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Corpus Vitrearum International, 30th Colloquium, in Catalonia: The Concept and Fabrication of Stained Glass from the Middle Ages to the Art Nouveau

Report by Anya Heilpern

 

The 30th International Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum was hosted by the Catalan Committee in Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès and Girona, between 4–7 July 2022. Originally planned for 2020, and postponed twice because of the pandemic, the colloquium was eagerly anticipated and turned out to be well worth the wait. 

Fig. 1  Apse of Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 1  Apse of Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 2  Early 14th-century central apse window in Barcelona Cathedral, depicting St Eulàlia beneath the crucifixion.  Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 2  Early 14th-century central apse window in Barcelona Cathedral, depicting St Eulàlia beneath the crucifixion.  Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

The theme, ‘The Concept and Fabrication of Stained Glass from the Middle Ages to the Art Nouveau’, was particularly relevant given the location and the new broader scope of the Corpus, which now covers glass up to the twentieth century. In Barcelona there is spectacular medieval and early twentieth–century glass, and in Girona there is early fourteenth–century stained-glass, together with two whitewashed tables used in its production. The theme, summarised in his opening remarks by international president Professor Tim Ayers as ‘thinking and making’, was also appropriate since this was the first occasion since 2004 on which the colloquium was organised to overlap with the Forum for the Conservation and Technology of Historic Stained Glass, which ran from 7–9 July. 

The colloquium opened with a day of papers at the Institut d’Estudis Catalans in the centre of Barcelona. Nine scholarships were presented to assist graduate students attending the event, and reports were presented in turn by the National Committees, who also remembered colleagues who had recently passed away.  A full day of lectures followed.

Throughout the week, the colloquium lectures were punctuated by site visits.  The first part of this report briefly describes the locations for lectures each day, and the programme of visits, which provided the setting and context for the papers. A discussion of some of the broad themes and conclusions of the papers then follows.   

On the first day there were visits to the Church of Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona, in the afternoon and to Barcelona Cathedral in the evening. Santa Maria del Mar houses vibrant glass dating from the early 14th to the early 16th centuries. The apse of Barcelona Cathedral contains a particularly beautiful early fourteenth–century scheme (Fig. 1). The oldest surviving window in the cathedral is thought to be the central apse window dedicated, like the whole building, to the Holy Cross and St Eulàlia (Fig. 2). The geese that Eulàlia led to Barcelona are in the head of the lancets – and there are still geese living in the cloister today (Fig. 3). The early fourteenth–century side apse windows depict St Peter, with cockerel, St John the Evangelist, with eagle, St Stephen and St Nicholas (Figs. 4–6). The fourteenth–century window of St Michael is a little later.  There are also late fourteenth / early fifteenth-century windows in the apse, one known from documents to have been made by Nicolau de Maraya from Troyes and one likely to be his work. At the northwest end of the cathedral there is the Noli me tangere window made in 1495 by Gil Fontanet, discussed in a previous Vidimus Feature by Fernando Cortez and Silvia Cañellas (Fig. 7). The first day finished with a sunset visit to the roof of Barcelona Cathedral (Fig. 8).

Fig. 3  Geese in the cloister of Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 3  Geese in the cloister of Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 4  Original head of St Peter from early 14th-century apse window in Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 4  Original head of St Peter from early 14th-century apse window in Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 5  Cockerel of St Peter from early 14th-century apse window in Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 5 Cockerel of St Peter from early 14th-century apse window in Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 7  Detail from Noli me tangere window in Barcelona Cathedral, made by Gil Fontanet in 1495. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 7  Detail from Noli me tangere window in Barcelona Cathedral, made by Gil Fontanet in 1495. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 6  Detail from early 14th-century apse window in Barcelona Cathedral, depicting St John the Evangelist. Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 6  Detail from early 14th-century apse window in Barcelona Cathedral, depicting St John the Evangelist. Photo: Silvia Cañellas, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 8  View from the rooftop of Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

Fig. 8  View from the rooftop of Barcelona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with kind permission of the Cathedral of Barcelona.

On the second day, lectures were held in the Museum of Art in Cerdanyola. The Art Nouveau building was constructed in 1894 and its collection focusses on Art Nouveau and Art Deco artists with ties to the city. Most famously, there are three panels of important Catalan Art Nouveau stained glass, known as The Dames de Cerdanyola, c.1910 (Fig. 9). Lectures at the museum in Cerdanyola mainly concentrated on a range of nineteenth and twentieth–century glass. In the evening, back in Barcelona, there was a visit to Antoni Gaudi’s Basilica de la Sagrada Familia.  I particularly appreciated our guide’s explanation of Gaudi’s conception of the building as a forest, darker below with light coming from above. From the nave looking north through the pillars, the coloured glass suggests limitless layers of dappled woodland (Fig. 10). 

Fig. 9 Detail of the Dames de Cerdanyola, c.1910, Museum of Art, Cerdanyola del Vallès. Photo: Sarah Brown, reproduced with permission of the Museum of Art.

Fig. 9 Detail of the Dames de Cerdanyola, c.1910, Museum of Art, Cerdanyola del Vallès. Photo: Sarah Brown, reproduced with permission of the Museum of Art.

Fig. 10 Nave of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, looking north. Photo: Anya Heilpern.

Fig. 10 Nave of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, looking north. Photo: Anya Heilpern.

The third day of the colloquium began in the National Museum of the Art of Catalonia (MNAC). Highlights of the displays here included Joaquim Mir’s stained-glass triptych El Gorg Blau (The Blue Pool) c. 1911 and Frederic Vidal’s c. 1900 ‘cloisonné’ glass doors, made of minute spheres of glass encapsulated within wire cells (Figs 11 and 12). There was only time to glimpse the museum’s impressive Romanesque and Gothic displays before returning to Barcelona for the afternoon at the Design Museum with its rich archives relating to Barcelona’s Art Nouveau studios, which also provided the venue for the Plenary Session of the International Corpus Vitrearum, at which the new Scientific Unit for Digital Resources was formally adopted.

 

Fig. 11 Stained glass triptych: El Gorg Blau (The Blue Pool) by Joaquim Mir, c.1911.  Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

Fig. 11 Stained glass triptych: El Gorg Blau (The Blue Pool) by Joaquim Mir, c.1911. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

Fig. 12 Detail of ‘cloisonné’ glass from the four-leafed glass door by Frederic Vidal, c. 1900.  Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

Fig. 12 Detail of ‘cloisonné’ glass from the four-leafed glass door by Frederic Vidal, c. 1900. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

The final day of the colloquium, blisteringly hot, was held in Girona (Fig. 13). Anna Santolària introduced our visit to the fourteenth to sixteenth–century windows of Girona Cathedral and the whitewashed tables in the Girona Art Museum (Fig.14). She explained that the Marian window cycle in the cathedral apse, dated to the 1340s, is the only scheme linked to a surviving whitewashed table and that twenty-two of the remaining panels can be connected to the tables, which were reused for different designs.1 A number of us were surprised how small the tables are. They were only used for the central part of the panel, not the borders. In the museum we also saw some fascinating fourteenth–century glass from the cathedral, including glass from the 1350s attributed to the French master glazier Guillem de Letumgard (Fig. 15). Finally, Anna was also able to show us a display of the very exciting discovery made in 2019: a window hidden behind a sixteenth–century altarpiece, comprised of thirteenth and fifteenth–century glass (Figs 16 and 17).  The Girona visit also afforded delegates the opportunity to visit the house-museum of the Girona Art Nouvea architect Rafael Masó, and to view an exhibition of his work in stained glass curated by Núria Gil Farré.2 After welcome refreshments, we returned to Barcelona, where the colloquium ended with dinner on the beach.

Fig. 13 Girona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern.

Fig. 13 Girona Cathedral. Photo: Anya Heilpern.

Fig. 15 Luciferian Angels, attributed to Guillem de Letumgard, mid-fourteenth-century, from Girona Cathedral and now in Girona Art Museum.  Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the Treasury of Girona Cathedral.

Fig. 15 Luciferian Angels, attributed to Guillem de Letumgard, mid-fourteenth-century, from Girona Cathedral and now in Girona Art Museum. Photo: Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the Treasury of Girona Cathedral.

Fig. 14 Medieval glazier’s whitewashed tables, Girona Art Museum. Photo; Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of Girona Art Museum.

Fig. 14 Medieval glazier’s whitewashed tables, Girona Art Museum. Photo; Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of Girona Art Museum.

Fig. 16 Thirteenth–century Passion Scenes, from the composite window found in the Chapel of St Martin and St Francis, Girona Cathedral. Photo; Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the Treasury of Girona Cathedral.

Fig. 16 Thirteenth–century Passion Scenes, from the composite window found in the Chapel of St Martin and St Francis, Girona Cathedral. Photo; Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the Treasury of Girona Cathedral.

Fig. 17 Fifteenth–century glass depicting St Martin and St Francis, from the composite window found in the Chapel of St Martin and St Francis, Girona Cathedral. Photo; Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the Treasury of Girona Cathedral.

Fig. 17 Fifteenth–century glass depicting St Martin and St Francis, from the composite window found in the Chapel of St Martin and St Francis, Girona Cathedral. Photo; Anya Heilpern, reproduced with permission of the Treasury of Girona Cathedral.

The colloquium papers spanned seven hundred years, from the thirteenth to the twentieth century, and ranged geographically from Chile to Austria, but common themes predominated and we were privileged to hear of many helpful new insights and findings.

Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz was in the minority in focussing in her opening paper on the ecclesiological significance of a particular type of background design.  She presented a very convincing interpretation of the sacred meaning of the fictive damask cloths behind standing figures which emerged around 1360-70 in France and were prevalent until the sixteenth century in the Holy Roman Empire. Kurmann-Schwarz explained that these textile grounds do not just demarcate architectural space, but are also a curtain, like the Temple curtain, concealing the heavenly dwelling place beyond. As my own research relates to late fifteenth and early sixteenth–century glass in England, in which these types of backgrounds dominate, I found this explanation particularly helpful. 

Another ambitious paper looking at concepts and influences was Joanna Utzig’s discussion of the sources for Cistercian stained-glass technique and style. Utzig explained medieval Cistercian glazing as an outcome of ideological guidance, but also of formal inspiration flowing from antique work, like the glass in the Roman style still used in Gaul after the fall of the Roman Empire. Some other papers emphasised the cultural significance of stained glass, such as Christine Wais-Wolf’s discussion of the important ‘national-historical’ picture cycle installed in the Cathedral of St Mary in Linz, Austria, in the second decade of the twentieth century, which reveals the involvement of patrons and their self-representation.

The main focus in the colloquium was on design and making. Liesbeth Langouche described a recently discovered pattern book for clear leaded windows in the Low Countries dating from the late seventeenth / early eighteenth century. Silvia Cañellas discussed some window designs from the seventeenth /eighteenth centuries preserved in the Church of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, noting local and international sources for the designs, and differences between the preserved work in stained glass and the designs, also taking into account changes in painting in the eighteenth century. 

It was the role of the artist / designer and the varying relationships between the designer and the stained-glass painter which dominated the papers. Maria Deiters and Cornelia Aman explained that the master glazier responsible for the glazing of the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral can now be shown to have worked in close collaboration with the leading ‘sculptor-architect’, the famous ‘Naumburg Master’, responsible for its architecture and sculpture, creating a ‘Gesamtkunsterk’ of which the glass was an intrinsic part. Miquel Àngel Fumanal discussed the influx of artists from the north to Girona in the fourteenth century.  His archival research has identified Jean de Tournai, previously described as a sculptor, as primarily a glazier, also involved in sculpture for tombs. Fumanal argued that Jean de Tournai was the entrepreneurial supervisor of a workshop, who may even have been the master of Girona Cathedral’s presbytery glass.

Stained glass production is a business and there was discussion of the reuse of designs in the sixteenth century. Yvette van den Bemden presented a paper on behalf of the late Jan Van Damm discussing Teodoro de Holanda, who arranged for windows for the Cathedral of Granada to be made in Antwerp in the 1550s. An unpublished document in the Antwerp city archives reveals the identity of Teodoro as Dierick Henrickxss and suggests that he was a merchant or representative of Antwerp workshops (rather than a glass painter), who arranged for the windows to be made following existing designs, at least one of which had been used in the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge c. 1530.

Other speakers examined the contributions of celebrated artists involved with stained glass production. Daniel Parello discussed the cooperation between the city glazier Jost Vetter and the artist Hans Baldung Grien in Strasbourg from 1510. Parello used a collection of drawings, which often show several hands, indicating a complex working process between the long-established workshop glazier (already used to working with local artists) and the innovative and talented painter Baldung. Isabelle Lecocq looked at the roles of Bernard Van Orley and Pieter Coecke in designing stained glass in the Netherlands in the first half of the sixteenth century.  Both were versatile artists involved in the creation of panel paintings, tapestry and stained glass.  Lecocq discussed the difficulties in trying to establish whether these artists, as well as supplying the initial small scale vidimus and the full-scale cartoon, may have painted on the glass themselves, and the limits of connoisseurship in this regard. 

Also looking at the involvement of versatile painters in stained glass production, Renée Burnam discussed a window made for the Velluti Chapel, at Santa Croce in Florence, attributed to Jacopo del Casentino and dated 1321-30. She explained that Casentino was an artist who also painted frescoes for the Velluti Chapel and argued that he would have been directly involved in the painting of the window, working together with a master glazier.  She contrasted Casentino’s window with a window from the same period above the Bardi Chapel at Santa Croce, considered to be a work of the Master of Figline, who worked in panel painting, fresco and glass. Burnam’s examination of the painting of this window, using dense, fine brush strokes to create more three-dimensional figures, and carefully chosen coloured glass, led her to believe that this artist was competent in all stages of stained-glass production and would have controlled the window from design to completion.  On a similar theme, Pedro Redol, presenting via Zoom, drew attention to two important artists who were painters of glass as well as altarpieces, thought to be responsible for the choir glazing at Batalha in Portugal, between 1514–31.

The relationship between the designer of stained glass and the producer inevitably remains central to the study of the medium in the modern period. Wojciech Balus drew attention to a debate in 1912 expressly about the role of the artist and the glass painter, and the relationship between art and craft, aimed at improving the quality of German stained glass of the period. We learned from Clara Beltran, Jordi Bonet and Núria Gil about the collaboration between the scenographer, painter / interior-designer and stained-glass workshop which led to the creation, c. 1903, of the dramatic Wagnerian windows in the Cercle del Liceu, a men’s club connected to the Opera Palace Liceo in Barcelona. The glass in Catalonia shows early twentieth–century architects, most notably Gaudi, to have been increasingly interested in modern designs and techniques in stained glass. Antoni Vila Delclòs, for example, explained Gaudi’s ‘tricolour’ technique, which consisted of sandwiching layers of different glass plates of primary colours, which were thinned down with acid, resulting in modulation of colour and light. 

The papers revealed a number of other new insights into the technical and stylistic aspects of stained-glass painting. Renée Burnam’s close examination of the fourteenth–century glass produced for the transept chapels of Santa Croce in Florence, noted above, revealed a number of important discoveries: assembly marks and the use of exceptional flashed lime green and violet glass, back painting, and the very early selective use of sanguine. Dobroslawa Horzela discussed the development of realism in painting from the fourteenth century, and the use of techniques derived from drawing (such as dense cross and parallel hatching) for soft modelling in glass painting in Cracow c.1380–1440.

The colloquium papers concluded with Stefan Trümpler’s masterly analysis of the use of glaziers’ tables, cartoons and underdrawings, following his close study of the fifteenth–century glass in the choir of Berne Minster, where there was evidence of extensive preparatory tracings on the reverse glass surface. Returning to a topic he had first aired at a Corpus meeting decades earlier, Trümpler explained that, in the later middle ages, paper cartoons would have shown the main outlines and the cut lines, in other words the composition of the work.  The trace lines in reverse on the back of the windows could provide additional detail, and hence be regarded as an initial stage in the realisation of the final artwork, which would be further developed and often be modified in the final glass painting stages. 

It is hoped that this report provides Vidimus readers with a bird’s eye view of some of the important stained glass of Catalonia, and also some useful insights into recent research by members of the Corpus, often following opportunities they have had for close examination of glass.3

Many thanks indeed to the Catalan Committee for hosting such a stimulating and enjoyable conference. The next colloquium is planned for 2024, in Erfurt and Naumberg, on the theme of ‘Visibility’. 

Anya Heilpern was awarded her PhD on the late medieval glass of Winchester Cathedral by the University of York in 2018. She is currently working on a volume about this glass for the British Corpus Vitrearum. She is a member of the national committee of the CVMA (GB) and a former editor of Vidimus.

  1. Anna Santolària Tura, Vitrals sobre Taules de de Vitraller: La Taula de Girona, Girona 2014. Now available as an ebook.[]
  2. Núria Gil Farré, Una Llum Noucentista: Els Vitals de Masó, Girona 2022.[]
  3. Silvia Cañellas (ed)., The Concept and Fabrication of Stained Glass from the Middle Ages to the Art Nouveau, transactions of the 30th Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum, Barcelona 2022 (ISBN: 978 84 09 39806 – 5) []