Depictions of the Virgin and Child

The Virgin and Child panel from the Ten Commandments window at Boppard shows Mary handing a bright red apple to an eager Jesus, reaching out for it with both hands. As mentioned earlier, the apple is associated with the original sin in the Garden of Eden, and refers to Christ’s role as the future redeemer. Traditionally the apple is symbolic of the temptation in the Garden of Eden, but depending on the context it can also represent love, purity and redemption.

Boppard Ten Commandments Window - Virgin and Child
Boppard Ten Commandments Window – Virgin and Child

In the Boppard panel the apple is in the hand of Mary, particularly emphasising her designation as the second Eve – the original Eve linked to the fall of man, Mary to the redemption of man. I am always impressed by how baby-like Jesus is in this panel, as he is often shown as a little man, especially in the art of Northern Europe.

This can be seen in a similar depiction of the Virgin and Child in stained glass in the Burrell Collection (below). This is a French 14th century stained glass panel, with a detail of Mary handing an apple to Jesus.

Detail - Virgin and Child - French 14th century stained glass
Detail – Virgin and Child – French 14th century stained glass
Burrell Collection Virgin and Child - French 14th century stained glass
Burrell Collection Virgin and Child – French 14th century stained glass

There are many other depictions of the Virgin and Child in other media throughout the Burrell Collection, some of which are shown with an apple like these panels. One such example, below, is a very stylized Virgin and Child from a 15th century English monumental brass.

 

Burrell Collection - Monumental Brass Virgin and Child 15C English
Burrell Collection – Monumental Brass Virgin and Child 15C English

There are also objects in which Jesus holds the apple indicating that He saved mankind from the original sin of Adam. In the hands of Adam, the apple signifies sin, whereas in the hands of Jesus it signifies redemption. Rupert of Deutz, an influential 12th century Benedictine theologian, interpreted Jesus’ acceptance of the apple as his acceptance of his fate, and thus as a sign of his obedience to God. The example below is a limestone sculpture from the Ile de France, dating to 1325 – 1350

Burrell Collection - Virgin and Child sculpture in limestone from the Ile de France, dating to 1325 - 1350
Burrell Collection – Virgin and Child sculpture in limestone from the Ile de France, dating to 1325 – 1350
Detail - Virgin and Child sculpture South Netherlandish alabaster 1475-1500
Detail – Virgin and Child sculpture South Netherlandish alabaster 1475-1500

Jesus is also often seen holding an orb, and it is easy to mistake this for an apple. The orb may be used to represent the world. Below is a South Netherlandish sculpture in alabaster dating to 1475-1500 with traces of paint and gilding still present.

 

Burrell Collection - Virgin and Child sculpture South Netherlandish alabaster 1475-1500
Burrell Collection – Virgin and Child sculpture South Netherlandish alabaster 1475-1500

The orb often shown with a cross on top (the globus cruciger), as in this sculpture, symbolises Christ’s dominion over the world, and in the hands of Jesus, it is known as Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”). It is a very old symbol, dating back to the 4th or 5th centuries.

 

Project Update: June 2013

The Boppard stained glass panels have now all been photographed and every square centimetre of the 35 leaded and painted panels have been scrutinised from the front and back.

We have assessed the structure of each panel, looked at the condition of the glass, paints and lead and even the frames. We have recorded the details of any restorations and tried to work out when they were added.

Most of the panels are structurally very vulnerable. The lead used in the restoration of 1871 was very thin with not much body (less material = less cost) and as a result it is not very rigid or strong. It also does not provide any space for putty to be inserted so there is a lot of lateral movement in the panels especially when they are removed from their frames.

Lead repairs
Lead repairs

The original design incorporated few leads and large glass pieces and subsequently there has been damage to the glass and repair leads have been added, as in the image above.

Unstable wash.
Unstable wash.

In other places broken or missing glass has been replaced by a restoration. The face above was probably inserted as part of the restoration carried out in 1871. But later someone must have thought that it was too pale and added a brown wash to tone the glass down. The problem with the wash is that it has not been fired, so it is very unstable and can easily be removed – as has already happened!

Wash on reverse
Wash on reverse

In other areas where restoration glass was inserted, an unfired “wash” was applied from the back to help disguise the restoration. What is puzzling though is why this wash was applied to the lead as well. These sorts of findings raise the question whether the panels underwent significant restoration while they were in the Hearst and or Goelet Collections. It will be interesting to trace down some of the firms that carried out the work.

Surface cleaning test.
Surface cleaning test.

Some preliminary cleaning tests have been carried out as all of the panels are very dirty. The cotton swab in the picture above was moistened with water and synperonic A7 (a mild detergent) and even after several applications the swabs still turned black very quickly.

We have looked at paints under magnification….

Trace paint on blue glass
Trace paint on blue glass

 

Cold (unfired) paint applied glass and spilling onto lead
Cold (unfired) paint applied glass and spilling onto lead

… and studied glass corrosion.

Corrosion
Corrosion

On the whole the panels have been left in their frames for now. The only exceptions have been made where it is clear that a panel will have to come out of its frame anyway for treatment.

The frames are interesting in themselves. In the case of the windows William Burrell bought from the Hearst Collection (Tree of Jesse Window and the Two Standing Saints) the frames seem to have been added by Wilfred Drake in 1938, whereas the frames for the window bought from Goelet (Ten Commandments Window) the frames probably predate the sale of the window in 1939. We are definitively going to keep them for now and if possible we will try to reuse them.

Over the next 2 months the hundreds of photographs will be organised and filed and research questions will be summarised. At the moment it seems like there are more questions than answers!

Marie

The Ten Commandments Window

The Ten Commandments window was originally situated in the west window of the north aisle of the Carmelite Church in Boppard. Remarkably the entire window survives, all 42 panels! As a whole the window consists of about 20m² of glass!

Over time the panels have been dispersed and can now be found in the Burrell Collection, the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne, and Ochre Court in Rhode Island. The window was originally removed from Boppard in 1818 following the secularisation of the church during the French Revolution. The window was restored in the late 19th Century in Berlin at the Königliche Institut für Glasmalerei (Royal Institute for Glass Painting) before being purchased in 1871 by Friedrich Spitzer, an art collector in Paris.


Layout of the Boppard - Ten commandments windows -  top section
Layout of the Boppard – Ten Commandments windows – top section
Layout of the Boppard - Ten commandments windows -  bottom section
Layout of the Boppard – Ten Commandments window – bottom section

 Following Spitzer’s death the panels from the Ten Commandments window were separated through auction in 1893. The image above shows how the panels may originally have been positioned within the window, according to Prof. Rüdiger Becksmann[1]. The sketches in the top half of the window are of the Ochre Court panels, and the photographed panels are in the Burrell Collection. The panels sketched in the lower half of the window are all in the Schnütgen Museum.

The Glorification of the Virgin
The Glorification of the Virgin

 The panels in the Burrell Collection depict the 8th Commandment and the Glorification of the Virgin. The Carmelites had a special veneration for the Virgin Mary so the Glorification of the Virgin was given prominence as the central feature of the window. The Virgin Mary is depicted holding the infant Jesus and offering him an apple, while two angels place a crown onto Mary’s head. The apple alludes to the original sin in the Garden of Eden, and refers to Christ’s role as the future redeemer. Beneath the Virgin from left to right would have been the 6th, 7th and 8th Commandments.

The Eighth Commandment
The Eighth Commandment

 The text on the scroll in the 8th Commandment panel reads, “Thou must swear no perjury”. On the left is a group of suspicious looking individuals, one of which is pointing in an accusatory way at another man, appearing to bear false witness, whilst the devil hovers encouragingly overhead. By contrast the group on the right look very innocent and pious. God looks down approvingly at them. The man facing the woman has a very full red purse at his waist suggesting that good thoughts bring good rewards!  

[1] R Becksmann “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)” in Staudinger Lane et al (ed.) The Four Modes of Seeing: 2009, 111-132.

Scroll text translations are from Jane Hayward’s “Stained-Glass Windows from the Carmelite Church at Boppard-am-Rhein”.

 The sketches are drawn by John Rattenbury  and Megan Stacey from photographs.