Z. van Ruyven-Zeman, Stained Glass in the Netherlands before 1795, 2 vols,
Corpus Vitrearum volumes are published regularly, though not very frequently, and reviews of them often take a long time to appear. Zsuzsanna van Ruyven-Zeman’s Stained Glass in the Netherlands before 1795, the fourth volume in the Dutch Corpus Vitrearum series, has however already been reviewed for the journal Simiolus, by Xander van Eck. The first three volumes of the Dutch series were given over to the St.-Janskerk (Church of St John) in Gouda, and van Eck collaborated with others on the second of these volumes.
As highlighted elsewhere, van Ruyven-Zeman’s latest work, in two parts, endeavours to present a complete overview of all stained-glass windows executed before 1795 and found in public buildings within the borders of the modern-day Netherlands. The material is organized by province, as with other volumes published by the Dutch Monumentenzorg. Some of these provinces are named for historical regions (Holland, Gelderland, etc.), although their current boundaries do not necessarily coincide with their historical ones. It was decided to include the windows at Gouda, in summary, and the opportunity was taken to update and correct the information presented in the first three volumes of the Dutch Corpus series. In addition to cataloguing all extant glass, van Ruyven-Zeman examines the extensive documentary evidence and explores vidimuses, designs, early reproductions, excavated glass and the lives of glass-painters; indeed, for the city of Utrecht, past splendours are evoked for the first time in exceptional detail, despite the paucity of the physical evidence.
The catalogue sections however form only part of this work. The general introduction, read together with the introductions to the various provinces, forms the first history of Dutch glass-painting penned in modern times. Such an overview is the fruit of many years of labour, and will be greatly appreciated by the international academic community, not least for the light it casts on relations with England, France, Belgium and Germany. The work’s breadth and depth have already been recognized in the award of the Mr. J.W. Frederiksprijs for 2012 (see the News page in the current issue). Van Eck sums up as follows: ‘This book is a more than worthy crown on the Dutch research into stained-glass windows that has been carried out in the past decades. It would merit the description ‘definitive’ for its exceptionally complete and illuminating account of the current state of our knowledge, were it not for the fact that it highlights so many new avenues for further research that a fresh generation of scholars will still have enough to keep them busy for years to come.’