CVMA Detective Work on Show

An exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum (Norfolk) of more than 200 pieces created between 2000 BC and 2013 that mark ‘the cultural impact of birds upon mankind’ includes a portrait of special significance to stained-glass historians. The painting shows an apparently anonymous woman cradling a squirrel in her lap with a starling perched on a branch just behind her right shoulder [Fig. 1].

Fig. 1. ‘Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling’ by Hans Holbein, National Gallery, London.

Fig. 1. ‘Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling’ by Hans Holbein, National Gallery, London.

The portrait was executed c.1526–28 by Hans Holbein (1497–1543) and is being lent to the exhibition by the National Gallery in London. Although the portrait is traditionally known as ‘Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling’, the identity of the sitter was finally established in 2004 thanks to the detective-like efforts of CVMA (GB) author, David King, who used visual clues in the glazing at the parish church of St Peter and St Paul in East Harling (Norfolk) to solve the mystery. David recognized that the coat of arms of the Lovell family in the stained glass of the church included crouched squirrels like those in Holbein’s painting, and that the image of a starling was almost certainly a pun on East Harling, commonly spelt ‘Estharling’ in the fifteenth century [Fig. 2]. He therefore proposed that the portrait depicted Anne Lovell, the wife of Francis Lovell, a wealthy landowner, and suggested that it was probably commissioned by him as a way of asserting the family’s rising status in the eyes of King Henry VIII’s court after he had inherited the estate at East Harling. It is also conceivable that the portrait was once part of a pair of husband and wife paintings. The sitter in the National Gallery painting is unlikely to have posed with either the squirrel or the starling: Holbein probably made separate studies of them in drawings.

Fig. 2. A squirrel from the east window, parish church of St Peter and St Paul, East Harling, Norfolk.

Fig. 2. A squirrel from the east window, parish church of St Peter and St Paul, East Harling, Norfolk.

‘The Wonder of Birds’ runs at Norwich Castle Museum from 24 May to 14 September. East Harling Church contains the most important collection of fifteenth-century glass by Norwich glass-painters outside that city. Most of it has been gathered into the east chancel window, which now contains the remains of a number of windows, but fourteen other windows also contain lesser remains of medieval glass. For more information on the church, visit the CVMA (GB)’s digital publication of East Harling, and browse the CVMA Picture Archive.

Further Reading

D. J. King, ‘Who was Holbein’s Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling?’, Apollo, clix, 2004, pp. 42–49

Future of Park Abbey Windows Unclear

Fig. 1. Park Abbey.

Fig. 1. Park Abbey.

As we go to press, the future ownership of some important early seventeenth-century windows executed by the French-born glass-painter Jean de Caumont (1580–1659) between 1635 and 1643 for the cloisters of Park Abbey in Heverlee, near Leuven (Belgium), and now belonging to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, is in doubt [Fig. 1].

The windows show six scenes from the life of St Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensians (the order of canons regular of Prémontré), and were given to the gallery in 1925 by the controversial copper-mining magnate and politician, Senator William A. Clark (1839–1925), as part of a much larger bequest numbering around 200 items [Fig. 2]. Earlier this year, the gallery announced that it was closing, following years of financial difficulty. Under plans unveiled recently by its Trustees, the gallery’s art collection, landmark building and design school will be taken over this autumn by the National Gallery of Art and the George Washington University respectively. According to a press statement issued on 14 May, while some artwork will be kept, ‘Works [from the Corcoran] that are not accessioned by the National Gallery will be distributed by the Corcoran to other art museums and appropriate entities with a preference given to those in the Washington, D.C., area. No work of art will be sold.’ As a result, it is not clear what will happen to the Park windows after the plans outlined above have received their expected approval from a DC superior court and the gallery formally closes to the public (which will be on or about 1 October). The windows are not currently on public display, and according to reports in the Washington Post, the Trustees may be willing to repatriate the glass to the abbey.

Fig. 2. Senator William A. Clarke.

Fig. 2. Senator William A. Clarke.

The history of the glass has been meticulously chronicled by the US stained-glass historian, Professor Ellen M. Shortell. The abbey was closed by the French revolutionary government in 1797, and many of its furnishings and works of art were sold. In 1828, all forty-one windows from the cloister were bought by a Brussels ship-owner and divided between his three children after his death in 1850. These collections were further dispersed in the second half of the nineteenth century, after which some found their way to America [Fig. 3]. Apart from the Clarke/Corcoran windows, panels from the same series were acquired by the J. B. Speed Museum in Louisville and the Yale University Art Gallery; the Yale panels were purchased by the city of Leuven last year and are undergoing pre-conservation study.

Fig. 3. The Park Abbey glass, as installed in William Clarke’s home, c.1925.

Fig. 3. The Park Abbey glass, as installed in William Clarke’s home, c.1925.

In recent years, a group in Belgium devoted to restoring the abbey, which was reacquired by the Premonstratensians in 1833, has been trying to recover the window glass. Three complete windows were returned to the abbey in 1971, and in 1993 two windows were purchased at Sotheby’s in New York.

Further Reading

Madeline H. Caviness (ed.), Stained Glass before 1700 in American Collections: Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern Seaboard States, CVMA (USA), Checklist Series, II, Studies in the History of Art, XXIII, Washington, 1987, pp. 30–31

Joost M. A. Caen, ‘The Conservation of Two Seventeenth-Century Enamelled Stained Glass Windows by Jan de Caumont in the Abbey ’t Park in Leuven, Belgium (Flanders)’, (accessed June 2014)

Ellen M. Shortell, ‘Visionary Saints in the Gilded Age: the American Afterlife of the Park Abbey Glass’, in Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz and Hartmut Scholz (eds), Transactions of the 25th International Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum, St. Petersburg 2010, Bern, 2012, pp. 239–52

Ellen M. Shortell, ‘A Seventeenth-Century Glazing Program with the Life of St. Norbert from the Premonstratensian abbey of Park’, MA Thesis, Tufts University, 1988

Olivier Schalm, Joost Caen and Koen Janssens, ‘Homogeneity, Composition and Deterioration of Window Glass Fragments and Paint Layers from Two Seventeenth-Century Stained Glass Windows Created by Jan de Caumont (1580-1659)’, Studies in Conservation, lv/3, (2010), pp. 216–26; an abstract is available at (accessed June 2014)

A short video guide to Park Abbey, with external views of the cloister windows, can be found here.

Summer Events at the Stained Glass Museum

Annual Lecture

Tickets are now available for the 2014 annual lecture and special tour, which will take place on Wednesday 23 July 2014, 5.30–7.30pm. The lecture is on stained glass in the British synagogue and will be given by Dr Sharman Kadish, Director of Jewish Heritage UK.

Fig. 1. The Star of David, Reading Synagogue, (c) English Heritage, photo by Michael Hesketh-Roberts

Fig. 1. The Star of David, Reading Synagogue. (c) English Heritage, photo by Michael Hesketh-Roberts

In this illustrated lecture, Dr Sharman Kadish will introduce the variety of stained glass to be found in synagogues across Britain, casting light on a significant but under-appreciated Jewish art form. She will explore examples from synagogues all over the country, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, including works by designers David Hillman, Nehemiah Azaz, and Roman and Ardyn Halter.

Following the tour, attendees will be given a guided tour of the New West End Synagogue, a beautiful Victorian building with stained glass windows by N. H. J. Westlake and Erwin Bossanyi. The lecture will be held at the New West End Synagogue, Bayswater. Tickets are £15 in advance, or £18 on the door. The price includes the lecture, tour and refreshments. Tickets are available online here, or by telephoning 01353 660347.

Summer Garden Party and Visit

Fig. 2. The Crucifixion with angels collecting Christ’s blood, C16, from a window in the west tower of St Mary’s Church, Stradsett

Fig. 2. Stradsett, St Mary’s Church, west tower window: Crucifixion with angels collecting Christ’s blood, 16th century.

By kind permission of Sir Jeremy Bagge, friends and supporters of The Stained Glass Museum are invited to visit the church of St Mary, Stradsett, on the Stradsett Estate, Norfolk. The church retains many of its medieval architectural features, and the visit will be an opportunity to see the sixteenth-century east window from Augsburg (Germany), brought over to England in the early nineteenth century by John Christopher Hampp of Norwich, as well as several late nineteenth-century windows. After the visit, there will be a light buffet of sandwiches, cake and refreshments.

St Mary’s Church, Stradsett Hall, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, Friday 15 August, 3–6pm. A coach will depart Ely at 2pm, returning at 7pm. Tickets are £10 (including refreshments) or £20 (including coach travel and refreshments) and are available online here. Telephone the Stained Glass Museum on 01353 660347 for more information.

Window Damaged during Break-in at the Church of St Mary, Shrewsbury

Fig. 1: Window depicting the coronation of the virgin before sustaining damage. By permission of the CCT.

Fig. 1: Window depicting the coronation of the virgin before sustaining damage. By permission of the CCT.

A rare early seventeenth-century window depicting a scene from the Coronation of the Virgin has been broken during a break-in by thieves at the church of St Mary in Shrewsbury.

First estimates suggest that it might cost up to £15,000 to repair the window. The thieves stole just £40.  This is the second time the church has been targeted in the past six months.  The first time the church was broken into the only damage was to a plain porch window after the offenders were disturbed; this time however, the thieves broke a side window in St Katherine’s chapel to gain access to the vestry.

The Churches Conservation Trust, which cares for St Mary’s, has described the damage as ‘senseless vandalism just to acquire some loose change’.  Mr Robert Milton, of the Trust, said the window would be ‘somewhat harder to repair and more expensive primarily because of the colour of the glass’.

The church of St Mary has one of the best collections of stained glass in the UK: see Vidimus 78.

Norwich Church Celebrates Stained Glass Restoration

This month Christ Church, Eaton (Norwich, Norfolk) is celebrating the restoration of its stained-glass windows. As reported in Vidimus 68, the church launched a fund-raising campaign entitled ‘Be a Pane’, during which the community worked to raise the money needed to repair the church’s stained glass, particularly the west window. This window, dating from 1918, was designed by Arthur A. Orr of Harrow to celebrate the golden wedding of the Norwich industrialist, John Joseph Dawson Paul. Orr (1868–1949) was a freelance glass designer and worked with Hardman & Co. He produced windows for many churches, including St Saviour’s, Lewisham; Christ Church, Moss Side, Manchester; the church of the Transfiguration, Pyecombe, West Sussex; and St Lawrence, Eyam, Derbyshire. Examples of his work can be seen in The Stained Glass Museum.

The ‘Be a Pane’ campaign was successful, and restoration of the windows was completed by May 2014. The church held a service on 8 June 2014 to celebrate the repair and reinstallation of the glass.