.1340 and hear about the plans to return the dispersed late-fourteenth-century figures of Habsburg royalty to the Chapel of St Bartholomew there. On day four, the morning was devoted to further papers and the afternoon to the election of new officers and the official end of the colloquium, followed by a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the Corpus Vitrearum for the Conservation of Glass Paintings. In the evening we were invited to a reception at the workshops of the Bundesdenkmalamt (Federal Monuments Office), where we able to see some of the St Bartholomew Chapel glass under conservation. An optional excursion on the Saturday took us to the Franzensburg in Laxenburg near Vienna, a castle built in 1798–1836 for Kaiser Franz II under the influence of the Romantic fashion for medieval chivalry, which houses stained glass from various medieval buildings in Austria, such as the Capella Speciosa at Klosterneuburg, but also features much nineteenth-century decoration, with fine windows by the German stained glass artist Gottlob Samuel Mohn.
The lectures and visits provided both broad-brush and detailed pictures of the colloquium’s theme. Royal and family dynasties were dealt with, including glass given by monarchs to maintain and commemorate their own reign and windows commissioned by other bodies and individuals with an interest in promoting the current dynasty and asserting their loyalty to it. Two important aspects that emerged were the attempts often made to assimilate contemporary royalty to biblical figures and saints, and to display their extended and often imaginary genealogies to include illustrious figures from the past. We look forward to the publication of the proceedings, and thank Elizabeth Oberhaidacher-Herzig, Christina Wais-Wolf, Günther Buchinger and their colleagues for an enjoyable and stimulating colloquium in a marvellous city. We also await keenly the next Colloquium in 2014, which will be held in York.
News from the British CVMA
The CVMA (GB) website has recently been updated to reflect recent developments nationally and internationally.
Scholarship in the field of stained glass continues apace across the world, as was evident from the many announcements concerning recent publications made at the Corpus Vitrearum Colloquium in Vienna. The CVMA (GB) website CVMA has been updated to reflect these announcements.
The website also reflects recent changes in Britain: two long-standing members of the British CVMA’s committee, Prof. Paul Crossley and Michael Archer, have retired after many years of tirelessly supporting the cause of stained glass studies in Britain. The committee has welcomed two new members: Prof. Nigel Morgan, author of the CVMA (GB)’s Occasional Paper 3 (Lincoln Cathedral), and David King, who is working to catalogue the wealth of stained glass still to be found in the county of Norfolk.
We have also taken the opportunity to update our Resources page. Our dissertations and documents have been added to, and readers will find much of interest. There are a plan of the east window of Gloucester Cathedral, to accompany Léonie Seliger’s MA thesis on the history of the repairs to that window, and a plan of the west window of Winchester Cathedral. The CVMA (GB) has also been working to complete its photographic coverage of York’s city churches. This major expansion has been effected by Chloe Morgan and the indefatigable Gordon Plumb, whose images are already to be found in our Picture Archive and print publications. Readers will now find on the website a biography of the stained glass in York city churches, and tracery-numbering guides for windows in various York city churches.
Finally, we are delighted to announce that Peter Newton’s seminal doctoral thesis ‘Schools of Glass Painting in the Midlands 1275 – 1430’ is now available for all to consult and download. Indexes have been drawn up so that readers can track down exactly the sites and materials they are looking for. The British CVMA is grateful to the University of York, which kindly gave permission for the thesis to be made available in this format, and also to the following copyright holders, who have allowed their images to be used: the British Library; the estate of Maurice H. Ridgway; and the National Monuments Record.