Book Review

Alicia Y. Waldstein-Wartenberg, Glasmalerei des Historismus in Wien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der ehemaligen Ausstattung des Stephansdoms. Glasmalerei Monografien Bd. 3. Wien-Erfurt, 2023, pp. 400, 136 illustrations, mostly in colour. EUR 39. ISBN 978-3-00-077211-5

Reviewed by Elgin Vaassen, Munich

The now published thesis of Alicia Y. Waldstein-Wartenberg (Fig. 1) fills a gap in the history and the decor of the Stephansdom in Vienna and builds a bridge to other prominent historicist glazing in Austria and its former crown lands.

The first chapter deals with the ‘surroundings’: A short history of Vienna’s development, and historicism in general, is shown by portraying the prominent stained glass painters of the country. Mainly occupied in the Stephansdom were the firm of Carl Geyling of Vienna (Fig. 2) and the Tirolian Stained Glass Works in Innsbruck and Vienna. Next, one learns about the leading role and the stylistic influence for all German speaking countries, the Royal Stained Glass Establishment in Munich, founded by the Bavarian King Ludwig I, and also about some other Munich firms working in a stylistically similar manner. Moreover, great French studios are also mentioned (two glass painters, from Munich and from Chartres respectively, delivered one window each for the cathedral.)

The next chapter, the centre piece of the book, is dedicated to the former windows of St Stephan’s. In the 1880s some remaining medieval panels were given to several collections. The rest was set up in the choir. It was stored safely during the war and set up again afterwards. In contrast, apart from a few fragments, the new windows, having remained in situ, were largely destroyed. What follows is a description and classification of the more than 50 windows that were made during the time of the leading architect Friedrich von Schmidt (1825–91), donated by the emperor, the city and the mayor. A consistent program – rarely carried through anywhere – could not be realized here either because of the long duration of the work and many wishes of the donors. Several cycles were created: the Holy Family, life of the Virgin Mary, legend of St Stephan, Stations of the Holy Cross. Stylistically at odds with the other windows was the donation of the eighth station by glass painter Nicolaus Lorain from Chartres. A very clear catalogue lists place, date, subject and structure, donor, inscription, designer, firm, number of illustration and precise data about existing images for each window. An invaluable resource for future research!

Fig.1 Front cover illustrating the Mayor A. Zelinka window, Stephansdom, Vienna, designed by Friedrich von Schmidt ca.1864.

Fig.2 Sacrifice of Melchizedek. Stephansdom, Vienna, designed by Rudolf Geyling, 1898. Photograph: Dorotheum, Vienna.

A compilation of iconographic and stylistic contents also is listed. At first single figures standing under canopies had been preferred. Under von Schmidt’s supervision, who before coming to Vienna had worked at Cologne Cathedral, neogothic elements increased. The late-romantic painter and creator of the much-copied Stations of the Cross, Joseph von Fuehrich (1800–76), and the painter Johann Evangelist Klein (1823–83), strongly affected by neogothic ideas, made several designs and cartoons, but most of them were supplied by two history painters, the brothers Carl and Franz Jobst (1835–1907; 1840–90). With them the painted framing architectures changed and complete scenes replaced the figures of saints whose niches were comparable to those made of stone in the cathedral. As everywhere, a change took place from a more or less playful mixing of elements, some derived from the late gothic, to those belonging to the mid-fourteenth century. Later composite forms would turn up again. The structure of the architectural frames comparable to gothic altarpieces (predella, main picture-scene, upper carved pieces) took over the setup of the Munich school. The shrines with their pictures stood before an ornamental, light ground whereas in Vienna windows in which several rows of standing figures were placed one above the other are also found. The small remaining free panels contained relatively dark glass with patterns. Mixed forms were rather common.

Waldstein-Wartenberg also demonstrates how old iconographic subjects were combined with new topics (Immaculata, Name of Jesus, veneration of St Joseph, history of St. Paul). Also, how Stations of the Holy Cross developed and how, for the first time, they were combined with typological examples. The growing memorial cult was stressed in the windows by donor figures or portraits. The former is exemplified by the so called Goerres window in Cologne Cathedral, the latter for a long time regarded as a taboo by neogothic theorists. The author also reminds us of the often-copied exemplars such as  the Bible in Pictures by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, or the Stations of the Cross by Joseph von Fuehrich. She also demonstrates that over a number of years a specific style was formed by mixing many different stylistic elements, that were then exported from Vienna into the crown lands and the wider world (Figs. 3 & 4). This style mainly was characterized by the Geyling workshop. The end of the chapter describes the current glazing, glass panels in light shades, and the various ideas concerning new stained glass.

In chapter three several historicist windows in other prominent churches are presented: those of Cologne, Prague and Linz Cathedrals, of the Vienna Votivkirche and St Matthias in Budapest. These buildings embodied completely different meanings, being – roughly speaking – national monument, coronation church, exposition of the new Marian dogma or as representation of Hungarian identity. The chapter also explores glazing in other churches of the crown lands and in Vienna, mainly those built by Friedrich von Schmidt. The last chapter gives an overview, concluding with a rather bitter complaint about how the Viennese, during recent, decades have dealt with historicist glazing in their city.

This description of the contents cannot give a proper impression of the depth of research underpinning this opus. Some is apparent in the many notes and quoted literature. Designs and old photographs in many public and private collections have been found. The author has visited every church in greater Vienna and it is to be hoped that publication of this inventory can be realized soon. Something to be added to the list of desiderata for the Austrian Bundesdenkmalamt!

Fig.3 3. The Emperor window, basilica of St Epvre, Nancy. Designed by Friedrich von Schmidt et al. c. 1866. Archive Geyling. Photograph: A. Waldstein-Wartenberg.

Fig. 4 St Joseph the Artisan, church of St Joseph. Paris. Designed by Franz Jobst 1867. Archive Geyling. Photograph: A. Waldstein-Wartenberg.

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