First observations

The stained and leaded panels from the “Life of Christ and the Virgin” window have now been assessed in the studio. We have taken images from the front and back in transmitted and in reflected light which records the maximum amount of information about the condition of each panel.

45-485-1-e_01
45.485.1.e Front – transmitted light
45-485-1-e_02
Front – reflected light
45-485-1-e_03
Back – reflected light

One of the most immediately obvious things about the panels from this window is that all the lead has been tinned.  This means that molten tin has been applied and is covering the surface of the lead cames.

Tinned3

Why would this have been done?

Tin is harder than lead, so usually tin is applied to lead that is too soft and flexible – and therefore not giving enough rigidity to the panel.

Could it have been applied in 1881 when the panels were restored in Berlin in the Royal Institute of Glass Painting?

I think this is very unlikely. It looks like the panels were completely re-leaded during this restoration and I would be surprised if the restorers would have tinned a newly leaded panel. It is more likely that the new lead was very pure – and therefore very soft. It was also probably very insubstantial with thin cores and flat flanges. So I assume that sometime perhaps 40 or 50 years later, they were tinned to make them stronger and more rigid.

It is possible that the tinning of the lead was carried out while the panels were in the United States in the collection of the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Tinning copper foil to make stained glass windows and other decorative artefacts such as Tiffany Lamps was an invention made in the USA in the late 19th century. Stained glass restorers there would have been familiar with tinning as a technique to be used to strengthen a panel.

In the coming months I will explore this issue as I progress with further assessments. The most obvious investigation will be to find an area of accessible lead where I can take a sample to analyse and find out if my theories are substantiated by what I find.

Marie.

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Why were the windows removed from the church?

Following the Napoleonic invasion of the Rhineland and the ensuing secularisation of the monasteries, the church became the property of the town of Boppard. The windows were sold to Count (later Prince) Hermann von Pϋckler, a German nobleman, after he had agreed to pay an insignificant purchase price and to replace the coloured glass with blank glazing. As far as we know the Count acquired all seven windows which he intended to install in the chapel on his estate at Muskau, on the Polish border. Eventually one half-window was installed (albeit after his death), while the others remained packed in cases. Upon his death in 1871, his heir, Count Pϋckler-Branitz, sent the remaining 6 ½ windows to Berlin for restoration at the Royal Institute for stained glass and subsequently sold them to a French art collector and dealer, Friedrich Spitzer (who presumably acquired all the glass except the half-window at Muskau).

Spitzer was a French art collector and dealer. He amassed a famous private collection of antiques, Medieval and Renaissance art, arms and armour. Three years after his death in 1890, his collection was publicly auctioned over 3 months raising around 10 million francs. The sale included the Boppard windows, which were dismantled, and sold piecemeal. The catalogue for the sale cost 1,200 francs! Most of the collection was bought by the Australian-born but London-based private collector George Salting (1835-1909), who bequeathed his collection to the British Museum, the National Gallery in London, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The surviving windows are now spread across the world, in:
• the Burrell Collection in Glasgow,
• the Metropolitan Museum in New York,
• the Detroit Institute of Arts,
• the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt,
• the Schnutgen museum in Cologne,
• the Ochre Court in Newport,
• the Cloisters in New York,
• the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco.

Several panels that were know to exist are now lost and may have been destroyed or may be in collections around the world waiting to be discovered.
This information was taken from “Learning from Muskau: The Throne of Solomon Window from the Carmelite Church at Boppard and its Donation by Jakob von Sierck, Archbishop of Trier(1439-56)” by Rüdiger Becksmann

What is the Carmelite Church of Boppard?

Situated on the upper Middle Rhine, Boppard was first established in Roman times. From around 643, Boppard became a Frankish royal estate before gaining the status of a Free Imperial City (a self-ruling city that enjoyed Imperial immediacy, subordinate only to the emperor) under the Holy Roman Empire. As such it was often frequented by the German kings.

In 1309, Emperor Heinrich VII pledged Boppard to his brother, Archbishop Baldwin of Trier. The townsfolk of Boppard opposed this merger, which they considered unlawful and in which they lost their independence. They struggled against this merger with the Electorate of Trier for many years, involving several wars and sieges.

The Carmelite Catholic Church and former Carmelite monastery of Boppard was under construction in 1320 and was extended with a new north nave started in 1439 and consecrated by the then Archbishop of Trier in 1444. It is from the windows of the north wall of this new nave that the Boppard windows in the Burrell Collection come from.

The Carmelites are an Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Roman Catholic religious order founded, probably in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel in northern Israel. Boppard was one of the smaller Carmelite foundations usually having no more than twelve regular clergy and some lay brothers, but unusually, it served as the parish church for the local area, so it enjoyed a large congregation and the associated financial support. A representative of the Carmelites in Cologne had defended the idea of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary at the Council of Basel from 1438, and this, combined with the support of the Beyer von Boppard family who were the imperial administrators of the region, had an important impact on why the design of the windows in the north nave was so outstanding.

Photo by Holger Weinandt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Holger Weinandt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First investigations

panel edging
Steel edging around the lower panels

The windows were made in small (about 2ft square) panels, to make them more manageable. In her blog “Taking the first window off display”, Marie mentioned that the lower panels were mounted and puttied into a steel frame – these frames may have been made for an exhibition in Glasgow in 1951 or they may date from an even earlier display when they were still in the possession of the Millionaire William Hearst.

Stage One: Marie and Megan are doing an initial study of each panel; carefully removing some surface dirt with a moist cotton swab. Careful notes are made of the condition of each part of the panel and any restoration work that may have been done in the past.

Marie at work
Marie at work

To conserve or to restore, that is the question!

So what is the difference between conservation and restoration? Conservation involves work that stabilises the object to minimise deterioration and try to ensure the object is available for future generations to enjoy. Restoration involves work that helps to return the object more towards its original condition so people can understand and appreciate it better.

For example, the magnificent Warwick Vase at the Burrell is a late 18th century restoration incorporating the original 2nd century Roman pieces. The Warwick Vase is old enough to be an antiquity in its own right now, but if we dug up those pieces nowadays we would probably not perform such a reconstruction. The Tang dynasty Chinese horse was originally in many pieces and was restored to the condition it is in now before Sir William Burrell bought it. This kind of restoration would also be carried out today.

As the Boppard Conservation Project progresses the big question of just how much restoration work should be done will be high on Marie’s mind.

What do you think?

Warwick Vase
The Warwick Vase – an 18th century reconstruction incorporating the original 2nd century Roman pieces.
Tang Horse
Chinese Tang Dynasty Horse in three colour polychrome glaze – restoredWhat do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the first window off display

After months of planning and preparation we have begun the Boppard project by removing the first window from display. The panels have been up ever since the Burrell opened in 1983 and – as far as we know – they have never been removed before. That considered, the de-installation went very smoothly and there were no real problems. We had thought we might need up to two days to de-install in case of any unforeseen issues, but instead we were able to complete the work in a morning. We used scaffolding to reach the glass and had 4 people working together on different levels of the scaffold in order to pass the glass down safely once it was removed. The panels were then loaded onto a trolley with ample padding to reduce vibration and securely tied in order to transport them to the conservation work room.

We discovered that the lower panels were framed together in pairs and puttied into position, so we abandoned our original plan to remove the glass from these frames until we know more about their condition and how much conservation work they will need.

Deinstall
Deinstall
Kenny & Andrew deinstalling Boppard panels
Kenny & Andrew deinstalling Boppard panels

Getting started…

Life of Christ and the Virgin
The Boppard window “Life of Christ and the Virgin” at the Burrell Collection
Siegfried von Gelnhausen and his wife
The Boppard panel “Siegfried von Gelnhausen and his wife” at the Burrell Collection

At present, one window has been taken off display. This comprises the “Life of Christ and the Virgin” consisting of three lights, and a single panel, “Siegfried von Gelnhausen and his wife”.

This stained glass was purchased by Sir William Burrell from the collection of the bankrupt William Randolph Hearst. The “Life of Christ and the Virgin” was made around 1440 to 1446 for the Carmelite church at Boppard-am-Rhein (just south of Cologne). It was part of seven enormous windows each in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Siegfried von Gelnhausen and his wife were the donors of another window at the church, the “Life of Christ Tree”, now in California.

Lots more information to come, but if you have questions or comments, please fire away!