The Stained Glass of Steinfeld Abbey Cloister: An Investigation into its Dispersal and Condition
This month’s feature by Katie Harrison is based on the dissertation she submitted to the University of York in September 2013 as part of her MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management. Katie is currently gaining work experience in stained-glass workshops in Britain and Germany through the Award for Excellence scheme. In October this year she will commence her doctorate at the University of York, researching the St Cuthbert Window in York Minster.
The Steinfeld Abbey cloister glazing was one of many Continental stained-glass schemes dispersed during the early nineteenth century, primarily to locations in the United Kingdom. Research to date has focused on identifying extant panels and exploring the art-historical significance of the scheme. I adopted a new, more holistic and conservation-focused approach by comparing the conditions of panels originally in the same windows but with divergent histories after 1802. Not only did this provide insights into the effects of dispersal on the conservation history of the panels, it also shed more light on the practices of dealers, purchasers and glaziers in the periods under consideration. Crucially, comparison of the extant panels with one another highlighted significant differences in condition that may indicate where intervention will be required in future conservation projects. I studied extant panels from seven of the Steinfeld cloister windows, consisting of thirty-five panels and fragments at ten different locations around the United Kingdom [Figs 1 and 2]. As around half the extant panels, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, have the same post-1802 history, the windows selected for study all included at least one panel from the museum.
The glazing of Steinfeld’s twenty-seven cloister windows began in the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Between its completion in 1558 and final removal in 1785, the glazing was removed five times to protect it from potential damage at times of war. After its final removal, the glass was stored in a chapel at Steinfeld Abbey until the suppression of the abbey in 1802, when the glass was sold. Around ninety panels of the glass are now extant at various locations, predominantly in the United Kingdom: thirty-eight are in the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), London, having been donated in 1928 after they were removed from the chapel at Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire; two were returned to the abbey during the twentieth century; and the remainder are in American collections and British churches, in Avon, Cheshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk and West Glamorgan.
Crucial to research into the Steinfeld cloister glazing to date have been two manuscripts, created in 1632 and 1719 to ensure the correct reinsertion of the panels after their removal in these years. These provided detailed descriptions of the panels and their locations within the cloister. Transcriptions of both have been published, the latter in 1955 as part of the first comprehensive discussion of the Steinfeld cloister glazing, Die Glasmalereien aus dem Steinfelder Kreuzgang; this work informed more recent scholarship, such as David King’s identification of Steinfeld glass in Norfolk and Dagmar Täube’s exhibition catalogue Rheinische Glasmalerei: Meisterwerke der Renaissance. The latter provides a discussion of each extant panel, with an additional list of glass that may also be attributed to Steinfeld, but which is less easily confirmed as such. Whilst Täube was able to examine many of the panels in the V&A, enabling her to include restoration diagrams alongside her discussion, the scope of her study prevented comparably detailed examinations of panels outside the V&A. Nevertheless, both King’s and Täube’s research proved invaluable, enabling me to draw up an extended catalogue of the glass that included the more recent discoveries by Roger Rosewell, as well as amendments based on the examination of the glass itself.
The Sale of the Glass
It is known that at least some of the Steinfeld cloister glass was sold in 1802, during the peace of Amiens, and imported into Britain by Johann Christoph Hampp, a German émigré merchant based in Norwich, and his partner William Stevenson. Whilst it was not possible to establish the movements of all of the glass firmly, a review of the documentary evidence, including one of Hampp’s account books (for 1802–1804) and sale catalogues from 1804 and 1808, led to the tentative conclusion that all of the Steinfeld glass was imported into Britain before 1804. Based on their dimensions and subject matter, several extant panels from Steinfeld can be identified within the 1804 sale catalogue. Crucially, item 55 (described as ‘The Transfiguration’ and originally in window X panel 2c at Steinfeld), which was installed in the east window of St Mary Magdalene’s, Warham, in 1806, is the earliest confirmed installation of a Steinfeld panel in Britain [Fig. 3].
Not all of the panels from the group at St Mary Magdalene’s, Warham, appear in the 1804 catalogue, though others, now at Blickling Hall and the V&A, have been identified in it. It is likely that these groups of panels were purchased from Hampp in single transactions. The introduction to what appears to be a second copy of the 1804 catalogue supports the idea that there were many more Steinfeld panels in Britain than are listed in the catalogue: ‘It would require a whole volume to particularize every article. The subjects and sizes of only 300 pieces are here given, consisting of sacred and profane history, whole length figures, armorial bearings, ornamental borders, arabesques, &c.’
Given the installation dates of the various groups of glass, if the glass was indeed imported in 1802, much of it was in storage for long periods of time until its installation. This is also apparent from accounts of the exhibition of some of the panels, which record that it ran for eighteen years. This long period of storage is of interest, as it may have had a detrimental effect on the condition of the stored panels, particularly if they were packed in wooden cases, as seems likely, and stored in humid conditions. Acetic acid released by wood, combined with the atmospheric moisture, can accelerate the corrosion of both glass and lead.
The preparation of the panels for sale also appears to be relevant to the condition of the glass. Writing in 1848, William Warrington described stained glass imported by Hampp as being releaded and temporarily restored with ‘ground glass, and then painted in oil colours’ by ‘Mr Yarington of Norwich’. He claimed this was necessary due to the careless removal of the glass from its original location and the difficulties of transporting it to Britain, which had meant that the panels ‘suffered considerable injury’. Careless removal seems unlikely to have been the primary cause of damage to the glass from Steinfeld however: reasonable care can be expected to have been taken, given that when the glass was removed some years prior to its sale, it was still possible that it might be reinstalled. On the other hand, in an annotation of the 1632 manuscript the glass was described as being ‘too broken and hardly repairable due to the lack of painted glass’ when it was removed in 1785, which supports the suggestion that insertions were required in addition to releading.
Modes of Collection
Owing to the scope of the project, it was not possible to investigate the interests and motivations of the individuals who acquired stained glass from Steinfeld fully, nor the connections between them. Nevertheless, the insights gained demonstrate that further research could shed valuable light in this area. A range of different motives for acquisition is apparent amongst the buyers of the Steinfeld glass. As Virginia Raguin has observed, the beginning of the nineteenth century saw the acquisition of much Continental glass by parish churches, cathedrals and wealthy private collectors. While some were driven by ‘confessional needs’, aesthetic and antiquarian interests undoubtedly motivated others. Indeed, in six of the eight parish-church installations studied the Steinfeld glass was in the east window of the church, yet only two of these were arranged to form schemes of overt liturgical significance. If aesthetics and antiquity were the primary factors that appealed to nineteenth-century purchasers, it is likely that repairs were intended to maintain the panels’ aesthetic appeal.
The proximity of many sites in Norfolk to Hampp’s warehouse in Norwich means that direct purchases cannot be discounted. Many of the acquisitions for parish churches appear to have been conducted directly with Hampp and Stevenson, though they also demonstrate connections between the collectors themselves. In addition to the connections between collectors, the role of intermediaries in the selection of glass for large projects also became evident during the investigation. Architects and landscapers, themselves often interconnected – such as Jeffry Wyatville (who worked on the chapel at Ashridge Park), and Humphrey Repton and his son John Adey (who worked for Lady Suffield at Blickling Hall) – may have provided the routes through which many Steinfeld panels were acquired. One particularly under-studied element of early nineteenth-century Norfolk society is the Society of the United Friars, an antiquarian and philanthropic fellowship founded in 1785 by Stevenson, through which several of the collectors and intermediaries appear to have been connected.
The glass itself provided various insights into the way in which the Steinfeld panels were collected and prepared for installation. As well as repairs undertaken to restore lost elements, the glass was frequently arranged with other panels and fitted into existing window apertures, often leading to the loss of material. At St Mary’s, Disley, the presence in a clerestory window of two scenes (window XVI panel 3a and window XVII panel 3b) that were originally the heads of two panels now installed in the east window there (window XVI panel 2a and window XVII panel 2b) suggests that these panels were purchased together and cut down during installation. The separation from one another of the many panels that would once have been attached is therefore of interest when considering their dispersal, and a comparison of their current locations may provide further insights into the way in which the glass was sold or the connections between the various installations. For example, the fact that window XIII panel 2c is in the V&A, whilst its head, panel 3c, is at St Botolph’s, Hevingham, may suggest that surplus glass from the Ashridge installation was sold on, or that the main-light panels were acquired without their heads. Similarly, a fragment at St Mary Magdalene, Warham, depicting the edge of a cope looks as though it belongs to window XII panel 1a, now at St Cadoc’s, Glynneath [Figs 4 and 5]. Given the early date of installation at Warham, this could mean that the St Cadoc panel passed through the workshop of the Warham restorer, most likely Yarington, at the same time.
Condition Assessment – Key Findings
The most striking observation was the lack of corrosion on the external surfaces of the glass of almost all of the panels studied, particularly when compared with the extensive micro-pitting that has occurred across much of the interior surface. A comparison of the panels from different windows revealed that their original locations in the cloister do not appear to have led to significant differences in condition.
.Though a firm conclusion cannot be drawn, there is evidence that the extensive micro-pitting on the internal surfaces of the glass had begun before the panels were removed from Steinfeld [Figs 6 and 7]. Numerous variables affect glass corrosion, and it could be suggested that the composition of the glass itself, assumed to be consistent throughout the windows, may have been a factor in the formation of the pitting common to all the panels. The lack of external corrosion however, as well as documentary evidence that the cloister was damp, support the theory that it was the internal environment that played a primary role in the glass’s deterioration. Further evidence that this had set in before the glass was removed from the cloister is provided by nineteenth-century insertions that mimic the appearance of corrosion, showing that deterioration had progressed to a noticeable degree by this time [Fig. 8]. In addition, the retouching of glass prior to its installation in the chapel at Ashridge Park suggests that paint loss, which can also be caused by corrosion of the paint and glass by water, had already occurred across many panels.
The panels were undoubtedly restored whilst at Steinfeld, possibly explaining some of the variations in style and condition observed. For four of these five interventions, the names of the glass masters who oversaw the restoration work were recorded in the documentary evidence. These included Leo Schorn, whose inscribed numbers from 1672 are still visible on many panels. Although some nineteenth-century interventions are known, since precise details are rare and many interventions were not recorded, I focused efforts on identifying groups of insertions, and whether repairs occurred before or after the removal of the glass from the cloister. In this respect, the discovery of a partly illegible diamond inscription on window V panel 2b, with the date ‘25 Juni 1609’ [Fig. 9] is evidence of an intervention made not long after 1594, when the panels had reportedly been broken during transportation. As comparison with an original fragment immediately above it shows, it is stylistically very close: only the lack of red paint marks it as an insertion [Fig. 10]. The close stylistic imitation of early insertions provides an interesting insight into the historical practice of the early restorers of the Steinfeld glass, as it suggests restorers were trying to maintain the aesthetic unity of the panels.
Schorn’s numbering, inscribed in 1672, demonstrates the care taken to maintain the narrative order of the windows, and provides insights into later interventions. Although the inscriptions can be misleading if glass has been reused from another panel, Schorn’s numbers can provide evidence of the approaches adopted during alterations, as well as of the fates of individual panels. For instance, window XVI panel 1a bears the inscription ‘40’ on St George’s leg and ‘49’ on part of the donor’s habit. As window XIX panel 2a bears the inscription ‘49’, the donor’s habit was probably reused from the now-lost window XIX panel 1a, which depicted St Denys with a donor. This suggests that the panel was broken up and used for repairs in the nineteenth century.
The numerous insertions that appear to be of nineteenth-century date also provide insights into the practice of restorers at this period, as well as the condition of the glass. The insertions, both earlier and later, are mostly located around the edges of the panels, suggesting that pieces were replaced because of excessive breaks or loss of material. Interestingly, whilst the insertions at different locations are distinguishable from one another, they show comparable attempts by nineteenth-century restorers to proceed in an aesthetically sympathetic manner, with varying degrees of success. For instance, the imitation of style and corrosion on one group of insertions on panels in the V&A is an evident attempt to make the insertions blend in from a distance.
Although it was not possible to establish firmly the presence of the same restorer at more than one location through the stylistic evidence of the insertions, more detailed comparisons of panels that could not be examined closely, such as those at Blickling Hall, may yet uncover connections, particularly if the remainder of the extant panels is examined. For instance, the heads of Sts Norbert, Paul and Potentinus in the extensively altered window V panels 1a and 1c, now at Blickling Hall, are stylistically close to those of the saints in window VI panels 1b and 1c, now in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, Bristol [Figs 11 and 12]. This suggests that the heads are either original or perhaps the work of the same nineteenth-century restorer. As the panels at Bristol came from the dispersal of the Lypiatt Park collection in 1820, this could be evidence that the panels in Blickling Hall passed through the same collection or glazier’s workshop. Similarly, the panels at Blickling Hall could usefully be more closely compared with those at St Mary’s, Disley.
It is hoped that my investigations have shed light on the practices of nineteenth-century traders and restorers of glass, as well as raising questions regarding the motives of purchasers. Future research into the interconnectedness of purchasers of Steinfeld glass, combined with more detailed comparisons of post-dispersal insertions and reused fragments, has the potential to establish the pattern of dispersal more clearly. Although the existence of extensive micro-pitting in the glass before its dispersal was not proven conclusively, the array of evidence in favour of this hypothesis is clear. It is also evident that the different environments to which the glass was exposed after dispersal have led to further deterioration.
I would like to express my deepest thanks to Sarah Brown and Dr Ivo Rauch of the University of York; Terry Bloxham and Sherrie Eatman at the Victoria & Albert Museum; Keith Barley of Barley Studios, York; Pater Daubener of Steinfeld Abbey; the staff at Blickling House; and the vicars, rectors and churchwardens who gave me access to their churches, providing warm welcomes and important local knowledge. Special thanks are due both to the Willcox family, who accompanied me tirelessly on site visits, and Christopher Parkinson, who went out of his way to assist me; both provided excellent photographs of many of the extant panels. Finally I would like to express my thanks to the following for their generosity, which enabled me to complete my MA: the Headley Trust, the Anna Plowden Trust, the York Consortium for Conservation and Craftsmanship, and the Yorkshire Ladies Council for Education, as well as the University of York Alumni.
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http://services.english-heritage.org.uk/ResearchReportsPdfs/031_2011WEB.pdf (accessed June 2014)
S. Eatman, Condition Report and Treatment Record, C.213-1928, Records of Victoria and Albert Museum’s Conservation Department, London, Requisition ID: 41354, 2010
R. Fletcher, ‘An Exhibition of French painted glass in London about A.D. 1802’, Notes and Queries, clxiv, 5 April 1924, pp. 243–44
J. Hampp (1802–1804), Account Book of John Hampp 1802–1804, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
D. J. King, ‘The Steinfeld Cloister Glazing’, Gesta, xxxvii/2, 1998, pp. 202–209
J. A. Knowles, ‘Catalogue of a Sale of Stained Glass in 1804’, Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, xii, 1955, pp. 22–29
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D. Linstrum, Sir Jeffry Wyatville: Architect to the King, Oxford, 1972
National Trust, Blickling Hall, Norfolk, London, 1998 (rev. edn; 1st edn 1987)
W. Neuss (ed.), Die Glasmalereien aus dem Steinfelder Kreuzgang, Mönchengladbach, 1955
H. Oidtmann, ‘Über die Glasgemaelde in der ehemaligen Praemonstratenserabtei Steinfeld’, Triererisches Archiv, xvi, 1909, pp. 78–91
V. C. Raguin, ‘Revivals, Revivalists, and Architectural Stained Glass’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, xliii/3, September 1990, pp. 310–29
C. Rawcliffe, Norwich since 1550, London, 2004
N. Reinartz, ‘Die alten Glasgemälde im Kreuzgange der Prämonstratenserabtei Abtei Steinfeld in der Eifel und ihre Stifter’, in Neuss 1955, pp. 13–46
H. Rӧmich, ‘Glass and Ceramics’, in E. May and M. Jones (eds), Conservation Science: Heritage Materials, Cambridge, 2006, pp. 160–84
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Stevenson and Matchett, A Catalogue of the ancient stained glass, for sale, at the warehouse, in Norwich, and No. 97, Pall-Mall, London, Norwich, c.1804
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D. R. Täube (ed.), Rheinische Glasmalerei: Meisterwerke der Renaissance, 2 vols, Regensburg, 2007
J. Tétrault, J. Sirois and E. Stamatopolou, ‘Studies of Lead Corrosion in Acetic Acid Environments’, Studies in Conservation, xliii, 1998, pp. 17–32
W. Warrington, The History of Stained Glass, from the Earliest Period of the Art to the Present Time: Illustrated by Coloured Examples of Entire Windows in the Various Styles, London, 1848
W.S., ‘Obituary: R.C. Taylor, Esq.’, Gentleman’s Magazine, n.s., xxxvii, February 1852, pp. 201–205
1. Täube 2007, II, p. 254; Oidtmann 1909, pp. 79–91; Kurthen 1955, pp. 217–44.
2. Täube 2007, II, p. 253.
3. King 1998, p. 202.
4. Kurthen 1955, pp. 71–72.
5. Reinartz 1955, p. 20.
6. Täube 2007, II, pp. 272–419.
7. Ibid., II, p. 254. Transcriptions of the 1632 and 1719 manuscripts may be found in Oidtmann 1909 (pp. 79–91) and Kurthen 1955 (pp. 217–44) respectively.
8. Kurthen 1955, pp. 217–44; Neuss 1955.
9. Täube 2007, II.
10. Ibid., II, pp. 252, 420.
11. Rosewell and King 2009.
12. Täube 2007, II, p. 256.
13. Fitzwilliam Museum, account book of John Hampp 1802–1804.
14. Knowles 1955, pp. 22, 24.
15. Ibid., p. 24; Täube 2007, II, p. 330.
16. King 1998, p. 203.
17. Stevenson and Matchett c.1804, p. 1. Although undated, the items within this catalogue are identical to those in the 1804 catalogue transcribed by Knowles (Knowles 1955), making it likely to be of the same date.
18. Fletcher 1924, p. 243; Warrington 1848, p. 69.
19. Rӧmich 2006, p. 173.
20. Ibid., pp. 164, 173; Dungworth 2011, p. 5; Tétrault, Sirois and Stamatopolou 1998, pp. 17, 25.
21. Warrington 1848, p. 69.
22. Ibid., p. 69.
23. Kurthen 1955, p. 71.
24. ‘nimium effractae et ob vitrorum pictorum defectum vix reparabiles erant’; Oidtmann 1909, p. 82.
25. Raguin 1990, p. 312.
26. Ibid., p. 311.
27. National Trust 1998, p. 52; Linstrum 1972, p. 55.
28. Sweet 2004, pp. 114–15; Rawcliffe 2004, pp. 196–97; W.S. 1852, pp. 202–203.
29. This attribution is the author’s own, and implies that the John the Evangelist with inscription at All Saints, Stisted, attributed to window XVI panel 3a by David King, is in fact from window XVII panel 3a.
30. Rӧmich 2006, pp. 164–65, 167.
31. ‘humescentem’; Oidtmann 1909, p. 82.
32. Täube 2007, II, p. 257.
33. Ibid., II, p. 258; Oidtmann 1909, p. 80.
34. Neuss 1955, p. 71.
35. Täube 2007, II, p. 365.
36. Ibid., II, p. 389.