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Stained Glass in Chile: A collection of three monographs

Gothic Revival y Arts & Crafts en Chile: Iglesia Anglicana Saint Paul de Valparaíso. Espacio Transparente. 48 pages (Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral Ediciones, Valparaíso, Chile, 2017). ISBN978-956-9906-01-5

Modernismo Catalán en Chile: Vidrieras decorativas Palacio Astoreca de Iquique. Espacio Transparente. 48 pages (Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral Ediciones, Valparaíso, Chile, 2018). ISBN978-956-9906-03-9

Gabriel Loire: Vitrales en dalle de verre: Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. Espacio Transparente. 52 pages (Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral Ediciones, Valparaíso, Chile, 2018). ISBN978-956-9906-02-2

Review article by Isabelle Davies

In this review article, Isabelle Davies discusses three monograph booklets about stained glass in Chile, published between 2017-18, drawing attention to the historical and art historical interest of the glass, and some of its particular conservation issues.     

The monographs reviewed here and other entries in the CLAV Ediciones series can be found and read for free at http://www.centrolatinoamericanodelvitral.org/clav-ediciones.        

Chile is not a country well known for its glass. The Centro Latinoamericano del Vitral (CLAV), a project conceived of in 2013 and established in 2017 to protect, promote and professionalise stained glass in Latin America, has sought to rectify this. By working in conjunction with the conservation studio Espacio Transparente, the CLAV has published a series of monographs which reveal a rich and varied stained glass heritage.

 

Fig. 1 Gothic Revival y Arts & Crafts en Chile: Iglesia Anglicana Saint Paul de Valparaíso.
Espacio Transparente. (CLAV Ediciones, 2017.)

Gothic Revival y Arts & Crafts en Chile Iglesia Anglicana Saint Paul de Valparaíso forms an in-depth study of the Anglican Church of Saint Paul’s, Valparaiso.

The church was built in 1858 by the prosperous British community who emigrated to Chile in the 19th century seeking opportunity, and who soon became a powerful economic force in the port city.1 Their wealth and the city’s strong trade links enabled the community to import British goods, including the church’s stained glass, which is the main focus of the monograph. The collection of eighteen late 19th-century and early 20th-century stained glass windows in the Gothic Revival and Arts & Crafts styles are attributed to some of the most prestigious British workshops of the era, including Lavers & Westlake, Clayton & Bell, Percy Bacon & Bros., and Morris & Co.

Although economically strong, the Anglican community faced religious intolerance. This intolerance impacted the new church’s design and location, placing it at a low elevation outside of the city centre without a tower, bell, spire or cross and confining the prestigious glass to windows of small dimensions.

The church and its stained glass form a significant element of the British experience and legacy in Valparaiso and Chile. The windows memorialise members of the community, and living descendants contributed to the iconographic study of some panels with information passed down through family history, as in the case of window NW: II. The value of the church was recognised nationally in 1979, when it was declared a Historic Monument.

Only four of the stained glass windows are signed, identifying three from 1883 and one from 1894, all by Lavers & Westlake. Although the rest are without visible signatures, the suggested attributions are convincing and thought provoking.

Of particular note are S: VII, depicting the Transfiguration and Resurrection of Jesus, with the lower register possibly attributed to Morris & Co dated 1913, and S: X, depicting Saint George, possibly attributed to Percy Bacon & Bros. dated to 1920. The lower register of S: VII may be an earlier rendition of a Morris & Co. panel located in the church of Saint John the Baptist, Upper Elkstone, Staffordshire,  England, dating to 1918. S: X’s potential attribution to Percy Bacon & Bros. has been justified by compelling comparisons with windows at St Cuthbert’s Church, Kildale, North Yorkshire, and at St Hilda’s Church, Hartlepool, in Durham. This panel type is also found in British colonies, for example a Percy Bacon & Bros. fabricated memorial window in a similar style was installed in St James’ Anglican church, Sydney, around 1903.2

This study of the Anglican Church of Saint Paul’s in Valparaiso contributes another angle to scholarship of 19th-century British glass overseas, enhancing our understanding of colonial glass and identity through an immigrant community both powerful and persecuted.    

 

Fig. 2 Modernismo Catalán en Chile: Vidrieras decorativas Palacio Astoreca de Iquique.
Espacio Transparente. (CLAV Ediciones, 2018.)

Modernismo Catalán en Chile Vidrieras decorativas Palacio Astoreca de Iquique not only provides a focused study of the glass, building, and history of Palacio Astoreca in the northern coastal city of Iquique, but also illuminates further the work done to promote and preserve Chilean heritage.

Palacio Astoreca, built at the beginning of the 20th century to house the Spanish Astoreca family, is typical of Iquiquean élite architecture. The mansion is Georgian in style, set over two floors, with many rooms, a large balcony, a central stained glass ceiling in the hall, and constructed entirely from timber. The Oregon pine used forms a connection to the source of the region’s wealth, with the timber brought on ships that were then loaded with Chilean saltpetre (known as ‘white gold’) for transportation and trade.

The Astoreca family did not live at the residence for long, and the property was sold in 1908 to the Chilean State. The building underwent a restoration campaign in the 1970s before being declared a National Monument in 1994 and awarded in 1995 to the Arturo Prat University, Iquique, to be used as a cultural centre.

Although the stained glass was both the key artistic feature of Palacio Astoreca and remarkably intact, there was a lack of documentation as to the origin of the glass. Initial ideas that the sinuous depictions of nature were in the French Art Nouveau style were dispelled by the discovery of a large stained glass window in the Mausoleum of the Sociedad de Beneficencia Española, Iquique, donated c.1929, which was the same ‘Catalan’ pattern as at Palacio Astoreca.

It remains unclear where or who fabricated the glass installed at Palacio Astoreca. However, the link between the glass and Catalan Modernism is convincing, with parallels found in Barcelona’s contemporary architecture, such as the stained glass of the Palau de la Música. As in the case of the Church at Valparaiso discussed above, the stained glass of Palacio Astoreca reflects the rich immigrant desire for the art of their home, although in this case in a secular, rather than religious, context.

The monograph not only provides research on the history and style of the building and glass, but also explains the conservation method. The accompanying photos illustrate the work well and give an indication of the CLAV and Espacio Transparente’s studio school programme, founded to provide training in stained glass conservation.

The holistic approach of this monograph, which includes poetry and discussions of heritage, outreach, values, and significance, compliments the first monograph discussed above, which lists objectives for both the conservation of the church of St Paul, Valparaíso, and for the future of stained glass in Chile. The CLAV Ediciones series not only presents Chile’s stained glass, but also forms a document marking the country’s evolving heritage landscape.

 

Fig. 3 Gabriel Loire: Vitrales en dalle de verre: Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. Espacio
Transparente. (CLAV Ediciones, 2018.)

Gabriel Loire Vitrales en dalle de verre Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes returns the series to the religious sphere but leaps geographically to the Chilean capital of Santiago and forward in time to the second half of the 20th century. The third monograph discussed here addresses the fifty monumental dalle de verre windows of the Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes. The dalle de verre technique involves thick, coloured glass pieces set in concrete.

The iconographic program of panels, which portray episodes from the Virgin Mary’s life and several of her many apparitions, as well as saints and angels, was created by the French stained glass artist Gabriel Loire (1904-1996) in his workshop at Chartres for the Assumptionist Fathers. The Assumptionists planned the basilica in the 1930s and it was consecrated in 1958. The dalle de verre panels complement the abstract concrete architecture of the basilica and form Loire’s first monumental commission.

The monograph acts as a vehicle to raise the profile of Loire, exploring his life and art with the aid of his son and grandsons, who contributed by writing about Loire and the dalle de verre technique. Loire’s training at the Lorin workshop, and later the establishment of his own studio at Chartres, allow for thought-provoking parallels to be drawn between the medieval glass of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Chartres and the decidedly more modern style and technique employed by the artist at the Basílica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes.  Medieval parallels include the incorporation of the Tree of Jesse in the programme.

Dalle de verre is notorious for its conservation issues. The lack of understanding of concrete decay in the mid-twentieth century, the use of ferrous bars through the concrete for reinforcement, and the installation of panels without sufficient support or space for movement have created a complex legacy of problems, such as micro-cracks.3 These problems are exacerbated in Chile by the country’s regular and powerful earthquakes. Overall the basilica’s glass is in good condition, but some panels suffered significant damage in the 1985 and 2010 earthquakes.

This issue is not only pertinent to the basilica’s dalle de verre, but all stained glass in Chile, making Espacio Transparente’s work towards an anti-seismic installation system for panels a crucial matter in the protection of the country’s glass heritage.

The CLAV Ediciones series presents stained glass in Chile as an exciting frontier of research, conservation, and appreciation. While some readers may find the Spanish language inaccessible to them, the monographs are approachable in length and extremely well-illustrated. These three monographs have gone an admirable way towards opening the door to the wider attention which stained glass in Chile deserves.

 

Vidimus readers may wish to note an earlier monograph published in the same series, Vidrieras Decorativas. Sede Nacional Colegio de Arquitectos de Chile. Espacio Transparente. (CLAV Ediciones, 2016). Two new titles are in preparation: Gustave-Pierre Dagrant: Vidrieras y Vitrales en la Iglesia San Francisco de Borja, and Casa Franz Mayer: Vitrales en la Iglesia San Francisco de Valdivia.  

  1. W. Edmundson, A History of the British Presence in Chile (New York, 2009), 103-129.[]
  2. G. A. Bremner, ‘Colonial Themes in Stained Glass, Home and Abroad: A Survey’, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 2020 (30), (London, 2020), Fig. 8.[]
  3. K. De Vis, J. Caen, K. Janssens, P. Jacobs, The Consolidation of Cracks and Fissures in Dalle de Verre: Assessment of Selected Adhesives, (Amsterdam, 2013), 43.[]