St Anne and the Holy Family: From Cologne to Norfolk
This month’s featured panel is ‘St Anne Holding the Virgin Mary cradling the Christ Child’ from the chancel east window in St Andrew’s Church, Hingham, Norfolk. It has been chosen as an example of late-medieval glass from the continent, salvaged and brought over to England during the antiquarian and gothic revival. The panel is also of interest in its representation of St Anne as an integral figure in Christ’s Holy Family.
St Andrew’s church in Hingham, Norfolk, was built almost entirely during the incumbency of Remigius de Hethersete, Rector 1319–1359. Although none of the church’s original medieval glazing remains, the huge east window is filled with German sixteenth-century stained glass variously dated c.1500 –1535, and described by David King as ‘the most impressive display of imported foreign glass in a county (Norfolk) rich in this field’. In its present arrangement the seven-light window comprises four Christological scenes along with figures of saints, angels and kneeling donors. [Figs. 1 and 2]
The narrative panels fill the outer six lights of the window, spreading across the mullions to occupy three lights each. They depict, clockwise from top left corner, The Crucifixion [Fig. 3]; The Ascension [Fig. 4]; The Resurrection [Fig. 5]; and The Deposition [Fig. 6].
Two larger, single, standing figures fill the central light of this window. At the top, St Thomas the Apostle can be seen holding a carpenter’s square and beneath this image is our Panel of the Month: ‘St Anne Holding the Virgin Mary cradling the Christ Child’. The figures of both saints are considerably larger than the figures in the surrounding narrative panels. Both St Anne and St Thomas stand underneath gothic, silver-stained architectural canopies, and against rinceaux grounds of ruby and olive-green respectively. Perspective has been used by the artist in the treatment of the canopies and tiled floors, to give an illusion of depth to the figures.
The large figure of St Anne is nimbed, and clothed in purple robes and an ivory cloak with gold trimming. Stipple shading has been used by the artist to show the folds in her cloak. As deemed appropriate for women during the time of the panel’s production, her head is veiled and she wears a wimple. St Anne is shown carrying the young Virgin Mary who, in turn, cradles the Christ child in her arms. St Anne is both the predominant and central figure of this window. Her frontal pose is strong and statuesque, contrasting with the gentle cradling of the Virgin and Child in her arms.
The repetition of this tender pose within one scene emphasises the significance of the family, and symbolically the importance of the wider Christian family – the Church. The panel is a matriarchal portrait of Christ’s family which focuses on St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, and grandmother of Christ. The disproportionate scale of the matrilineal descent group places further emphasis on St Anne; she is depicted at almost twice the size of the Virgin Mary.
Devotion to St Anne was enormously popular in the Middle Ages, especially between the late fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The cult was particularly strong in Northern Europe, where this panel originates. This type of portrait of St Anne, with St Mary and the Christ Child is known as ‘Anna Selbdritt’, or literally ‘Anne making a third’. It is a feminine parallel of the Trinity. The iconography of ‘Anna Selbdritt’ was derived from images of the ‘Heilige Sippe’ (or Holy Kinship) which depicted St Anne as the grandmother of Christ and five of the twelve Apostles after the lineage described by Jacobus de Voragine in The Golden Legend. Numerous examples of the scene survive from this period in stained glass, sculpture and painting. [Figs. 7, 8 and 9]
A comparison can be made between the panel at Hingham and figures in the three-light east window at St Mary’s Church, Stoke D’Abernon, Surrey. Although the original pairing has been disrupted, with the figures now separated by a central light depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, the figures’ attire and expressions are very similar to the Hingham panel; the Virgin Mary is young and her hair hangs loose and the Christ child is nude. Similar decorative grounds and painting techniques have also been used in these panels. [Fig. 10 and 11]
It may come as no surprise, then, that these late-medieval panels also originate from Germany, and were also imported during the nineteenth century. They were once in the possession of the Earls of Essex at Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire.
The importing of foreign glass into England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is a fascinating and important part of the history of stained glass. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars were responsible for the movement of much medieval glass across the channel.
The atheist tendencies of the Revolution resulted in the closure of numerous religious houses, and during the Revolutionary Wars, French armies occupied Belgium, the Rhineland, and parts of southern Holland. By 1794 the archdiocese of Cologne had been occupied and the Cathedral treasury sacked. Large quantities of glass were removed from religious houses in this area and sold to buyers in England with antiquarian and commercial interests. Medieval German glass was removed from the cloisters of the Cistercian Abbeys of Mariawald (suppressed 1795); Altenberg (suppressed in 1803); and the Premonstratensian Abbey at Steinfeld (suppressed 1802), amongst others. Much of this salvaged medieval glass found its way into secular and ecclesiastical buildings across England, and became part of both new and restored building fabric.
The St Anne panel in Hingham Church is known to have been brought over to England, along with numerous other panels of stained glass and religious items, by Norwich master weaver and merchant, John Christopher Hampp (d.1825). Hampp travelled on the continent in order to sell textiles, and appears to have engaged in the purchase and importing of ancient glass to supplement his income. Hampp’s commercial activity took place over two periods: the first after the peace of Amiens in 1802, and the second after the Battle of Leipzig in 1814. One can gain an idea of the range of items pillaged from religious houses abroad during this period of political instability from a catalogue for a sale of the items at Christie’s Auction House in 1808, described as:
‘A Catalogue of a most valuable and unique Collection of Ancient Stained Glass, comprising noble Altar Pieces, Windows for Churches, Collegiate Buildings, and Gothic Country Residences; also many exquisite Cabinet Pieces, of the finest Colouring and richest Enamel. The Whole collected, at a very great Expence, by a Gentleman of enlarged Information and fine Taste, during the early part of the French Revolution, from the suppressed Churches and Religious Houses, in Germany, France and the Netherlands’.
The catalogue was intended to appeal to the learned ‘gentleman antiquarian’ eager to collect valuable historic and artistic objects of interest. The so-called ‘antiquarian revival’ coincided with renewed appreciation and interest in medieval gothic architecture and artefacts. In England, Hampp sold the glass he had purchased abroad from Rouen, Paris, Aachen, Cologne, and Nuremberg to buyers through Christie’s auction house in 1804, 1808 and 1820. He also sold directly from his warehouse in Norwich. In 1813 Lord John Wodehouse of Kimberley, the Lord of the Manor of Hingham, purchased several panels of glass from Hampp. Much of this glass was installed in various windows of the parish church at Kimberley, and in the east window at Hingham. Wodehouse’s connection with Hingham Church was probably provided through two of his sons who were both rectors of the parish; Philip Wodehouse (Rector,1777–1811), and William Wodehouse, (Rector, 1811–1870). It was during William’s term as rector, in 1813 or 1825, that the east window was inserted and the tracery altered to fit the window, as part of a larger scheme to develop the chancel. The work was probably carried out by Samuel Carter Yarington (1781–1846), a Norwich glazier who fitted much imported glass in Norfolk. Additional pieces of glass, some depicting foliate heads and others, such as one of the kneeling donors, were inserted around the new stone frame; at the same time the bottom of the east window was filled up and other repairs were carried out to the area. [Fig. 2] As Birkin Haward has stated, ‘The old pieces were thus presented as part of a new design which generally showed them off to advantage in a positive coloured stained glass context’, yet the overall appearance was more contemporary than medieval in character.
Hampp’s account books survive in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, although as their transcriber Bernard Rackham wrote in 1927: ‘The descriptions given in these accounts are mostly so brief that it would be impossible now to find out what has become of various items’. Thus the provenance of the panels in the east window is open to speculation. Stylistically the panels are attributable to the Eiffel region of Germany, near Cologne. A recent article by Brigitte Wolff-Wintrich in the Journal of Stained Glass has attempted to trace the whereabouts of windows which once adorned the Cloister at the Cistercian monastery at Mariawald. She compares the donor figures and angels in the east window tracery of Hingham Church with panels known to be from Mariawald, such as those in Kimberley Church (Norfolk), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Dalmeny House (Edinburgh), and Portsmouth Abbey (Rhode Island, USA). She suggests that the Hingham tracery angels, originally holding heraldic shields in their hands, may have come from one of the side choir windows at Mariawald. Only the corners of these remain today, the rest perhaps lost during its nineteenth-century installation. The dimensions of the panels in the Hingham window are unknown so this speculation cannot be confirmed.
Identification of the Hingham panel’s provenance remains a challenge, drawing attention to the difficulties inherent in matching up continental glass now in England with its original setting. Contemporary descriptions of the glass are often not very detailed, and stylistic comparisons, although useful, are usually not enough to make a definitive attribution. Perhaps the east window is formed of glass from glazing schemes at one or more of the aforementioned suppressed German religious houses? Certainly we can deduce that the Hingham panels are Rhenish, and more specifically, from the Eiffel region. It has been suggested that the panel of St Anne, in the centre of the largest window of foreign glass in the county of Norfolk, confirm this. The unclothed Christ Child holds an apple in his hand. [Fig. 12]
Whilst this apple may be symbolic of Christ’s future Redemption for all mankind, it perhaps also makes reference to the window’s Eiffel provenance. According to a German legend the Blessed Hermann Joseph (c.1150–1241), who became a Norbertine monk at Steinfeld Abbey, used to pray before a statue of the Virgin and Child on his way to school. One day he offered the statue an apple and the Virgin took it and gave it to the infant Christ. The apple has, since then, been used as a symbol of Eiffel.
Bibliography and Further Reading
For Hingham Church:
All the windows in Hingham Church are described in: H. Birkin, Nineteenth Century Norfolk Stained Glass, Norwich, 1984, and illustrated online at: http://www.norfolkstainedglass.co.uk/Hingham/home.shtm
David J. King, Stained Glass tours around Norfolk Churches (The Norfolk Society: Norwich, 1974).
Roger Norris, St Andrew’s Church Hingham: History and Guide (2007).
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Norfolk 2: North-West and South (Yale UP, 2002).
Christopher Woodforde, The Norwich School of Glass Painting in the Fifteenth-Century (London, 1950), p. 72.
For Stoke D’Abernon church:
J. Waterson, Windows of Stoke D’Abernon and their background, Stoke D’Abernon, 1988.
For the life of St Anne:
Butler’s Lives of the Saints
Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend.
On the importation of foreign glass into England:
Sarah Crewe, ‘Foreign Glass in England’, Stained Glass in England 1180–1540, RCHME, 1987, pp. 88–94.
Ernest A. Kent, ‘John Christopher Hampp of Norwich’, Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, Vol. VI, No. 4 (1937), pp. 191–196.
J. Lafond, ‘The Traffic in Old Stained Glass from Abroad during the 18th and 19th Centuries in England’, Journal of Stained Glass Vol. XIV, No. 1, pp. 58–67.
Bernard Rackham, ‘English Importations of Foreign Stained Glass in the Early Nineteenth Century’, Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, Vol. II, No. 2 (1927), pp. 86–94.
Christopher Woodforde, ‘Foreign Stained and Painted Glass in Norfolk’, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 26, pp. 73–85.
Susan Foister, Art of Light: German Renaissance Stained Glass, National Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, London, 2007.
David J.King, ‘The Steinfeld Cloister glazing’, Gesta, XXXVII, No. 2, pp. 201-210.
J. Osborne, Stained Glass in England, Dover, 1981.
Brigitte Wolff-Wintrich, ‘Stained Glass in the Former Cistercian Monastery of Mariawald, Eiffel, Germany’, Journal of Stained Glass, Vol. XXXII, 2008, pp. 10–49.