- Prof. Paul Crossley: a Celebration of his Life
- Becket 2020
- Frederick Preedy Remembered
- Exhibition: Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art
- Glaziers and the Reformation in England: New Discoveries
- New Curator of Medieval Art at The Cleveland Museum
- Selling Exhibition of Medieval Art in New York
Prof. Paul Crossley: a Celebration of his Life
On Saturday, 14th March, the Courtauld Institute of Art will host a celebration of the life of the much-loved late Professor Paul Crossley. This will take place between 3.30 and 5.30pm at the Courtauld’s Vernon Square address, Penton Rise, London WC1X 9EW. All are welcome.
The year 2020 marks the 850th anniversary of the murder of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Images of this event, scenes from his wider life and, most famously, depictions of miracles said to have occurred at his tomb, appeared in stained glass windows in England and elsewhere in Europe.
From the 3rd issue of Vidimus onwards, articles about St Thomas Becket have made regular appearances in our pages, whether as features, book reviews or news items (see Vidimus 03). This year may see others, as numerous events are set to be held in the UK to commemorate what has been called ‘one of the most shocking crimes in European history’. These include a range of exhibitions, conferences and lectures as well as plays, film screenings and religious services. [Fig 1]
Perhaps the largest and most significant exhibition will open in October at The British Museum in London. It will showcase more than 100 objects associated with the murdered archbishop, including manuscripts, jewellery, sculpture, stained glass and paintings. The exhibition will feature loans from around the world, as well as artefacts from the museum’s collection such as caskets made in Limoges (France) in about 1200 to hold relics of the saint (see: https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/thomas-becket).
Also in the capital, The Museum of London will display a selection from its collection of Becket-related pilgrim badges. For over 300 years, Londoners flocked to Becket’s shrine in Canterbury often returning with a badge as a keepsake. The Museum of London will use a range of examples to illustrate Becket’s extraordinary life and his connections to the capital. Visitors will be encouraged to undertake their own mini-pilgrimage through the Museum’s Medieval London Gallery from 14 February to October 2020.
There will also be a number of events in Canterbury itself as part of a conservation, education and interpretation project at the Cathedral (completion 2021). These will include a major international conference, see: https://becket2020.com/event/1 .
Frederick Preedy Remembered
2020 also sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Preedy (1820-1898), a prolific nineteenth-century stained glass designer and church architect who is thought to have been responsible for about four hundred figurative windows over a thirty-four year period. Major commissions included work in Worcester Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral and Ely Cathedral.
Preedy was born in Offenham near Evesham in Worcestershire, the son of a prominent local hosier. He trained as an architect in Worcester with the local firm of Harvey Eginton before setting up his own architectural practice in the same city in 1849. In 1852 he was elected a member of the Ecclesiological Society which championed gothic architecture; particularly the early 14th century early decorated style and many of his windows often imitated medieval designs.
For his early churches he commissioned stained glass windows from George Rogers, a stained glass painter in Worcester, but after a falling out between the pair in 1853 over the colouring of a window in Worcester Cathedral in memory of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the Queen consort of William IV, (Preedy thought it had an unpleasant purple tone) he learned how to make his own windows: a decision which set him apart from his professional contemporaries. According to Kearney (see below) he was the only architect of the Gothic Revival to combine the profession of architect with the manufacture of stained glass, an art for which he possessed a genuine gift.
The first window that he both designed and made dates to c.1854 and was produced for All Saints, Church Lench (Worcs.). As his business grew, Preedy was praised for his window designs and won commissions from leading gothic revival architects of the day such as William Butterfield (1814-1900) and Samuel Teulon (1812-1873).
Some of his best windows can be seen at Storridge, Herefordshire, 1856; Claverley, Shropshire, 1858; Bamford, Derbyshire, 1860; Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, 1867 and Fladbury, Worcestershire, where the windows date from c.1856 to c.1882. In 1868 he designed and supplied a three light window commemorating the life and death in Africa of Bishop Charles Mackenzie (1825–62), a friend of the colonial explorer and Christian missionary, Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873). Both men were passionate opponents of the East African Arab slave trade. [Figs 1, 2]
Ill-health forced Preedy’s retirement in 1886 and he died in 1898. He was buried at Foxham (Wilts) with his wife and father-in-law. Following his death a memorial was erected to him in the church of St John the Baptist, Fladbury, Worcestershire. This also remembers his wife Mary (1831 – 1889), and daughter Alice Mary (1860 – 1899).
In 2012 a ‘Preedy Trail was launched by Evesham town council and the Evesham Market Town Partnership, see: https://www.visitevesham.co.uk/about-vale/preedy-trail/
Albums of Preedy glass can be accessed here.
Further reading on Preedy, his glass and career includes:
Gordon Barnes, Frederick Preedy architect and glass painter 1820-1898, Vale of Evesham Historical Society, 1984.
Michael Kerney, The Stained Glass of Frederick Preedy (1820-1898), London: Ecclesiological Society, 2001.
Exhibition: Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art
An exciting exhibition currently running at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, USA, focuses on how one of the three “Magi from the East” was depicted in European medieval and renaissance art. As windows across England and continental Europe frequently included images of the three magi in the Middle Ages, usually in the context, of scenes of the nativity, we thought a summation of the exhibition’s themes, illustrated with examples from stained glass, might be of interest to the readers of Vidimus. [Fig 1]
First, some background. According to the Gospel of St Matthew, wise men (magi) from the east followed a brilliant star to find the Christ child in Bethlehem and present him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As there were three gifts, it has traditionally been assumed that there were three men. Although not specifically identified in the Bible, the medieval church referred to these men as Balthazar, Caspar (sometimes Gasper) and Melchior. By 500AD they were being described as kings, based on Old Testament prophecies, see Isaiah 60:3, Psalm 68:29, and Psalm 72:10. The men were also said to come from the three then-known continents of the world: Europe, Asia, and Africa. Sometimes the magi/kings were deployed to represent the three ages of life – youth, maturity and old age. A fresco by Giotto painted 1305 in the Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua, central Italy, shows Caspar as old, Melchior middle-aged, and Balthazar as a young man, possibly alluding to Africa being the youngest of the three continents. [Fig 2]
Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art explores how and why the depiction of the youngest magi/king evolved and changed from a European white person in early me-dieval art to an obviously black African person in the later Middle Ages. It also contrasts the juxtaposition of this seemingly positive image of a black African with the brutal enslavement of non-Christian African peoples by the Portuguese and other Europeans from the 1480s onwards.
The exhibition begins with a Romanesque manuscript miniature showing all three magi/kings as white. Painted in Regensburg, Germany, about 1030-40, the scene depicts them as virtually identical with only Caspar, the eldest, distinguished by his grey beard and slightly longer robes. [Fig 3]
Similar conventions can be seen in stained glass of the period, as in a late 12th century window at Can-terbury Cathedral; an Infancy of Christ scene from Austria, painted c. 1390 and an important survival from the 1460s at East Harling, Norfolk, England. [Figs 4, 5, 6]
According to the curators of the exhibition, such uniformity began to crumble from the 14th century onwards. A wall painting of about 1360 in the Emmaus monastery in Prague shows one of the three kings with an unquestionably darker face than the others but scholars are uncertain whether this is the oldest representation of a black magi/king or a modern repainting during a 20th century restoration programme. There are no such doubts, however, about the growing number of 15th/16th century artists, sculptors and glaziers who depicted Balthazar as either black, or who distinguished him from the other magi by his flamboyant clothes, such as a turban or a leopard-pelt headdress.
The curators suggest that increased trade with African states stimulated the change. Commerce in gold brought inhabitants of both continents into frequent contact. Black African soldiers served in the courts of medieval European rulers and as servants in wealthy households. Diplomacy offered yet another point of contact. In the fifteenth century, Ethiopian rulers sent church delegations to Italy in an attempt to forge alliances, both religious and military with Rome.
Although the appearance of the black king may have been partly inspired by real Africans living in Europe, there may have been other reasons for the transition. The black king gave high status artists an opportunity to explore European ideas of the exotic and to depict a lavishly dressed figure in a religious scene: an exciting innovation. The black king also symbolised the idea that Christianity appealed to all humanity, even the most foreign and remote people. The blackness of his skin showed that he was from a distant land, although even there, people had accepted the truth of Christ’s message.
An intriguing manuscript illustration in the exhibition provides a tangible case study for the emerging interest in depicting Balthazar as black. The image, The Magi Approaching Herod, from an illustrated Life of Christ with devotional supplements (text in Latin and English), painted in East Anglia (possibly Norfolk), England, about 1190 – 1200, was later modified about 1480-90 by an unknown artist who revisited Balthazar’s face and added a brown wash in several places. Such changes may well reveal the evolv-ing world-views of the book’s owners. The curators ask if the increased number of Black Africans in England at this time might have prompted the artist to revise the figure of Balthazar in the older manuscript. [Fig 7]
Such changes were not confined to panel paintings, manuscripts and sculpture. They can also be found in 16th stained glass panels. One c.1500 German window of the Adoration of the Magi in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) shows Balazathar as black. A window depicting the same scene by the French artist Jean Chastellain made around 1529 for the Temple Church, in Paris and now in the The Philadelphia Museum of Art shows him as black and wearing a turban. The early sixteenth-century windows at King’s College, Cambridge (England), depict him as clearly African both in facial appearance and in dress. [Figs 8, 9, 10]
Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art is open at the Getty Museum until February 17, 2020. Admission is free. For further details visit: https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/balthazar/
Thanks: The above was partly compiled from notes produced for the Getty exhibition and separately, by The Victoria and Albert Museum. Our thanks to both.
Glaziers and the Reformation in England: New Discoveries
An article by Hugh Willmott, Senior Lecturer in European Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, in the latest issue of Church Archaeology (See Further Reading) examines the physical evidence for the removal of medieval stained glass from Britain’s monasteries after their dissolution in the 1530s/40. [Fig 1]
Recent studies have shown that this was often a well-organised and structured process. Once dismantled, the glass was certainly occasionally preserved and installed elsewhere, as at the Church of St Matthew at Morley in Derbyshire (where panels depicting The Legend of the True Cross and episodes from The Life of Robert of Knaresborough in windows nII, nIII, nIV, nV and nVI, seems to have come from the nearby Premonstratensian abbey of Dale), in most cases it seems that the glass was sold for probable re-melting and reuse. [Fig.2]
The current article begins with a brisk canter through some of the documentary and archaeological evidence of the period illustrating the considerable care that was taken to preserve the glass for probable reuse. This includes the rather terse mention of ‘xxviij panes of glass’ listed for sale after the dissolution of the Benedictine nunnery of Brewood, Staffordshire, in 1538. The often-quoted case of the stripping of materials from the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, is also cited, where clear instructions were left that the west windows of the church were to be taken down carefully and carried away to Hemsley Castle. [Fig 3]
Further examples in the article include the discovery of a late 13th-century grisaille window found 2 metres to the north of the church during excavations at Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes, Buckingham-shire. That it was recovered in its still-leaded state suggests that it was at least removed carefully even if seemingly carelessly left behind when the strippers departed. [Figs 4, 5]
But, as Dr Willmott stresses, by far the most persuasive evidence for window glass being dismantled and carried away for use elsewhere is the relative absence of any large-scale or exciting finds during the excavation of monastic sites.
Thereafter he investigates by whom and how the glass was dismantled, concluding that it required the involvement of skilled glaziers and on-site furnaces. Details from Rievaulx are quoted again where a 1539 inventory of its assets said that the glass should be, ‘sortyd into iii parties. One the fyrest to be sortyd. The second sort to be sold. The iii sort to be taken out of the lede and the lede molten’. He says that only experienced glaziers would have had the skills to dismantle the windows, assesses these categories, and undertake the sorting process.
The stripping of lead was often one of the first activities undertaken once monastic buildings had been sold to their new owners. Roofs and pipework could yield enormous quantities, as the 399½ fothers or tonnes of lead removed from the Cistercian Abbey at Jervaulx (North Yorkshire) testify. Although the amounts recoverable from melting lead window cames would be tiny in comparison, the discovery of small lead-melting hearths during monastic excavations suggest that it was certainly not an overlooked asset. Claims that such hearths were used for cupellation, the extraction of naturally occurring silver from lead, are dismissed by Dr Willmott who argues that by the 12th century most lead in circulation in Britain was actually derived as a by-product from silver extraction. He also says that it is inconceivable that the lead used in ecclesiastical windows would have contained any appreciable quantities of silver. This is confirmed by the trace analysis of surviving windows leads, such as at the Benedictine Abbey at Battle ( East Sussex), where the window leads were found to contain silver levels of less than 0.1%.
Finally, Dr Wilmott cites the discovery of debris from a glazier’s workshop at Bishop’s Lane, Hull, Yorkshire, during excavations in 2003. Consisting of 7,440 fragments deposited at some point during the second half of the sixteenth-century they include 174 decorated pieces. Fragments of foliage painted grisaille, elements of figural drapery and body parts, zoomorphic quarries, architectural borders, black letter text, and a finely detailed fragment of a Flemish-style roundel with a woman’s face, seem to have come from a number of different schemes spanning a 200 year period. Given the range of the mix the assemblage can be interpreted as evidence of the removal and recycling of medieval glass from Hull’s churches, even perhaps neighbouring monastic sites.
The article contains a full Bibliography of sources as well as archaeological evidence of glaziers working at pre-Reformation monastic sites. Further Reading: Hugh Willmott, ‘Glaziers and the removal, recycling and replacement of windows during the Reformation in England’, Church Archaeology, Vol. 19, 2019 for 2015, pp. 45 -52.
For the Bradwell Abbey glass, see: Croft, R.A. and Mynard, D.C., ‘A late 13th-century grisaille window panel from Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes, Bucks’, with a historical note by Jill Kerr, Medieval Archaeology, Vol. XXX (1986), pp. 106-12.
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New Curator of Medieval Art at The Cleveland Museum
The Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, USA, has appointed Dr Gerhard Lutz as its incoming Robert P. Bergman Curator of Medieval Art, filling an important post left vacant by the retirement of Stephen Fliegel last May. Since 2002 Dr Lutz has been deputy head at the Dommuseum in Hildesheim, Germany, where he curated numerous exhibitions, including ‘Medieval Treasures from Hildesheim’, which was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2013/14 (see the website).
Although the Cleveland Museum’s medieval collection is relatively small, it includes nine items from the famous Guelph Treasure (bought 1930 and 1931) and a good range of medieval and renaissance stained glass. Highlights of the latter collection include two c.1525 panels from the cloisters of Mariawald Abbey in the Eifel, an area along the Rhine west of Cologne, and a c. 1275 grisaille panel consisting of lozenges with naturalistic leaves and stylized foliage, thought to have come from Strasbourg area in France. [Figs 1, 2]
English glass is also represented in the collection. A head of St George dating from c. 1460 might have been made for the church of St Lawrence in Ludlow, Shropshire. [Fig 3]
For those interested in understanding the collection futher, the CVMA of America catalogue of Stained Glass before 1700 in the Midwest States, Vol. 2, includes detailed entries of the medieval and re-naissance glass in the Museum. Images and descriptions of the stained glass in the Cleveland Museum of Art can be seen here.
Selling Exhibition of Medieval Art in New York
The Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York is displaying a panel of German renaissance stained glass in a selling exhibition at its New York gallery, 25 January – 7 March 2020. Gothic Spirit: Medieval Art in Europe is in association with the London gallery of Sam Fogg. The German panel depicts Saints Margaret and Elizabeth presenting a female donor. It has been dated to c. 1525–30, and the sellers suggest that it may have been made for the church of St Peter in Cologne. The main colours are red, purple, blue, green, and clear glass with vitreous paint and silver stain, and the panel measurers 46 × 23 3/4 inches (117 × 60.5 cm). [Fig 1] For further information, visit: https://www.luhringaugustine.com/exhibitions/gothic-spirit-medieval-art-from-europe/press-release