The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral by Jeffrey Weaver and Madeline H. Caviness, 104 pages, 7 1/2 x 10 inches, 63 colour and 5 b&w illustrations, ISBN 978-1-60606-146-6, paperback, Getty Publications (imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum), 2013. Various prices on Amazon.


Fig. 1. Book cover.

Fig. 1. Book cover.

This book focuses on a series of eighty-six life-size figures made for the clerestory windows at the eastern end of Canterbury Cathedral in three glazing campaigns, between the rebuilding of the choir after a disastrous fire in 1174 and the early years of the thirteenth century. It consists of two parts. The first, by Jeffrey Weaver, describes the history and purpose of the windows and summarizes what is known about them. It also includes detailed entries about particular windows using excellent illustrations to highlight the differences between the aforesaid campaigns, beginning with the earliest work, which is attributed to the artist known as the Methuselah Master (after a figure of that name) and includes such other well-known images such as Adam, Enoch, Jared and Lamech; continuing with the work of a second (later) group of painters, who were perhaps guided by a single designer; and finishing with the output of a number of painters who completed the scheme in a variety of styles in the first twenty years of the thirteenth century.

The second part of the book is by Professor Madeline Caviness, the author of the CVMA (GB) volume on Canterbury Cathedral (The Windows of Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury, CVMA (GB), II, London, 1981). It explores the visual and cognitive impact these windows may have had on the medieval audiences who saw them. It also provides a fascinating overview of other genealogy of Christ schemes produced around the same time in glass, manuscript illumination and wall painting, the latter including a c.1200 scheme for the chapter house at the royal nunnery at Sigena, 100 miles west of Barcelona. The latter work is sometimes attributed to the same artists who painted the famous Winchester Bible, but is perhaps better understood as the work of elite artists familiar with the same style.

Although produced to coincide with a travelling exhibition of some of these windows at the Getty Museum in California and The Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2013 and 2014 (see Vidimus 77 and 72), this richly illustrated and scholarly publication works excellently as a standalone publication.

C. Barker

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