Frank Martin – An Appreciation
The German and the international CVMA is sorry to announce the death of Prof. Dr. Frank Martin. Our colleague died after a serious illness, aged only 52 years, on 30 June 2014.
Frank Martin was born on 10 December 1961 in Stuttgart. He studied history of art, Classical archaeology, German philology, and Latin philology at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg from 1982 to 1989. After his PhD thesis of 1992 on the stained-glass windows in the choir of the upper basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, which he completed summa cum laude, Frank Martin continued his research work as a fellow of various institutions, namely the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, the Warburg Institute in London, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. This included studies on stained glass, painting and sculpture of the Middle Ages and of the modern era, focusing on Italy and Germany. He dealt with the stained-glass work of Duccio in Siena Cathedral, with Ghirlandaio and Cimabue, with the Aschaffenburg panel and the so-called Zackenstil of the 13th century – and with the same passion with Roman Baroque sculpture, particularly with the sculptor Camillo Rusconi (1658–1728). In April 2002, the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität in Jena bestowed upon him the venia docendi as associate professor for art history, based on his habilitation thesis entitled Camillo Rusconi: Ein Catalogue Raisonné. From March 2012, he taught as honorary professor at the Freie Universität in Berlin.
Since the beginning of 2001, Frank Martin was the head of the CVMA Potsdam, one of the two German CVMA centres. From that point on, he devoted himself intensively to researching the medieval stained glass in the states of eastern Germany. Under his leadership, a range of publications was produced, for example the CVMA volumes on Halberstadt Cathedral (2003); on northern Sachsen-Anhalt (2007, 2009, 2013); and on Berlin and Brandenburg (2010). A further publication focussed on the stained glass returned to the Marienkirche in Frankfurt an der Oder (2008). In a special project, he was able to achieve a complete inventory of all stained glass of the 19th and the early 20th centuries in eastern Germany (published in five volumes between 2001 and 2004). He was not only the editor of all these publications, but was himself the author of numerous contributions to CVMA volumes and other important publications on stained glass of the Middle Ages and of the 19th and early 20th centuries. From 2012, he served as secretary for the German CVMA.
With Frank Martin, the CVMA Potsdam has lost an innovative head, the German and international CVMA committee a high-achieving colleague, and history of art a brilliant author and editor.
Prof. Dr. Achim Hubel (Project Director) and the CVMA Potsdam team
A full list of the German CVMA volumes may be found on the CVMA (GB) website.
The Identification of the Medieval Glazier’s Table in the Episcopal Museum, Girona
We are delighted to present a feature by the eminent Catalan artist Joan Vila Grau, whose many commissions include the designs for the glazing of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. An interview with him appeared in a previous issue of Vidimus. Here he describes the identification of the famous glazier’s table from Girona Cathedral that provides rare concrete evidence of how the medieval glazier carried out his craft.
I have always been interested in the art and history of stained-glass windows, especially in the Art Nouveau stained glass of Catalonia. It was this interest that led eventually to my identification and authentication of the medieval glazier’s table from Girona Cathedral. I decided to write a book on Art Nouveau glass in Catalonia because none existed. As a result of this book, Dr Joan Ainaud i de Lasarte of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans contacted me and asked if I would form a small team to study Gothic stained-glass windows in Catalonia. Given the political situation in Spain and Catalonia in the 1970s, it had not been possible to undertake such research before then.
The study began in the monastary of Pedrables in 1983–84, followed by Santa Maria del Mar, before we started on the windows in Girona. In all the places where the research was carried out, scaffolding was installed so that the windows could be examined in detail. While we working at the lowest level of the windows, the Director of the Episcopal Museum of Girona invited us to visit the museum. During the visit, I noticed, fixed to one of the walls of the museum, two old wooden tables [Fig. 1]. These tables had survived because they had been turned upside down and used as benches. When they had been turned round and the patterns discovered, they were put on the wall in the museum and labelled as projections of an unknown window from the fourteenth century.
Both of these tables caught my attention and, on looking more closely, I discovered they were covered with numerous holes. These holes appeared to follow the parts that were drawn in the decorative gablets [Fig. 2]. The shape of the tables, the painting and the small holes I recognized from the book English Mediæval Painted Glass. This book by John Dolbe Le Couteur has an illustration of a master glazier’s table, which in England is called a ‘whitewash table’ [Fig. 3]. This table had been constructed by J. A. Knowles based on the description of such a table by the German monk, Theophilus, in his treatise On Divers Arts: ‘When you want to lay out glass windows, first make yourself a smooth flat wooden board, wide and long enough so that you can work two sections of each window on it …’ The illustration of the reconstructed table and the accompanying text came to mind because the two tables in the museum had been classified as a projection. I thought that they were not a projection, but almost certainly a table of the type described by Le Couteur and Theophilus.
In order to ascertain the validity of my hypothesis – for I could not be absolutely sure that these were the authentic tables of a Gothic master glazier – I needed to consult experts in the area. I was going to England on a visit arranged by the British Council. While there I met various members of the British Corpus Vitrearum, who put me in contact with Jill Kerr, the then Secretary of the British Corpus Vitrearum. She said if it really were a whitewashed table it would be very exciting, as none had been discovered. There was great interest therefore in what could, potentially, be an important discovery. Jill Kerr came to Catalonia to visit the museum in Girona and examine the table. When she saw it she agreed with me. She was convinced it was an authentic glazier’s table, and at that time it was the only one known to exist in the world.
The panels were made of chestnut, panel A measuring 124cm by 35cm, and panel B 122cm by 40cm. Each of these was divided into three sections by two lines, the distance between which measured between 53 and 55cm, the same height as the panels of the Gothic windows we were studying in Girona Cathedral [Fig. 4, panels 2A and 2B]. The upper section of panel A was decorated with gablets, features typical of Gothic windows. The lower section was painted in an opaque grey covered by a geometric pattern [Fig. 2]. The same pattern was evident in the top section of panel B, the central part of which had a design of star-like flowers that appeared frequently in the presbytery windows in the cathedral. The lower section of this panel had a lanceolate type of flower and was in the worst state of preservation.
After examining the designs on the table further, I suggested to the other three members of the team working on the windows in Girona, Joan Ainaud i de Lasarte, Antoni Vila i Declòs and Raimon Roca, that it was possible that one of the windows in the cathedral had been made on the table. At that point the scaffolding only reached the first level of the windows, so these were the only ones it was possible to examine closely. With the aid of powerful binoculars however, it seemed that the axial window at the top of the apse could have been made on the table. We took photographs and made copies of the table and when, after some months, the scaffolding reached the top level of the windows, we were able to make detailed comparisons of the axial window and the glazier’s table. By putting a rubbing of the leadwork over the table and a photograph of the table against the window it was evident that the decorative gablets on the table fitted exactly onto the design in the window [Figs 5a/b].
Below the decorative gablets in the window there was an image of the Virgin in a scene of the Annunciation. However, the table showed no indication of this image: there was only opaque paint and a geometric design in the equivalent location. We considered the possibility that the image of the Virgin had been painted over and that there could be a drawing of the face and hands of the Virgin obscured by this grey paint. Initially X-rays were tried to see if there were metal pigments that would reflect under this treatment, but nothing appeared. Then Raimon Roca, the photographer on the team, suggested studying the effects of ultraviolet light on the table. In my studio, in controlled conditions, with the light was focused in the centre of the table, the head and hands of the Virgin appeared on the table, just as they were in the window [Figs 6a/b]. It was an overwhelming and exciting moment, an unforgettable experience. In effect, on both tables, more than a metre in length, we could see that the artist had painted not only the Virgin but also, around the small gablets, all the ornamentation typical of the architectural gable form in Gothic windows [Fig. 7].
Also visible on the table were some small signs, ‘x’, ‘c’, etc., typical marks made by glaziers. These were used as indicators for the placement of the glass in the window. It also seemed that these marks were specifying the colours that the glazier had to find – red, green, yellow, etc. – and indicating how the colours were to be fitted into the window. The markers for the colours showed variations, so it was possible that the table was used not only for the windows in Girona, but also for other windows elsewhere.
Theophilus gave a detailed account of this process in On Divers Arts, as is well known, the book being readily available in numerous languages, translated from the original version in Latin. There are, however, some details that I want to comment on, because they relate to determining the authenticity and use of the table in Girona. For example, the small holes made by nails being knocked into the wood indicated the places where the pieces of glass or lead were to be held in place. These small holes, for the greater part, corresponded to the picture painted over the wood. The fact that the glazier painted over this picture with opaque paint indicated that it would be used for another window.
The holes made by the nails were square not round, a sign of the antiquity of the nails that had been inserted and therefore the antiquity of the table. The rhythm and the shape of the distribution of the holes corresponded almost entirely to the lines drawn by the glazier. That some of these holes did not fit exactly into the pattern supports my hypothesis that the table would be used for more than one window.
I believe that the information that has been gleaned from this table is of interest to anyone wanting to study the history of the techniques of glass-making. In many books – including those by Sarah Brown, Virginia Chieffo Raguin, and the Catalan Corpus Vitrearum – there are references to the glazier’s table. Since the discovery in Girona, another table has been found in Germany. In 1986, Joachim Maercker informed the Corpus Vitrareum of its discovery. It has fragments of painting and evidence of drawing, but is in a bad condition. It is however a confirmation in part that this process was followed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. After this period, it seems probable that designs for the windows were drawn on paper or card.
When Jill Kerr visited Girona and saw the table she invited me to give a paper to the meeting of the Corpus Vitrearum that was to be held in Vienna in 1983. At the colloquium I was able to present full-size colour illustrations of the window together with rubbings of the table matched to the window. At the end of the meeting, the participants voted that the next symposium be held in Barcelona thus giving members of the Corpus Vitrearum the opportunity to visit the Episcopal Museum where the table is still on show today.
1. Joan Vila-Grau and Francesc Rodon, Las vidrieras modernistas catalanas, Barcelona, 1983.
2. John D. Le Couteur, English Mediæval Painted Glass, London, 1926.
3. Theophilus, On Divers Arts, trans. John G. Hawthorne and Cyril Stanley Smith, Chicago, 1963, p. 60.
4. Theophilus, op. cit., pp. 45–74.
5. Sarah Brown, Stained Glass: an Illustrated History, London, 1994, pp. 19–21.
6. Virginia Chieffo Raguin, The History of Stained Glass, London, 2003, pp. 41–42.
7. Joan Ainaud i de Lasarte et. al., Els vitralls de la catedral de Girona, CVMA Catalonia, II, Barcelona, 1987.
Joan Vila Grau, El vitrall gòtic a Catalunya, Barcelona, 1985
Joan Vila Grau, La tabla de peinte-verrier de Gerone, Paris, 1986
Joan Vila Grau and Antoni Vila Declòs, El vitrall: l’art del color i de la llum, Granolleres, 2000