Art of Light
A ground-breaking exhibition that brings together some of the finest examples of German stained glass from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and puts them alongside a selection of National Gallery paintings from the same period and the same regions of Germany will be on show at the National Gallery in London from 7 November 2007 to 17 February 2008.
‘I think this is the first time that stained glass has ever been displayed at the Gallery,’ Director of Collections and Curator of the exhibition – Dr Susan Foister – told Vidimus (fig. 1). ‘Yet the case for looking at the glass in the wider context of the artistic setting in which it was painted is very powerful. Thanks to a generous loan of outstanding panels from the Victoria & Albert Museum we will be able to show these masterpieces side by side with other superb panels and drawings owned by the Gallery and to explore similarities between artists working in these very different media.
By the first half of the sixteenth century, German stained glass had reached astonishing heights of artistic and conceptual sophistication. Although often made for churches, not all stained glass of this period was religious: secular subjects were also extremely popular. Apart from similarities such as subjects and style, other crossovers include collaborative efforts between types of artistic workshops with glass-painters using the drawings and paintings of established artists like Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien/Grün (c.1480 – 1545) and Jörg Breu the Elder (1475–1537) and adapting them to their own medium. Comparisons of these masterpieces show a strong interconnectedness between artists and craftsmen and ‘fine’ and decorative arts during this period.
‘It is not just the use of common designs and visual models that stand out. Equally striking is how the glass painters incorporated ‘painterly’ qualities into their work, skills and ideas about clarity of design traditionally associated with panel painters. The portrait-like approach to faces, the self-conscious desire to create multiple layered effects of costumes and textiles, the handling of perspectives and space, and the atmospheric treatment of landscapes by these stained glass painters are hugely reminiscent of the work of well-known artists in other media.
‘The exhibition will also illuminate rarely appreciated similarities in technique between glass and panel painters, such as the use of colour washes and ‘scratching’, with panel painters using the hard points of brushes to create similar effects to glass painters working with tools like needles.
‘For many people the most obvious difference between the two types of painters is their relationship to light. But even here there are fascinating similarities. Glass painters used light to enhance colour and to animate scenes. Panel painters also grappled with aspects of light from the use of translucent glazes to reflective gilding. Just as the relationship between painted glass and its audiences is transformed by changing intensities of light, gilding also changed how pictures were seen when lit by candles.
Overall, we will be exhibiting 41 exhibits: 21 stained glass panels, 14 panel paintings, and 6 works on paper. We will also be mounting a small exhibition of tools and materials. Highlights will include exhibits from two Rhineland Abbeys: glass from Mariawald (fig. 2), near Cologne, and parts of a painted altarpiece from Liesborn, a Benedictine monastery near Münster (figs 3 and 4). Drawings by artists such as Jörg Breu the Elder, which were used as visual sources for stained glass works, will also be shown (fig. 5).
It is extraordinary to think how these great works of art survived for centuries in the churches for which they were made, only to be dispersed during the French occupation of the Rhineland and find themselves in London institutions.’
Susan Foister is Director of Collections and Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Paintings at the National Gallery, London. She is the author of Holbein and England (London, 2004) and Dürer and the Virgin in the Garden (London, 2004), and co-author of Making and Meaning: Holbein’s Ambassadors (London, 1997) and Dürer to Veronese (London, 1999). A new book by Susan Foister to accompany the Art of Light exhibition will be published in November. More information will appear in the next issue of Vidimus.
For more details of the exhibition, visit the National Gallery’s website. To see more panels from the Victoria & Albert Museum collection, visit the CVMA’s website.
Stained Glass and the Reformation
The CVMA (France) committee is holding a two-day conference on 29–30 November 2007 on ‘Stained Glass and the Arts during the Reformation. Normandy in the European Context’ (Vitrail et arts au temps des réformes: L’exemple normand dans le contexte Européen). Timed to coincide with the publication of Laurence Riviale’s book, Le vitrail en Normandie entre Renaissance et Réforme (1517-1596) (published by the Presses universitaires de Rennes), the conference will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Inventaire général de Haute-Normandie.
Laurence Riviale’s book deals with how catholic donors of stained glass responded to the rise of Protestantism, from the beginnings of the Reformation in 1517 (which was also the year of Francis I’s royal entry in Rouen) to 1596 (the crowning of King Henry IV and his royal entry into Rouen).
The conference is in two parts. The first day will be spent visiting churches at Conches-en-Ouche and Saint-Valentin de Jumièges in Upper Normandy, while the second day will take place in Hotel de Région in Rouen. Papers will discuss how theological struggles, from the defence of imagery and the cult of saints, were expressed in stained glass. Other sessions will look at the fate and status of stained glass in Switzerland during the ascendancy of the protestant preachers Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) and John Calvin (1509–1564); events in the Low Countries after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1579; and the impact of the Reformation in England during the reign of Edward VI.
Special thanks are due to the Conseil Régional de Haute-Normandie, the Conseil général de l’Eure, and the Conseil général de Seine-Maritime, whose support has made the conference possible.
The full programme is currently as follows.
29 November, Site Visits
9–9.30: reception at the Conseil régional de Haute-Normandie 5, rue Robert Schuman à Rouen. 9.30: depart for Conches-en-Ouche. Presentation of the windows of the church of Sainte-Foy by Michel Hérold and Laurence Riviale. 12.30: reception at the Conseil général de l’Eure in Evreux, with an exhibition of photographs of stained glass by Thierry Leroy, photographer for the regional body for heritage conservation, and a preprandial cocktail, courtesy of the Conseil général de l’Eure. 14.15: depart for Jumièges. Presentation of the church of Saint-Valentin by Laurence Riviale) and a visit to the abbey. 17.30: depart for Rouen. 18.30: reception at the Musée départemental des Antiquités de la Seine-Maritime, with a presentation of the museum’s stained glass collection given by the museum’s conservators, and a preprandial cocktail courtesy of the Conseil général de la Seine-Maritime.
30 November, Papers
9–9.30: reception at the Hôtel de la Région Haute-Normandie, Rouen. 9.30–9.45: introductory talk, given by Mr Alain Le Vern, President of the Conseil Régional de Haute-Normandie. 9.45–10: introductory talk, given by Mr Dany Sandron, Director of the Laboratoire de recherche sur le patrimoine français. 10-10.45: introduction by M. Marc Venard (Emeritus Professor at the Université de Paris X-Nanterre): ‘Les diocèses de Rouen et d’Evreux au XVIe siècle’. 10.45: M. Denis Hüe (Professor at the Université de Rennes II): ‘Le puy de la Conception de Rouen’. 11.15: Mme Catherine Vincent (Director of the History Department at the Université de Paris X-Nanterre): ‘La distribution des lumières et leur sens dans les édifices cultuels au XVIe siècle’. 11.45: Discussion. 12.00: Mme Rita Ramberti (Università di Bologna) and Laurence Riviale: ‘A propos de la verrière de la Cène à Allouville-Bellefosse: la communion de Judas comme preuve du libre-arbitre de l’homme face au serf-arbitre de Luther’. 12.40: Discussion. 13.00: Buffet at the Conseil Régional and a visit to an exhibition mounted by the Service régional de l’Inventaire de Haute-Normandie. 14.30: Mme Brigitte Kurmann (President of the international committee of the Corpus Vitrearum): ‘Le vitrail en Suisse à l’époque de la Réforme’. 15h: Dr Zsuzsanna van Ruyven (Corpus Vitrearum of the Netherlands): ‘Les vitraux dans les Pays-Bas aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles: vitrail catholique – vitrail réformé’ (given in English). 15.30: Discussion. Break. 16.15: David King (Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi of Great Britain; School of History, University of East Anglia): ‘English Stained Glass at the Reformation: Losses, Survivals and Continuity in Norwich’. 16.45: Discussion and conclusions.
For further information and registration please email Michel Hérold, Centre André Chastel, 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris.
Generous Gift from Abbey Homes plc
Vidimus is delighted to announce a generous donation from Abbey Homes plc, one of the UK’s largest house-building companies.
Charles Gallagher, Executive Chairman of the company, told us: ‘We are very pleased to support Vidimus and this new initiative. Stained glass is one of the most important traditional building crafts: a unique blend of art and architecture that has created some of the most enduring monuments of European civilisation. With projects in the UK and elsewhere in Europe we are proud of our reputation for skill and excellence.’
Vidimus editor, Dr Tim Ayers. said: ‘We are very grateful to Abbey Homes. Their gift guarantees our publication for another year and means that we can build on our achievements to date.’
For further information on the company, visit its website.
Dr Allan Barton will be speaking on ‘The Medieval Stained Glass of Nottinghamshire’, at a Thoroton Society Lecture in the city on 10 November 2007. Thoroton Society lectures are held at Nottingham Mechanics, 3 North Sherwood Street, Nottingham NG1 4EZ. Further information about this event is available on the society’s website.
Allan Barton is the author of a well-illustrated guide to the stained glass at All Saints Church, North Street, York, where the famous ‘Pricke of Conscience’ window can be seen. Copies of this guide are available from the church’s website.
There are more than 130 images of Nottinghamshire glass in the CVMA’s Picture Archive.
Marc Chagall: La Couleur de l’Amour
There is still plenty of time to catch the exhibition of over 100 stained-glass designs by the French artist Marc Chagall (1887–1985) at the Vitromusée in Romont, Switzerland, before this fabulous show closes on 18 November.
Items on display (figs 1–6) include trial panels for Chagall’s scheme depicting the sons of the twelve tribes of Israel at the synagogue of the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem (1960), and the maquettes for his masterpiece scheme in the tiny church of All Saints, Tudeley, Kent, England (see below).
A beautifully illustrated 112-page guide (with text in French and German) accompanies the event. See further the Books section in this issue.
Apart from the Chagall panels, visitors to the Vitromusée will also be able to see some of the museum’s important collection of medieval and Renaissance stained glass (figs 7–8)
For further information about the exhibition and the work of the museum, visit its website.
For English admirers of Chagall’s work, a visit to the tiny church of All Saints, Tudeley (Kent), for which the artist designed twelve windows, is a must (figs 9–10). Another Chagall window can be seen at Chichester Cathedral.
Dürer Exhibition in Frankfurt
A magnificent exhibition of Albrecht Dürer prints will run at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt-am-Main from 27 September 2007 until 6 January 2008. It will include more than 130 engravings, woodcuts and etchings by this outstanding German artist (1471–1528).
The Städel Museum is situated at 62 Schaumainkai 63, 60596 Frankfurt, and the exhibition will be open from 10am to 6pm (Tuesday and Friday to Sunday), and from 10am to 9pm (Wednesday and Thursday). Further information may be found on the museum’s website. Admission is 10 euros, concessions 8 euros, family ticket 18 euros; free admission for children under 12. A well illustrated catalogue will be also be available – see the Books section in this issue.
From One Panel to Another: New Discovery in Cologne
Important new discoveries about a stained glass panel recently acquired by the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne, have cast new light on a well-known window in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Showing a kneeling woman donor and her six daughters being presented by St Cecilia, the Schnütgen panel was initially thought to portray members of the Bock de Patten family and to have been made for the monastery of St Cecilia in Cologne (now the Schnütgen Museum) c.1525–35 (fig. 1).
While it now seems likely that the V & A panel also came from St Peter’s, the intriguing possibility that the Schnütgen ‘donor’ panel also formed part of the same scheme cannot be ruled out. Unfortunately, as with so much other glass removed from German churches in the first years of the nineteenth century, the panel lacks a precise provenance. Yet, if it was not made for St Peter’s, then where was it made for? The monastery of St Cecilia certainly remains a strong possibility. Another it is that it belongs to an entirely different scheme, perhaps made for a church near Aachen, where the donor lived.
Thanks to Arcadia Fletcher; Dr Hiltrud Westermann-Angerhausen, Director of the Schnütgen Museum; Dr Hartmut Scholz, of the German CVMA (Freiburg); and Terry Bloxham, of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
York Great East Window Latest
Conservation trials have begun on the Great East Window of York Minster prior to its complete dismantlement in the autumn of next year by experts from the York Glaziers Trust. Made between 1405 and 1408, the window contains the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in England, covering over 1680 square feet. The main lights tell the story of the history of the world from the beginning to the end, drawn from the first and last books of the Bible.
Thanks to the generosity of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster, Vidimus has been given exceptional access to the conservation process of this outstanding scheme as it unfolds. Every month we will feature a new story about the work.
The Army of Horsemen (I 8e)
This month we are focusing on panel 8e, a main-light scene showing a band of armed men wearing plate armour contemporary with the window’s creation date and riding on horses with ‘heads of lions’. In the foreground one of these monstrous creatures breathes out ruby flames at two men. The same horse has a tail ending in a toothed snake’s head. The scene is drawn from the Book of Revelation (IX, 16–19), St John’s terrifying vision of the Apocalypse.
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions: and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
Figures 1 and 2 show the panel before and after conservation. Like much of the window, it had suffered in the past from poor repair, heavy releading and other damage. The transformation is remarkable and involved up to 600 hours of work. Figures 3 and 4 show close up details of an original head and a head newly painted to replace losses to the panel.
The expression of the horseman in figure 3 is far more chilling than any attempt at caricature. This is the human face of evil, completely devoid of compassion. Scrutiny of the chain mail reveals the use of stickwork, whereby paint is removed, often with the end of the brush, to create areas of white on a dark background.
The newly painted face in figure 4 reproduces the original style and technique. It has scored diagonal lines, or hatching, and a tiny inscription with the painter’s initials and the date to ensure that it is clearly recognizable as a new insertion. There was enough visual information within the panel to recreate some of the missing parts without recourse to conjecture.
Thanks to Amanda Daw and Nick Teed. Photography by Nick Teed. All photographs are reproduced by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster.
Sarah Brown’s Stained Glass at York Minster. 96 pages with over 100 colour illustrations, is available at £8.95 + pp from the York Minster shop.