When writing my Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (published in 2014), which covered stained glass from all periods, the chapter on the Continental glass of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries presented a considerable challenge. This glass, brought to Wales by several collectors or their descendants, only represents a tiny proportion of the body of surviving glass from the Continent, some of which survives in its places of origin, but more of which has been dispersed across Great Britain and North America, with a correspondingly scattered body of scholarship.
In the case of the largest collection of sixteenth-century Continental glass in Wales, at Llanwenllwyfo in northern Anglesey, I turned first to the notes on the glass by J. O. Hughes that been written and printed locally. Full of interesting detail on the subject matter and provenance of the panels, his work contained no footnotes or references, necessitating a further search for the sources of his information. This search led me to articles by Yvette Vanden Bemden and Jill Kerr, Hilary Wayment, and catalogue entries in several American Corpus Vitrearum volumes, and I employed these sources in the book, as well as for an article in Vidimus that appeared in April 2014.
In the latter half of 2014, I was approached to produce a book on the glass at Llanwenllwyfo based on the work of J. O. Hughes, who had passed away in 2006, and his wife Catherine, who died in 2014. Their family was keen to see this work published properly, and working on the book as photographer and designer prompted me to consider the panels in the church in more detail. This involved revisiting some of the writing on the glass and ultimately questioning some of the attributions offered in the past. Additional light has been thrown on the glass by recent research, and this article attempts to address these issues, offering a brief assessment of work in progress on the earlier Continental stained glass at Llanwenllwyfo.
About twelve of the principal scenes and some additional sections at Llanwenllwyfo share common features that suggest that they were made by the same workshop at a similar date. They are readily differentiated from other panels at the church, five of which are very clearly of a much later date. All of them were given to the church by Sir Arundel Neave, who married Gwen Gertrude Hughes of the Llys Dulas estate on Anglesey. He inherited the stained glass from his grandfather, Sir Thomas Neave, whose large collection was gradually given to churches or sold in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
J. O. Hughes accepted a date of 1522 for the earlier group of panels (a date that is inscribed on a section that has been detached from its original scene, sV 1c), and assumed that they had all come the Charterhouse at Leuven/Louvain, having been made nearby at Mechelen/Malines. Hilary Wayment went further and attributed two of these scenes to the Master of the Mass of St Gregory (nII 2a [Fig. 1], nIII 2b) – the artist responsible for a roundel now in the Victoria & Albert Museum [Fig. 2] – and others to his workshop or followers (sIII 1a, sIV 1b, sV 1b). He also attributed a further panel at Llanwenllwyfo to Cornelius Rambuicht of Brussels (nII 1a [Fig. 4]), and two panels to Peter van den Houte, including the cinquefoil of Pope Adrian VI, Charles V, courtiers and apostles (I E2, nIII 2c). These attributions were made with reference to stained glass and paintings elsewhere – some of which had also been part of the collection of Thomas Neave, now found in churches, homes and museum collections, mainly in Great Britain and North America. In his article on the Master of the Mass of St Gregory, Wayment also discussed the work of Hendrik van Diependale (d.1509) and his son Jan, who were known to have made stained glass for the Charterhouse at Leuven, and he tentatively attributed panels to them, though none of those from Llanwenllwyfo.
Stained glass from the Neave collection was exhibited in 1982 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which now houses the largest collection of Neave family glass. In her catalogue essay, Jessie McNab attributed panels to Hendrik and Jan van Diependale that have clear similarities to scenes at Llanwenllwyfo. Among these were the scene of Bathsheba and Solomon by the deathbed of David [Fig. 3], which Wayment later tentatively ascribed to the ‘master’ of the artist responsible for another group of panels that he assumed had come from the Leuven Charterhouse; he dated this group to c.1519–20, and one of them, Christ Healing Peter’s Mother-in-Law, is now at Llanwenllwyfo (nII 1a [Fig. 4]). He also proposed the name Cornelius Rambuicht for this artist, suggested by the inscription ‘CORNELIU[S]’ on the hem of the robe of St John the Baptist in a panel at Prittlewell [Fig. 5]. Although Wayment included the scene of Christ Healing Peter’s Mother-in-Law in this group, the execution of this panel is different to that of Bathsheba, Solomon and David, particularly the treatment of the faces.
The name of another artist has recently been associated with similar panels by Yvette Bruijnen. She has suggested that some of the panels attributed to the St Gregory Master by Wayment have stronger similarities with the work of Jan Rombouts, who was active in Leuven in the first third of the sixteenth century. She has attributed many panels from the Neave collection now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and elsewhere to Rombouts (or his workshop, or as pieces designed by him), a number of of which are closely related to examples at Llanwenllwyfo.
Wayment correlated the pose of Lazarus in the scene at Llanwenllwyfo (nII 2a) with one of the figures in the Mass of St Gregory roundel, but there are some similarities with the central female figure by Rombouts in his painting The Birth of John the Baptist (c.1500–10, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art [Fig. 6]). However, the figure in the painting is much closer to that of Mary Magdalene in a scene at Llanwenllwyfo, where she meets the risen Christ (sII 1a [Fig. 7]), and also exhibits the curled fingers that Wayment associated with the St Gregory Master. This scene, with Christ wearing a straw hat and holding a spade, playing the part of the gardener for whom Mary Magdalene mistakes him on Easter morning, is a particular treasure of Llanwenllwyfo, and its combination of figure group with beautifully detailed grisaille background relates it closely to the scenes that Wayment attributed to the St Gregory Master. For example, the figure of Christ is surely by the same hand as that in the Raising of Lazarus (nII 2a [Fig. 1]), and also Christ in the house of Simon the Pharisee (sIII 1a [Fig. 8]); in turn, the face is very similar to that of Moses in a scene with Aaron and Miriam (nIII 1b [Fig. 9]).
The style of other faces is also replicated across a number of panels at Llanwenllwyfo and in related panels elsewhere, suggesting the same hand at work. This includes not only the panels thought to have been made for the Leuven Charterhouse, but also the figures from the cinquefoil of Pope Adrian VI with Charles V (I E2), which were associated by Wayment with Peter van den Houte. Some of the faces and poses in these panels are also found in other examples of glass-painting that Yvette Bruijnen attributes to Jan Rombouts. For example, the figure to the left of Christ in the house of Simon the Pharisee is very similar to King Ahasuerus in a roundel with Esther and Haman of the 1520s now at the church of All Saints, Earsham, although the faces in this roundel do not have the strong modelling and hatching found in other examples that she attributes to the artist.
Several designs at Llanwenllwyfo employ additional detailed background scenes illustrating a separate part of the narrative. For example, in the panel of Moses with Aaron and Miriam (nIII 1b), Moses is also praying on the hill in the background; and behind the main scene where Lazarus comes forth from the grave, Christ is meeting Mary and Martha outside Bethany (nII 2a [Fig. 1]). A similar technique is also found on the scene showing the Mocking of Christ (sV 1b), which J. O. Hughes noted was to the same design as a drawing by Barent van Orley. According to Wayment, this was made by the workshop of Peter Coecke, but even here the head of the soldier in profile and the pattern on his armour has similarities with soldiers in other panels by the workshop responsible for the group of similar panels that includes the Raising of Lazarus (nII 2a), and Moses with Aaron and Miriam (nIII 1b).
A feature found in many of these panels is the use of the edges of garments and objects to note the names of the characters depicted, something that is also a feature of the cinquefoil, which gives the name of the pope in an identical script. Text in a very similar hand names two of the magi on the gifts that they offer in a panel now inserted into the east window (I 1a), and interestingly this matches the autograph text of Cornelius on the panel at Prittlewell. The scene of the Adoration of the Magi appears to be of a slightly earlier style, and the head of Balthasar is very similar to some of the heads found in the panels depicting the life of St Nicholas that were made for the Leuven Charterhouse, such as the Consecration of Nicholas, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was attributed to Jan van Diependale by Jessie McNab. Other characteristics mark out the work of what must be the same workshop, such as the colours of the glass and the painting of the grassy foregrounds, and checquered floors. But even here there are also small differences. For example, a scene with King David at the Burrell Collection [Fig. 10] shows marked similarities with the Adoration of the Magi at Llanwenllwyfo (I 1a [Fig. 11]), such as the text on the hems of garments and the rendering the of some of the faces, but the scene exhibits a bolder use of paint, and the shading on the floor tiles is hatched rather than washed.
Similarities can also be seen in some of the other Neave panels now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For example, the composition, colours, and use of text on the hem of King David’s garment in the scene of him being driven from Jerusalem all recall panels at Llanwenllwyfo. Yvette Bruijnen found similarities between this and other panels at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the work of Jan Rombouts, which are executed with a coarser handling of paint than most of those at Llanwenllwyfo.
The fine paintwork of the Mass of St Gregory roundel is perhaps the most problematic aspect of Hilary Wayment’s attribution of some of the Llanwenllwyfo panels to the same artist. Although much of the stained glass at Llanwenllwyfo is of high quality, none of it quite matches this roundel. Similarly, the scene of the Holy Family (sV 2b [Fig. 12]) is not of the quality of the portrait of Catherine Boelen with St Catherine, also at the Victoria & Albert Museum [Fig. 13], although their borders share the same design, and both were attributed to the St Gregory Master, with Wayment describing the Holy Family as a workshop copy. This scene of the Holy Family is also found at the Church of All Saints, Earsham, although the scene was probably a conventional one, also reproduced in other surviving examples, such as a roundel now at the Church of St Andrew, Watford, and without Joachim and Joseph in a small fragment at the M-Museum Leuven.
The only artists known to have executed stained glass for the Charterhouse at Leuven were the father and son, Hendrik and Jan van Diependale, although no panels have been securely attributed to them. We also know that when Jan van Diependale was slow to produce panels for the procurator, Dierick Persyn, he was threatened with having the designs removed so that they could be made by another glazier. It is not certain whether the threat was carried out, but it opens up the possibility that some of the panels that exhibit commonalities of design were interpreted by different painters in different workshops. It may also have been simply the case that Hendrik, Jan, and their employees or associates had their own personal, and evolving styles. It follows that even if some of the panels can be shown to have been designed by the St Gregory Master, Jan Rombouts, Barent van Orley or by others, they could still have been made by a single workshop. That this workshop was in Leuven rather than Mechelen seems entirely reasonable, especially since the stained glass thought to have been made for the Charterhouse and also the Pope’s College there demonstrates similarities. For this reason, we might reasonably look to the Leuven workshops of the van Diependales or of Rombouts, though other glaziers could also have been active in the city or nearby. One such painter might be identified from the initials ‘WI’ seen at either side of the panel of the Crucifixion at the centre of the present east window (I 2b), although this appears to be a composite panel, and the borders bearing the initials are fragmentary and need not have belonged to it.
While it has been assumed in the past that many of the panels under discussion in this article came from the Leuven Charterhouse, this assumption is not necessarily tenable. Sir Thomas Neave bought stained glass on the Continent and from dealers in England, and scholars may have been too ready to assume that Old and New Testament scenes in a similar style in his collection were all made for the typological sequence known from the Great Cloister of the Leuven Charterhouse. C. J. Berserik has recently reminded us of this, pointing out that similar glazing schemes at other Carthusian monasteries were in progress in the same period and that it is likely that some of the same artists and workshops could have been involved. The fact that many of the panels at Llanwenllwyfo and elsewhere have been cut down, often losing their borders, inscriptions and associated heraldry, has made it harder to demonstrate provenance.
With the publication of J. O. Hughes’s book on the glass of the church that he knew so well, it is to be hoped that the illustrations of all of the main panels will assist other scholars of Continental Renaissance glass, and perhaps enable new theories concerning the provenance and authorship of these and other panels collected by Thomas Neave to emerge. My understanding of these panels suggests that our knowledge of them is likely to remain work in progress for some time to come.
The new book, Hidden Gems: Stained Glass at the Church of Gwenllwyfo, Anglesey, can be purchased online.
C. J. Berserik and J. M. A. Caen, Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels before the French Revolution: Flanders, Vol. III: Flemish Brabant and Limburg, Brussels: Corpus Vitrearum Belgium, 2014
Y. Bruijnen and M. Hoyle (tr.), Jan Rombouts: The Discovery of an Early Sixteenth-Century Master in Louvain, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011
J. O. Hughes, A Short Guide to the Early 16th Century Glass of Llanwenllwyfo Church Isle of Anglesey, 1995
J. O. Hughes, C. Hughes and A. Lloyd, Hidden Gems: Stained Glass at the Church of St Gwenllwyfo, Anglesey, Aberystwyth: Sulien, 2016
T. Husband, The Luminous Image: Painted Glass Roundels in the Lowlands 1480–1560, New York, 1995
J. McNab, Flemish Renaissance Stained Glass, exhibition catalogue, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982
V. C. Raguin, H. J. Zakin and E. C. Pastan, Stained Glass before 1700 in the Collections of the Midwest States, 2 vols, London: Harvey Miller, 2001
M. Reeves, C. J. Berserik and J. M. A. Caen, Gilded Light: 16th-Century Stained Glass Roundels from the Collection of Sir Thomas Neave and Other Private Collections, London: Sam Fogg, 2016
Y. Vanden Bemden and J. Kerr, ‘A Group of 16th century panels from the Low Countries now in British Churches’, The Journal of Stained Glass, 18, no. 1 (1983–84), pp. 32–39
H. Wayment, King’s College Chapel Cambridge: The Side-Chapel Glass, Cambridge: The Cambridge Antiquarian Society and the Provost and Scholars of King’s College, 1988
H. Wayment, ‘The Master of the Mass of Saint Gregory Roundel’, Oud Holland, 103, no. 2 (1989), pp. 61–96
H. Wayment, ‘Adrian and Peter Vandenhoute, Glaziers and Tapestry Designers’, Oud Holland, 112, no. 2/3 (1998), pp. 77–103
1. Vanden Bemden and Kerr, 1983–84.
2. In particular, Wayment 1989.
3. For example, Raguin, Zakin and Pastan 2001.
4. Hughes, Hughes and Lloyd 2016.
5. Hughes 1995, pp. 4, 12.
6. Wayment 1989.
7. Wayment 1989, pp. 81, 91; Wayment 1998, pp. 82–83.
8. Wayment 1989.
9. McNab 1982, not paginated.
10. Wayment 1989, p. 81. An alternative date of c.1500 for the scene of Christ Healing Peter’s Mother-in-Law was proposed in Husband 1995, p. 136.
11. This was among a group of panels given sometime after 1877 by Gwen Gertrude, Lady Neave, to the Church of St Mary, Prittlewell, where several panels have close similarities with both the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century work at Llanwenllwyfo.
12. Bruijnen 2011.
13. Hughes 1995, p. 12.
14. Wayment 1988, p. 60.
15. McNab 1982, not paginated.
16. Bruijnen 2011, pp. 178–80.
17. Wayment 1989, pp. 84–87.
18. Berserik and Caen 2014, pp. 161–62.
19. Bruijnen 2011, pp. 134–35.
20. Reeves, Berserik and Caen 2016, pp. 3–4.