Halos in the Boppard Panels

The Oxford dictionary describes a halo as “A circle of light shown around or above the head of a saint or holy person to represent their holiness” or as “A circle of white or coloured light around the sun, moon, or other luminous body caused by refraction through ice crystals in the atmosphere”. The words Aura and Nimbus also refer to a halo. It is thought that halos may have originated in or even before Egyptian times. The goddess Sekhmet bears theSolar disk to indicate she is the daughter of the sun god Ra. The beautiful head of the lioness Goddess on display in the Burrell Collection has lost her Solar Disk, although you can see the socket where it would have fitted on the top of her head. The Sekhmet below is from the British Museum.

Sekhmet, from the British Museum http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/Sekhmet_%28British_Museum%29.jpg
Sekhmet, from the British Museum
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/Sekhmet_%28British_Museum%29.jpg

Many religions have adopted halos to indicated people of very special importance, such as in the standing Budda below, and in the Islamic painting later in the blog.

Standing Budda, with halo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gandhara_Buddha_(tnm).jpeg
Standing Budda, with halo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gandhara_Buddha_(tnm).jpeg

Halos have risen and fallen in popularity over time, but are well featured in the Boppard stained glass. There are four different types of halo used in the Boppard glass from the Burrell Collection. The simplest halo of all was used for the angels, and consists of a simple yellow disk around the angel’s head, as shown in the example below.

Boppard Angel from the Resurrection panel
Boppard Angel from the Resurrection panel

The saints in the Boppard panels have an enhanced halo with radiant lines emanating outwards. A range of colours are used to enhance the designs.

Boppard St Peter from the Christ Appearing To Peter panel
Boppard St Peter from the Christ Appearing To Peter panel

The aureole, sometimes called a mandorla, is a full body halo, and is often used in depictions of the Virgin Mary to symbolise glory. The mandorla is seen in the Virgin and Child panel detailed below.

Boppard Virgin And Child from the Ten Commandments Window
Boppard Virgin And Child from the Ten Commandments Window

An alternative style of halo can be seen in the images of the Prophet Muhammad, such as the one on the left below showing the arrival of the Prophet in Jerusalem, from Mir-Heidar’s “Miraj Nameh”, a 15th century  illustrated book from Turkey. Here, the halo is in the form of flames, common in Asian art, completely surrounding the Prophet, and around the heads of the other earlier Prophets. In the middle is a small brass statue of Budda in the Metropolitan Museum dating to the late 6th century and made in the ancient region of Gandhara, an ancient kingdom in the Swat and Kabul river valleys and the Pothohar Plateau, in modern-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. In this statue, Budda has both a radiant halo and a mandorla. On the right is a statue of Shiva, (or Siva), one of the most important Hindu gods, completely surrounded by a flaming circular halo.

Three examples of mandorla
Three examples of mandorla

The Boppard Virgin and Child panel, Mary also has a green halo around her crown, a colour associated with life, referring to her status as the mother of Christ.

Boppard Virgin And Child from the Ten Commandments Window
Boppard Virgin And Child from the Ten Commandments Window

Jesus usually wears a cruciform halo, a radiant halo with a celtic shaped cross on it to emphasise his sacrifice on the cross and to symbolise the Holy Trinity.

Boppard Jesus from the Resurrection panel
Boppard Jesus from the Resurrection panel

Other halos not used in the Boppard panels include the less common triangular halo and the square halo.

Photo of Saint Peter Church, in Saint Charles, Missouri http://www.romeofthewest.com/2008/02/photos-of-saint-peter-church-in-saint.html
Photo of Saint Peter Church, in Saint Charles, Missouri
http://www.romeofthewest.com/2008/02/photos-of-saint-peter-church-in-saint.html

In this image behind the altar at Saint Peter Church, in Saint Charles, Missouri, God wears a triangular halo to symbolize the Trinity and the dove (symbol of the Holy Spirit) wears the cruciform halo.

Mosaic from the chapel of St. Zeno at the church of St. Praessede, Rome http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/sterk/women/women.html
Mosaic from the chapel of St. Zeno at the church of St. Praessede, Rome
http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/sterk/women/women.html

In this magnificent mosaic from in the Chapel of Bishop Zeno of Verona located within the church of St. Praessede, in Rome, the Virgin Mary is second from the right, between Saints Praxedes and Pudentiana, and the woman on the left is identified in the Greek inscription as “Theodora, Bishop” (“Episcopa”). Theodora is depicted with a square halo, indicating that the image was made when she was alive. Theodora was widely known to be a devout Christian in the early Church, and was notable for her acts of piety and sanctity.

 

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The Costume of Pilate in the Boppard Panels

Since, in art, most people wear clothes, fashions and costume can be a fascinating area of study! Artists would use clothing to indicate a person of wealth, high status, part of the general population or someone evil. When the Boppard windows were being designed, anyone who was not Christian would have been a barbarian and therefore not good. In the ‘Christ before Pilate’ panel shown below, Pilate would not have been seen as a good man. It is interesting to consider how he has been represented.

Christ Before Pilate Panel - with detail of Pilate
Christ Before Pilate Panel – with detail of Pilate

Clearly, he is a wealthy man of high status. There is a possible Turkish influence to his costume, with a fur trimmed gown and pointed hat and pointed beard, as the Ottoman Empire was of great interest in Europe at the time. However, Albert Kretschmer in his “Costumes of All Nations” under 1400-1450 German costume shows a similar costume and describes him as a Jew. Albert Kretschmer (1825 – 1891) was a German professor and renowned painter and costumer to the Royal Court Theatre, Berlin.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1400-1450,_German._-_049_-_Costumes_of_All_Nations_(1882).JPG
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1400-1450,_German._-_049_-_Costumes_of_All_Nations_(1882).JPG

A Page from Albert Kretschmer’s “Costumes of All Nations

In the Crucifixion, painted in 1403 by Conrad von Soest who was based in Dortmund in Germany, we see a similarly dressed man with a pointy beard pushing the spear into the side of Jesus on the Cross. According to the Gospel of John (19:31–37), it was a Roman soldier (named in extra-Biblical tradition as Longinus), who stabbed him in the side to check that he was dead. In this painting, it is not a soldier, but clearly not a Christian. Perhaps this reinforces the idea that the costume represented a Jew or someone from the Ottoman Empire?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Konrad_von_Soest_Crucifixion.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Konrad_von_Soest_Crucifixion.jpg

Conrad von Soest’s Crucifixion, 1403

We can also compare Pilate’s costume with a man in the Stefan Lochner Altarpiece of the Patron Saints of Cologne, in Cologne Cathedral and painted in the 1440s when the Boppard windows were being painted. Would these be Jews or Muslims? Was this style of costume worn by some of the wealthier people around Cologne in the first half of the 15th century?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stefan_Lochner_-_Altarpiece_of_the_Patron_Saints_of_Cologne_-_WGA13341.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stefan_Lochner_-_Altarpiece_of_the_Patron_Saints_of_Cologne_-_WGA13341.jpg

Stefan Lochner’s Altar piece of the Patrons of Cologne, 1440s

Any thoughts?

Looking at Dirt, Corrosion and Paint

We have started conserving the Boppard stained glass. Our first task is surface cleaning which is not straightforward because there are so many different layers of dirt, original paint and retouching. It is not that easy to tell what is there by intention (original or restoration) and what has simply accumulated on the surface of the glass over time.
The glass is covered with a layer of loose dirt which can easily be removed using a smoke sponge. With a gentle dabbing motion the cells in the sponge pick up and trap dirt from the surface of the glass. This can be a very effective method of cleaning, especially if one is trying to clean loose particle dirt.

Removing loose particle dirt with smoke sponges
Removing loose particle dirt with smoke sponges

The Boppard glass also has a layer of black sooty dirt. In order to remove this, we tested a variety of solvents and found that saliva is the most effective. We don’t much fancy cleaning 34 m² of glass using spit, so we are also using water (de-ionised) with a conservation grade detergent (Synperonic A7) and this works almost as well.

Removing the black surface dirt using a cotton wool bud and saliva
Removing the black surface dirt using a cotton wool bud and saliva

Apart from surface dirt there are other layers: In the 10 commandments window many of the glasses have a matt brownish- grey coating. We have considered if this could be a painted layer that was applied in order to tone down the colour and shine of the glass but we don’t think it is. There are no brush marks to be seen and it coats the glass surfaces very evenly without any emphasis on the drawing. It cannot be fired paint because in some areas it has been completely removed.

Detail from the 10 commandments window
Detail from the 10 commandments window

The layer is relatively hard and almost like a crust. It can be removed with mechanical means (scalpel) but not with solvents. Seen under the microscope it sits on top of the trace lines. Where the layer is absent the glass looks remarkably transparent and unblemished.
We think that this layer accumulated on the glass when dust, moisture and time worked together and formed a crust on the surface. In some places this crust has been removed by accident (pulling off sticky tapes, selective cleaning).

Detail - Microscopic image of the left eye of the angel
Detail – Microscopic image of the left eye of the angel

The microscopic image shows how vulnerable all these layers are and how little else is there. If you removed any of it, you would be left with very little definition apart from the trace lines. This leads us to conclude that there was a problem with the original paint perhaps it was under-fired and not very stable. However it is astonishing (and slightly baffling) that the glass is generally so clear and un-corroded where the paint has flaked away. One explanation may be that the windows were removed from the church before the onset of serious industrial pollution.
On the back of the same window we also find a similar pattern of painted areas and accumulation of dirt and weathering. The glass was originally back-painted in order to emphasise the detailed drawing on the front. Again in most areas the original paint lines appear ‘faded’. Along some of these lines as well as around the edges of each glass and along the top of the panel (underneath the tie bar) moisture accumulated and in combination with dust started to form a crust on the glass surface. In the middle of each glass piece this crust is not present and the glass is in good condition. However one can see some iridescence which indicates that a chemical change has occurred.

Detail from Detail of 45.489.1.c
Detail from Detail of 45.489.1.c

Most of these layers on the glass, both front and back will not be removed during conservation treatment. They are inorganic and very hard and although the glass underneath appears to have little corrosion it can easily be scratched and the gel layer can be damaged. The areas where the weathering layer and paint have been removed will be carefully retouched and we hope that by a combination of cleaning and retouching the overall impact of the imagery will be much improved.

– Marie.