Swiss Stained Glass Collection at Saltwood Castle

Saltwood Castle.

Fig. 1. Saltwood Castle.

Previously unpublished panels of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Swiss stained glass have been discovered at Saltwood castle, in Kent. The panels were acquired by the art historian and broadcaster Kenneth [Lord] Clark of Saltwood (1903–83), who bought the castle in 1955. His son and heir was the Conservative MP and best-selling diarist Alan Clark (1928–1999). The castle and its collections are now in the care of his widow, the Hon. Jane Clark.

We are extremely grateful to Jane Clark for allowing us to reproduce these panels in Vidimus; the first time the family have shown them to a wider audience.

The panels were found during a visit to the castle by Vidimus reporter, Robin Fleet, who takes up the story:

Saltwood Castle is a magnificent medieval Grade I castle, near Hythe in Kent. Lord Clark had a superb eye for works of art and filled his home with wonderful sculptures and paintings. The panels formed part of his extensive art collection. [Fig. 1]

Unfortunately no record of where and when the glass was acquired has been found to date.

The panels are typical products of Swiss glass-painters after the Reformation and into the seventeenth century. Made in large numbers for civic and domestic locations, they often included halberdiers, ‘wildmen’ or allegorical figures framing coats of arms, with smaller scenes painted in the upper corners. Names and dates were often recorded. Some scenes included religious imagery. Wealthy people gave such panels as presents to friends, family and business associates, most often on the occasion of the construction or renovation of their houses. Heraldic panels were also installed to enhance public buildings, such as town halls. The panels were copied or traced from pen and ink designs. Many were extremely elaborate and full of tiny details. After 1550 most painters worked in enamels. Occasionally artists added their monograms

Although the heraldic panels are not works of high artistic quality, numbers 2–9 are interesting as historical documents. They are all from the city and canton of Berne; three were even made in the same year (1662), perhaps all by the same glass-painter. It is possible that at least some of these panels were made for the same place. More research will be needed. I am extremely grateful to Rolf Hasler of the Swiss Corpus Vitrearum and the Vitro-centre in Romont for his generous help with this item.

The panels

Kaspar Keller and Felix Schlumpf.

Fig. 2. Kaspar Keller and Felix Schlumpf.

Bartlome Herren and his son Samuel Herren.

Fig. 3. Bartlome Herren and his son Samuel Herren.

The Fountain of Life by Matthias Zwirn.

Fig. 4. The Fountain of Life by Matthias Zwirn.

No. 1.

Panel of 1596 showing its two donors as warriors: they are Kaspar Keller (‘Casper Käller’) and Felix Schlumpf (‘Felyx Schlumpff’), both originating from Mönchaltdorf (‘Muchalltorff’), a village in the canton of Zürich. The panel seems to have some new pieces (head of the warrior on the left side). [Fig. 2]

No. 2.

Two standing figures representing the donors of this panel: Bartlome (Bartholomäus) Herren and his son Samuel Herren (their arms below). The Herren family was widespread in the Bernese country. Bartlome and his son Samuel Herren were obviously farmers. The figures carry a gun known as an arquebus (sometimes spelled harquebus). The scene in the uppermost part of the panel shows farmers ploughing, probably somewhere in the countryside around Berne. It is possible the panel was made in 1662 by the Bernese glass-painter Matthias Zwirn (1630–1681) – see below. [Fig. 3]

No. 3.

A panel depicting the Fountain of Life, donated by the brothers Abraham and Jakob Lienhard. Both men were citizens of Berne and in 1662 Abraham was a member of the Great Council. The panel was made 1662 by Matthias Zwirn (initials MZ). Beside Hans Jakob Güder (ca. 1630–1691), Zwirn was the leading Bernese glass-painter in the second half of the seventeenth century. [Fig. 4]

The Great Flood inscribed Bendicht (Benedikt) and Hans Witschi.

Fig. 5. The Great Flood inscribed Bendicht (Benedikt) and Hans Witschi.

Torments of Job, 1662.

Fig. 6. Torments of Job, 1662.

New Jerusalem.

Fig. 7. New Jerusalem.

No. 4.

A panel showing the Great Flood with Noah’s Ark floating on the water, and the arms of its donors, the brothers Bendicht (Benedikt) and Hans Witschi. It is dated 1685. The inscription says that the brothers were millers in Hindelbank, a small village near Berne. The panel is the work of an unknown Bernese glass-painter. [Fig. 5]

No. 5.

Panel with the Torments of Job dated 1662. A winged devil stands behind the seated Job whose house can be seen burning down in the background. The inscription with the donors’ names is not entirely legible: ‘Hans Jakob M…ller (Müller?) und Hans W… (?) beid zu (both resident at) W…nderswyll.’ This must be a little place (probably no longer existing) somewhere in the Bernese country. As it was painted by Matthias Zwirn and depicts a popular subject in Bernese glass-painting, it seems reasonable to conclude that the panel must be commissioned by someone living in the Bernese countryside. [Fig. 6]

No. 6.

Fragment of the New Jerusalem (the inscription probably belongs to this fragment – in spite of the unsuitable size). In the second half of the seventeenth century the New Jerusalem was a popular motif in Bernese glass painting. Therefore it may well be that the fragment belongs to a panel made in Berne in this time. [Fig. 7]

Inscribed Hans Walthart Meister, 1632.

Fig. 8. Inscribed Hans Walthart Meister, 1632.

Anton Gasser of Berne.

Fig. 9. Anton Gasser of Berne.

Arms of the City of Winterthur of 1658.

Fig. 10. Arms of the City of Winterthur of 1658.

No. 7.

Panel with the name of Hans Walthart Meister, 1632, a member of the Great Council in Berne. Work of an unknown Bernese glass-painter. It is not clear if the arms represent this family and the size of the inscription below does not correspond to the panel. [Fig. 8]


Badly damaged panel donated in 1583 by Anton Gasser of Berne (‘Antony Gasser in Bern’). The panel shows the coat of arms of the Gasser family in Berne. [Fig. 9]

No. 9.

A panel with the arms of the northern Swiss city of Winterthur of 1658 (on Winterthur panels the arms of the city are usually guarded by two wild men and dated 1658). Above an upper scene depicting the Judgement of Solomon, the monogram IW, suggesting that the panel was made either by the Winterthur glass-painter Jakob Weber I (1610–1658) or his son Jakob Weber II (1637–1685). Unfortunately Jakob Weber I is not well documented as a glass-painter (in contrast to his son), but it is known that in 1659 his widow received payment for three panels from the Winterthur authorities that her husband had made in 1658 for the city. [Fig. 10]


All images are copyright Taeko Fleet.

Further Reading

  • B. Giesicke and M. Ruoss, ‘In Honor of Friendship; Function, Meaning and Iconography in Civic Stained-Glass Donations in Switzerland and Southern Germany’, in B. Butts and L. Hendrix (eds), Painting on Light, Los Angeles, 2000, pp. 43–55
  • ‘Designs for Swiss Stained Glass sold in New York’, Vidimus 26
  • ‘Superb Swiss glass Painting in Schaffhausen: interview with Rolf Hasler’, Vidimus 43
  • Also volumes of the Swiss Corpus Vitrearum

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