Barley Studio has recreated a window destroyed during the Second World War for Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. The 1830 window, by William Collins of the Strand, was in turn based on the figure of Charity in the west window of the chapel of New College, Oxford. This New College glass, installed 1778–85, was designed by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) and painted by Thomas Jervais (d.1799) [Fig. 1]. The replica of Collins window has been created and installed as part of the multi-million pound ‘Opening Up The Soane’ project to restore, refurbish and improve the museum.
All that survives of the Collins window in Sir John Soane’s Museum, following a landmine explosion in October 1940, are two sections of the classical pedestal, along with some of the metal framework used to hold the glazing, inventory sketches, and watercolour and partial photographic images of the window [Fig. 2]. A photograph of Reynolds’s cartoon for New College (held in a private collection) was suitably enlarged to act as a guide for the cartoon, executed by glass-painter Jonathan Cooke. The metal framework for the glazing was recreated, based on the surviving original portion discovered in the museum store during the project, using U-section lead with a tinned brass strip soldered into the lead groove.
Barley Studio entrusted Jonathan Cooke with the task of replicating Collins’s painting style, applying glass paint, enamels and stain onto large pieces of thin float glass. The central part of the classical pedestal, also held in the museum store, was conserved by Alison Gilchrist (under the direction of Keith Barley) and reinstalled along with the newly painted glass. Each individual piece of exquisitely painted, extremely thin, glass was then carefully dry glazed and bevel puttied into the metal framework by Studio Director Keith Barley – a skilful, not to say stressful, task!
This project will be described in detail in our February feature.