Standing Saints in Tapestry

The Boppard Standing Saints window is a wonderful example of a group of saints that have a special significance to the church. Depictions of saints in the Middle Ages were often chosen because of a special connection; this included patron saints for local families, craft guilds, towns and regions, saints who had lived or were associated with miracles in the region and saints linked to religious stories or people of importance to the church and its members.
Another fine example of a group of standing saints can be seen in the Burrell Collection in a German tapestry, from the middle Rhineland dating to the late 15th century and depicting five female saints.

Burrell Collection in a German tapestry, from the middle Rhineland dating to the late 15th century and depicting five female saints
Burrell Collection in a German tapestry, from the middle Rhineland dating to the late 15th century and depicting five female saints

They are, from the left, St. Dorothy, St. Barbara, St. Anne with Jesus on her arm and a small crowned Virgin Mary at her side, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Agnes. The tapestry was woven in a convent, probably to be used as an altar hanging. St. Anne was the mother of Mary, so her attributes are the Virgin Mary and Jesus. All of the other four saints are ‘Virgin Martyrs”, with St. Dorothy, St. Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch (who does not appear on the tapestry) being the four “Main Virgins”. For young nuns in the convent, giving up a normal life of marriage and family to be married to their faith, these saints would have been ideal role models and women they could aspire to follow. The stories of the four saints, are outlined below but do vary between sources.

St Dorothy from the Five Female Saints Tapestry
St Dorothy from the Five Female Saints Tapestry

St. Dorothy (or Dorothea of Caesarea), during the period of persecution of the Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletion, had refused to marry or worship and give offerings to the pagan gods. She was sentenced to death, and on the way to her execution was taunted by a young roman lawyer called Theophilus. Dorothy had said she was looking forward to entering the garden of heaven so he asked her to send him some fruits and flowers when she got there. As she was executed, she prayed that he should receive this gift, and upon her death an angel boy delivered a basket of three apples and three roses to the young man. He later converted and was in turn martyred. Therefore she is shown with a small boy holding a basket of apples and roses.

St Barbara from the Five Female Saints Tapestry
St Barbara from the Five Female Saints Tapestry

St Barbara was kept locked away by her evil father in a tower so she would be pure for an arranged marriage. Despite this, she managed to be converted to Christianity and was baptised, then refused her father’s wishes to marry. On one occasion, when her father was away, she managed to get workmen to install a third window in her room in the tower in honour of the Holy Trinity. Her father, enraged, denounced her and beheaded her himself. As she went to heaven, her father was struck by lightning and went off to a less desirable destination.

St Catherine from the Five Female Saints Tapestry
St Catherine from the Five Female Saints Tapestry

St. Catherine, of the fireworks fame, was the highly intelligent and well educated princess daughter of the King of Alexandria. She had a vision in her youth of being given in marriage to Christ by the Virgin Mary. She said she would only marry someone more intelligent, better looking and wealthier than she. The Roman Emperor Maxentius attempted to break her in debate by using the best pagan philosophers but without success. Her arguments converted many of the philosophers and others including the emperor’s own wife to Christianity and subsequent martyrdom. She was tortured but refused to budge and the emperor even asked her to marry him which she refused as she was already married to Christ. She was condemned to die on a spiked breaking wheel, but the wheel was destroyed when she touched it. She was finally beheaded.

St Agnes from the Five Female Saints Tapestry
St Agnes from the Five Female Saints Tapestry

St. Agnes, whose emblem is a lamb – the Latin name for which is ‘Agnus’, similar to her name – was the beautiful young daughter of a wealthy family and had many suitors. Agnes refused them all through her pious desire to remain a virgin. She was reported to the authorities for being a Christian, and was condemned to be dragged through the streets and raped at a brothel. Her hair grew to cover her naked body and any man who attempted to rape her was struck blind. She was sentenced to death by fire, but the wood would not burn so she died by the sword.

Boppard Abroad – at the Met Museum, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a large collection of panels from the Carmelite Church at Boppard.

The Met Museum
The Met Museum

Some of the glass is on display in the medieval gallery of the main museum on 5th Avenue, while larger windows can be seen at the Cloisters Museum which is located in Fort Tryon Park in the northern end of Manhattan Island.

The four scenes at the Met come from the same Tree of Jesse window as the panels in our collection – so my focus was on these windows. I spent two days in the conservation studio at the Met and I am very grateful to all the staff and especially Drew Anderson, the stained glass Conservator at the Met, who made it possible for me to study and photograph the stained glass in detail.

The Visitation 13.64.3a,b*
The Visitation 13.64.3a,b*
The Nativity13.64.4.a,b*
The Nativity13.64.4.a,b*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Deposition 13.64.1.a,b*
The Deposition 13.64.1.a,b*
The Entombment 13.64.2.a,b*
The Entombment 13.64.2.a,b*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*All images © Metropolitan Museum of Art     http://www.metmuseum.org

 The panels were acquired by the Met Museum in 1913 from the dealer Grosvenor Thomas (he was the father of Roy Grosvenor Thomas who helped Burrell acquire glass from the Hearst and Goelet Collections in the late 1930’s). Before that they were owned by the Duveen Brothers (art dealers based in London, Paris, New York) who in turn had bought the glass from the auction of the Friedrich Spitzer Collection in 1893.

Comparing the Met panels with the Burrell panels, I found more similarities than differences. This means that similar restorations which cannot be attributed to the Berlin workshop (or which I am hesitating to attribute to the Berlin workshop because I understand that the quality of their work was very high) must have been carried out during the time all the panels were together in the Spitzer Collection.

It may prove worthwhile and necessary to do more research on the dealer and collector of art and antiquities Friederich Spitzer (1814–1890). The Boppard stained glass was in his collection for 20 years and it is beginning to look as if some restoration work was done during that time. I also think that a research project on the Royal Institute for Glass Painting in Berlin would be a worthwhile project.

Boppard Abroad- Newport Rhode Island: Seaview Terrace

Seaview Terrace is the other Mansion in Newport with a stained glass panel from Boppard. This enormous chateau style house was built in 1923 for Edson Bradley, who made his fortune in whiskey. At approximately 40,000 square feet with 63 rooms, it is the fifth largest of the Newport mansions.

Seaview Mansion
Seaview Terrace, Newport Rhode Island

Allegedly it cost 2 million dollars to build but in 1949 it was sold for a mere $8000. It has had a very chequered history since then, serving as army officers headquarters, a girl’s school and as a musical conservatory and student residence for the Salve Regina University in Newport.

Hall, Seaview Mansion
Great Hall, Seaview Terrace

The Boppard panel is incorporated into a three light window which is placed high up in the great hall at Seaview. The stained glass in this window has been assembled to create a “gothic” effect regardless of provenance.

The hall and the rest of the house would originally have been filled with tapestries, armour, hunting trophies and other artefacts collected from all over Europe. Most of these treasures have now disappeared and overall the building is in a very poor state. However it makes up for that with a lot of atmosphere and it was utterly fascinating to be able to explore the house and discover all the locations with stained glass.

The Boppard panel here depicts St. John and Nicodemus and originally it would have been situated in the top right of the Tree of Jesse window, opposite the Three Marys that I saw in Detroit. Sadly, it has also suffered damage and deterioration.

Boppard panel, Seaview
Boppard panel at Seaview Terrace

At the bottom of the panel is a gaping hole where glass is missing. This has been “patched” with acrylic glued on by silicone (not recommended but maybe the best temporary measure possible at the time). Much of the painted detail is lost and the face of Nicodemus is completely covered in some kind of corrosion product. In the face of St. John you can still see a few trace lines indicating features.

Detail of St. John's face
Detail of St. John’s face, Seaview Terrace
Detail of grass in Seaview panel
Detail from the panel at Seaview Terrace

It is intriguing that at the base of the panel are white glasses with grass painted onto them in trace paint, but there is no green to be found.

Detail of grass in  Met Boppard panels
Detail from a panel in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Some other Boppard panels have grass which is similarly depicted and there is always a green background colour. The green has variously been referred to as an enamel, but much of it has undergone several restoration campaigns and what was there originally probably deteriorated long ago.

Detail of grass in Detroit "Three Marys" panel
Detail from the Boppard panel in the  Detroit Institute of Art “The Three Marys”

It is generally thought that enamels were not used on stained and leaded windows at the time when the Boppard panels were manufactured. But it is strange that (so far) I have not seen green grass painted with trace on green pot metal glass, which would be the straightforward thing to do. So either all of the glasses depicting grass are restorations, perhaps dating to the 15th century or our current information is wrong and green enamel was originally applied but it did not survive. The Seaview panel is interesting though because clearly, whatever was applied to colour the glass green did not survive the environmental conditions in the mansion.

Marie

Boppard Abroad- Newport Rhode Island: Ochre Court

In Newport there are two locations where stained glass from Boppard can be found. The first is at Ochre Court which is now the administrative building for The Salve Regina University. There is a big four light window on the first landing and above the porte cochѐre which is filled with panels from Boppard.

Ochre Court
Ochre Court

Ochre Court was commissioned by the property magnate Ogden Goelet in 1892 as a holiday home. The interiors of this vast mansion were embellished with art and antiques brought over from Europe including a lot of stained glass from the Carmelite Church at Boppard, bought at the auction of the Spitzer Collection in 1893. Goelet bought more glass than he really needed and his purchase was only installed in part.

Window in Ochre Court containing stained glass from Boppard
Window in Ochre Court containing stained glass from Boppard

The assemblage contains four scenes from the 10 Commandments window and two lancets showing St. Quirinius and St. George as well as two donor panels. It appears that the remaining glass was stored in the attic at Ochre Court until 1939 when the son of Ogden, Robert Goelet, sold the glass to Sir William Burrell via Burrell’s dealers.

 

Virgin and Child, the Burrell Collection
Virgin and Child, the Burrell Collection

So our sections from the 10 Commandments window, with the Virgin and the 8th Commandment came from the attic at Ochre Court. They were surplus to requirements in this grand house with 60 rooms.

Newport is full of these kinds of mansions: one bigger than the other, filled with priceless art and artefacts. These mansions were the holiday “cottages” of the superrich. The Goelets did not spend more than 2-3 months per year at Ochre Court and they had other grand houses elsewhere. After 1896 they spent most of their time on a yacht called the “USS Mayflower” which was built in Glasgow by J. and G. Thompson, Clydebank (designer George L. Watson). The New York Times said that “in luxurious appointments this yacht has never been surpassed.”

This is how the stained glass from Ochre Court and from the Burrell would originally have fitted together:

The Ten Commandments Window, panels from the Burrell Collection and Ochre Court
The Ten Commandments Window, panels from the Burrell Collection and Ochre Court

Ochre Court was completed in 1893. Goelet died in 1897 on the Mayflower. So he actually only had 4 or 5 seasons in the house, which means that he probably enjoyed the house for less than a year.

Marie