New Digital-Publication Initiative by the CVMA (GB)

The CVMA of Great Britain has launched its digital publication programme, following a period of intensive collaboration with the Centre for Computing and the Humanities at King’s College, London.

If you visit the CVMA’s website and click on ‘Publications’, you will have the option of visiting the digital publications area of the website, where the CVMA has published eight major sites in Norfolk. Digital publication has major advantages: there is no limit on the number and size of images, or on the extent of text. A further advantage for all readers and researchers is that information becomes available to all before the publication of the printed volume on Norfolk.

A Life in Glass

Painton Cowen is one of England’s most prolific authors on stained glass. To co-incide with the publication of his latest book, English Stained Glass, Vidimus spoke to him about his life in glass.

‘I grew up surrounded by music and opera. My mother was a well-known ballerina (Stage name Pamela May) and a teacher at the Royal Ballet School. I studied geology at Cambridge University, and after a career that included prospecting for diamonds in Africa – I found some but was not allowed to keep them! – and working as a researcher for Encyclopaedia Britannica, I decided to take a break and help a friend restore an old house in the south of France.

One day as I was making the usual drive south I stopped at Chartres. I can truly say that it changed my life forever. I was entranced. Thereafter I visited the cathedral as often as I could, usually early in the morning on the way down to the Dordogne or towards the end of the day on the return trip. The rose windows particularly fascinated me, not just as works of colour and light, but also because of their geometrical symbolism and their place in the development of western ideas. Each time I saw the greatest of them, I got more from them. Exploring and understanding rose windows became a passion. Over the next few years I visited as many cathedrals and churches with rose windows as possible. I spent months in libraries. I honed my photographic skills, and in 1979 I published my first book about them, Rose Windows.

By then my interest in glass had broadened. I wanted to see more, to learn more. For the next a few years I combined a new career working as a photographer with visiting every major site with stained glass in the UK. In 1985, I published my second book, A Guide to Stained Glass in Britain. Shortly before the publication of this book, I had developed a strong interest in computing and for the next twenty years combined that career with continuing to see, learn about and record as much stained glass as I could. Having become proficient as a film photographer I have recently found the new digital technology exciting and revolutionary.

‘In 2003, I wrote SIX DAYS, a fly-on-the-wall account of the making of Chester Cathedral’s new Creation window by Rosalind Grimshaw, an artist afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. It was a great honour to have worked with her. In 2005, I published a completely revised, and much larger, version of my earlier work on Rose Windows.

‘My latest book, English Stained Glass, has just been published. Thames & Hudson wanted an update of an earlier book that they had published, English Stained Glass of the Medieval Period (1978). Although I now spend most of my time in France, it provided a wonderful excuse for me re-photograph lots of great panels and schemes. The book covers the period 1100 to 1530 and looks at glass by region. As with the first time I saw these masterpieces, I remain simultaneously amazed by how much has survived and wistful about everything that has been lost.

Apart from writing my next book, I am using my time as a Visiting Research Associate at York University to create a website that will feature thousands of the photographs that I have taken during my life in glass. Dr Tim Ayers (Project Director of the CVMA (GB)) and York University have been incredibly supportive of this project, and when it is up and running, I promise that Vidimus readers will be the first to know!

To buy copies of Painton Cowen’s books, visit our Books section.

Antonio da Pisa

The Corpus Vitrearum of France has just published the eighth volume in its Études series, Antoine de Pise : Le vitrail vers 1400 (‘Antonio da Pisa: Stained Glass around 1400’). Publication of the volume was directed by Claudine Lautier and Dany Sandron, who also contributed to the work.

The renowned master glazier Antonio da Pisa worked in Pisa and Florence at the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth. There is nothing left of his work in Pisa Cathedral, but a single stained-glass window by him, commissioned by the Opera del Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore on 23 December 1395, remains in the nave of the Florence Cathedral. This window, as well as the three others made for the nave between 1394 and 1396 by Leonardo di Simone, was executed to cartoons supplied by the painter Agnolo Gaddi. Antonio da Pisa was also obviously concerned with technical issues. A small treatise by him on the art of stained glass (MS 692 in the Biblioteca del Sacro Convento in Assisi) was overlooked for a long time by researchers and considered unreliable, but published in Italian by Salvatore Pezzella (Il trattato d’Antonio da Pisa sulla fabbricazione delle vetrate artistiche, Perugia, 1976) and more recently in the volume Vetrate: Arte e restauro. Dal trattato di Antonio da Pisa alle nuove tecnologie di restauro edited by Gianantonio Mecozzi (Milan, 1991).

The French volume provides for the first time a French translation of Antonio da Pisa’s treatise, as well as a facsimile edition of the manuscript. For a better understanding of Antonio da Pisa’s technical recipes, every chapter of the treatise has been tested and probed by a team of master glaziers, chemists and art historians. This process has produced amazing results, and a great part of the book is devoted to technical aspect of stained glass making – the composition of the glass itself, the acid-etching of red glasses, the use of metal alloys in the production of lead moulds, etc. Careful study of archives in Pisa and Florence, of the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, of the only extant stained-glass window by Antonio da Pisa, and of the Florentine artistic context at the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth centuries, sheds new light on Antonio da Pisa and his work.

The book also includes editions and translations into French of other treatises on stained glass (Theophilus, the treatises attributed to Formica and the monk of Zagan, a part of the Nuremberg Kunstbuch), as well as the edition of the texts concerning Antonio da Pisa and his work in Pisa and Florence collected from the archives of Pisa and Florence. The work was published by the Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques in Paris, and is available via their website.

Table of Contents

•Préface, by Enrico Castelnuovo
•Le traité et l’œuvre d’Antoine de Pise, maître verrier de la fin du Trecento, by Claudine Lautier
•Introduction à la transcription et à la traduction du traité, by Claudine Lautier
•Traité d’Antoine de Pise, fac-similé et transcription du manuscrit, by Daniela Gallo and Dany Sandron
•Traité d’Antoine de Pise traduit de l’italien, by Katia Bienvenu and Claudine Lautier
•Le traité d’Antoine de Pise à l’épreuve de l’expérimentation, by Hervé Debitus, Claudine Lautier and Laurence Cuzange
•Fabrication et gravure à l’acide des verres rouges, by Marie-Pierre Etcheverry
•L’alliage du cuivre et du plomb pour fabriquer les moules à plombs, by Annick Texier and Anna Zymla
•Les recettes d’Antoine de Pise pour souder les tuyaux d’orgues, by Florence Gétreau
•Les traités médiévaux sur le vitrail, by Karine Boulanger
•Le vitrail d’Antoine de Pise, by Karine Boulanger
•La peinture sur verre à Florence au temps d’Antoine de Pise, by Karine Boulanger and Claudine Lautier
•La composition des verres du vitrail d’Antoine de Pise, by Jean-Philippe Échard and Dominique Germain-Bonne
•La carrière d’Antoine de Pise, by Dany Sandron
•La cathédrale Santa Maria del Fiore : un chantier séculaire, by Dany Sandron.

Christ in Judgement: York East Window Update

Work continues apace on the conservation of the Great East Window at York Minster, painted by John Thornton between 1405 and 1408. The whole window has now been ‘boxed in’ as conservators from the York Glaziers Trust (YGT) start the painstaking task of removing both the medieval glass and the later protective glazing. Meanwhile, in the YGT studio, exploratory work is currently taking place on four panels from the window (2b, 2e, 2h and 11e). Vidimus spoke to YGT Senior Conservator Nick Teed about these latest trials.

Fig. 1. Panel 2e in its current condition. Reproduced with kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster.

Fig. 1. Panel 2e in its current condition. Reproduced with kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster.

‘The current work in the conservation studio is producing a number of fascinating challenges,’ he told us. ‘Panel 2e, depicting “The Judge at the Last Judgement” is a good example of the problems we face. The panel appears in the central lancet of the second row, itself, the final row of the Apocalypse cycle. Many of the most iconographically important panels in the scheme are reserved for this centre position in the rows of nine lancets, and panel 2e is no exception. [Fig. 1]

‘It should show the figure of Christ at the Last Judgement, but years of repair and reconstruction have created visual uncertainty over who the figure in this panel is and what he is doing. Some people have thought that he may be a “wild man”, as the unruly nature of his hair bears no relation to other depictions of Christ in the window. Again, while the face is certainly medieval, it is neither original to this panel nor likely to be from any other part of the window. Although it is much shattered with parts missing, the head is finely painted and has qualities more usually associated with depictions of St John the Baptist. In addition to these difficulties, there are further problems that make the key figure in this panel appear at odds with what should be represented. For starters, the figure’s feet seem awkwardly posed. Moreover, the drapery he wears is made up of fragments of medieval murrey glass, a repair that seems to have been inserted by Dean Eric Milner-White during the 1945–53 restoration. In addition, three large pieces of white glass in the centre of the figure are clearly not in the style of John Thornton. Indeed, they formed part of the top left border prior to the last restoration programme.

‘Instead of ‘guessing’ what the original design may have looked like, research commissioned by the East Window Advisory Group (EWAG), found a good account of the panel written in 1690 by a local antiquarian, James Torre, who described the panel as follows:

Fig. 2. Wall-painting of the Last Judgement, Holy Trinity church, Coventry

Fig. 2. Wall-painting of the Last Judgement, Holy Trinity church, Coventry

In 5th Light sits our Lord enthroned Robed Murry glory A(rgent) w(i)th hands a little elevated & expanded backwards On each side him stands a woman 1st habited A(rgent) skirts of her garment gu(les) holding a spear & ?spunge staff in her left hand & carrying in her Right a golden basket w(i)th this Inscription under her viz venite et benedicti On the other side stands another woman habited B(lue) & A(rgent) skirts gu(les) taking hold of a Cross ?stave … A(rgent) under her feet [t]his Inscription Ite et maledicti

‘The Torre description provided important evidence about the earlier condition of the window, including the text of an inscription, most of which is now missing. According to Torre, the central figure of Christ was seated (upon a rainbow – the symbol of God’s covenant with mankind), wearing only murrey robes with his hands a little elevated and expanded backwards. This is exactly how depictions of Christ at the Last Judgement were depicted in other broadly comparative works of art from wall paintings (such as the Coventry Doom [Fig. 2]), stained glass at Tewkesbury Abbey, and sculptures and illuminated manuscripts [Fig. 3]. Many general patterns emerge, not least that Christ almost always looks straight ahead and not to the side as the present figure does.

Fig. 3. Christ in Judgement, stone portal, St Nizier, Troyes, France

Fig. 3. Christ in Judgement, stone portal, St Nizier, Troyes, France

Amongst the fragments of glass in the present arrangement of the figure the torso of Christ with his wound is visible. Interestingly the hands show no wounds which at first led us to wonder whether they were actually original to the panel. Further study has shown that the drawing of the right hand in particular follows almost identically a cartoon of the Christ figure in panel 2h. It is possible that his wounds were simply omitted by the artist. It also appears that the right foot of the figure is not original, whilst the left is heavily broken. Again, is difficult to decipher whether his wounds were painted on these limbs. Overall, it is clear that the figure of Christ has suffered in ways which the flanking parts of the panel, (depicting the angels, with the instruments of the crucifixion) have not. It is possible that the panel has suffered at some time from iconoclastic damage, as it would certainly have been within easy reach of stone throwers from the lower gallery at the base of the window.

‘We are now working with other EWAG advisors to determine how best to resolve the various problems associated with panel 2e. Over the coming months we must decide between keeping the arrangement of glass largely as it is, or adopting an alternative approach that seeks to get closer to the original artist’s intention for the Christ figure which James Torre saw in 1690. I will let you know how we get on!”

American Glass Guild Conference

Tom Küpper from Lincoln Cathedral will be among the keynote speakers at this year’s annual conference of the American Glass Guild (AGG). He will describe the conservation of the famous thirteenth-century Dean’s Eye Rose Window at Lincoln Cathedral. The three-day conference will be held 1–3 August 2008 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Cherry Hill, NJ, and will be followed by two days of tours of important stained glass installations in the Philadelphia area. Additional key speakers at the event will include:
•Dr Nicola Gordon Bowe (National College of Art & Design in Dublin, Ireland), who will speak both on Harry Clarke, about whom she wrote a comprehensive biography, and the important glass artist Wilhelmina Geddes
•Rowan LeCompte who will discuss his significant body of work, created over the past 60 years for a wide array of installations, including the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Other national and international stained glass artists, art historians and conservators, will also make presentations, and topics include the design journeys of many modern artists, estimating stained-glass projects, lime putty mortars, proper structure and support, Belcher Mosaics, the Tiffany Studios, etc. Guggenheim Fellow Judith Schaechter will lead a three-hour pre-conference workshop entitled ‘Rethinking Stained Glass’ on the morning of 1 August. Other pre-conference workshops include sessions on glass painting, computer design, fabrication and structure and will be run by well-known artists and conservators in the field. For the first time, there will be an exhibition of AGG members’ work at the conference. (Those wishing to exhibit should email the Exhibit Chair, Barbara Krueger, by 15 June.)

During the event, an auction will be held to benefit the AGG’s James Whitney Scholarship Fund, which provides support for training, workshops and conference attendance both in the USA and abroad. Information on previous recipients is posted on the AGG website, from where the application form for this year’s conference (deadline 15 April 2008) can be downloaded. Past donations to the auction have included books, stained-glass panels, glass, tools, wine and more, and a selection of auction items will be posted on the website. For further information email the Auction Chair, Kathy Jordan.

Nunnery Glazing Revealed at Bondington

A National Lottery-funded community project to research a lost medieval settlement on the western edge of the Anglo-Scottish border town of Berwick-on-Tweed (Northumberland), has discovered important evidence about the glazing of the now lost nunnery of the Blessed Mary and St Leonard at Bondington.

Probably founded in the 1140s, possibly by the Scottish King David I (1124–1153), the nunnery is described in chronicles as Cistercian, but was probably Augustinian in origin. If Norham, a little way to the west, was, according to the historical novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), the most dangerous place in England during the Anglo-Scottish wars, the nunnery of St Leonard must have been a close second. It was almost certainly damaged when Berwick was destroyed by the English king Edward I in 1296, and was badly damaged again in 1333 during the battle of Haildon Hill. By the end of the century, there is little indication that it was still functioning.

Archaeological investigations by the Bondington Group in 2003 and in 2006 found remains of an extensive site with a substantial church, a northern cloister, and other ranges. Last month Vidimus spoke to Alan Williams of Alan Williams Archaeology, about the glass that had been found. We are very grateful for his help with this article.
‘Around one hundred small pieces (none longer than 35 to 40mm) of medieval window-glass were recovered during the 2006 investigations on the nunnery site,’ Alan explained. ‘All the pieces were found in a trench cut across the eastern wall of what is currently interpreted as the chapter house within the east range of the nunnery complex. The glass came from the internal (western) side of the chapter-house wall and presumably belonged to a window that had fallen or been pushed into the building. The glass lay at the base of a spread of loam and stone fragments interpreted as the final destruction deposits from the nunnery buildings. The lack of any associated lead calmes (cames) with the glass probably reflects the fact that this was collected and re-used, as may have larger pieces of glass.

‘None of the pieces of glass from St Leonard’s is transparent and very few even translucent. Where sections through pieces are visible, all are pale green. The thickness of the pieces varies between 3mm to 4mm. The universal surface hues are a black background, presumably a product of corrosion, and a pale grey-brown paint, applied by brush in linear, curvilinear or geometric patterns. Some fragments have portions of the designs very delicately infilled with cross-hatching/reticulation; others have been painted with a broad band of colour, from which patterns have then been scratched through to the original glass surface. Two pieces are substantially complete and have grozed, or trimmed edges.

‘The pieces of glass formed a grisaille window. These windows were constructed from pieces of clear glass on to which a pattern was painted with a mixture of lead and iron oxides and gum Arabic. Production of the glass was not local; there are no certain records of glass production in Scotland until 1610, so we cannot say where the glass was painted or made.

‘It has proved impossible to reconstruct the overall motif of the window, which is not surprising given the very fragmentary remains. Chronologically, though, the banding and cross-hatching within the repertoire of patterns probably suggests that the window was installed in the thirteenth century. Grisaille glass is often associated with Cistercian houses (although it should be noted that two of the three examples with assemblages noted below were Augustinian foundations); the repetitive and sombre patterns being considered less distracting to those at worship than the florid figurative windows that had grown popular in many churches, with the added advantage that the pale matrix would have allowed light to flood into a building. Very similar pieces of glass have been recovered from the Cistercian Dundrennan Abbey in Dumfries and Galloway; the Augustinian Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh; and from the Augustinian Abbey at Jedburgh, Borders Region. These last two assemblages included pieces with naturalistic foliage designs.’

The glass will be retained in archive at Berwick Museum.

Further Reading
On the lack of any record of glass production before 1610 and the glass at Holyrood Abbey, see S. Bain and J. Clark, ‘Window glass’, in S. Bain ‘Excavation of a medieval cemetery at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, cxxviii (1998), pp. 1047–77, here pp. 1058–60.

On Dundrennan Abbey, see A. Dunn, ‘Window glass’ in G. Ewart, Dundrennan Abbey: Archaeological investigations within the south range of a Cistercian house in Kirkubrightshire, Scottish Archaeological Internet Report 1, 2001.

On Jedburgh Abbey, see C. P. Graves, ‘Window glass’, in J. Lewis and G. Ewart (eds), Jedburgh Abbey: the archaeology and architecture of a Border abbey, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Monograph Series, X, Edinburgh, 1995.

For further information about the Bondington Project, visit the Local Heritage Initiative website.

The following are published by the Steering Group of the Bondington Project: ‘Putting Bondington on the Map’ (2004), and ‘How Bondington was put on the map: Phase 2’ (2007).

New Website on Norwich Stained Glass

Fragment from Norwich Cathedral

Fragment from Norwich Cathedral

A new website has been launched focusing on the stained glass of Norwich and Norfolk churches. Inevitably medieval glass figures strongly. Produced by the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, the website includes superb photographs and exceptionally helpful diagrams.

Further news stories about this site will appear in future issues.

Stained-Glass Windows Lost at Radford Semele

Stained-glass windows by the Victorian artist C. F. Kempe and others were totally destroyed on Sunday, 16 March this year, when a terrible fire gutted the church of St Nicholas in Radford Semele, near Leamington Spa (Warwickshire). The earliest parts of the church date from Norman times. According to the Revd Martin Green, almost nothing of the interior of the church survived the inferno. Although fire investigators are looking into the cause of the blaze, arson is not suspected.

Parishioners have launched a restoration fund, and donations should be sent to The Revd Martin Green, 1 Manor Road, Bishop’s Itchington, Southam, Warwickshire, CV47 2QJ

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