Final words

The project has been completed and it has achieved its main aims: we have documented and recorded the condition of the monumental stained glass windows from the Carmelite Church at Boppard, photographed them, conserved them and they have been returned to display in much improved condition.

45.487.2.c-d Left: Before conservation 2012 - Right: After conservation 2014
45.487.2.c-d Left: Before conservation 2012 – Right: After conservation 2014

 With careful resource planning and prioritising treatment we have been able to achieve more than was originally anticipated and all three windows are back on display. Two of them have a new frame system which will keep them safe and in good condition for the years to come.

I was able to see almost all of the stained glass from the Carmelite Church that is distributed among Museums and historic buildings in the US and in Germany and to compare the condition of this glass with the glass held at the Burrell. This research has helped inform our conservation decisions and significantly contributed to the understanding of the restorations undertaken in the 19th and early 20th century. The project has enabled us to connect with conservators, archivists and historians in these other institutions and helped to further our knowledge and understanding of this important part of European heritage.

The scientific analysis undertaken by Cardiff University was very useful as we were able to prove the presence of a copper based resinate paint. This use of unfired paint was perhaps not so unusual in early stained glass but it rarely survives. The analysis of fired paints, cold retouching and other surface accretions was less conclusive, either because the samples were too contaminated by lead or because the results could not be matched to existing databases with absolute certainty. It confirmed that more research needs to be undertaken in this field.

While Megan and I carried out most of the treatment, we were much helped by Katie Harrison for the last weeks of the project. In total we cleaned about 60 m² of glass, we secured torn lead and replaced putty, and worked on improving support structures.

Megan and Katie cleaning 45.487.x
Megan and Katie cleaning 45.487.x

 John Rattenbury, was a huge support during the project. He helped us with digital media and made a massive contribution to the blog. As a volunteer guide, his help was a donation to the project and to thank him we presented him with a donor panel that Megan and I made ourselves – albeit not during working hours.

John's donor panel
John’s donor panel

While clearly not strictly an exercise in conservation, this was a great opportunity for us to try out some of the technology that would have gone into making the Boppard stained glass and it made us really appreciate the skill and cost of these windows made by two workshops between 1443 and 1446.

The last 2 years have been a real highlight in my career giving me the opportunity to focus on a conservation project in the discipline that I originally trained in and I am very grateful to the Clothworkers’ Foundation for making that possible.

Marie Stumpff

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Examples of Writing in Stained Glass

Shown below is a selection of panels showing details of the writing, placed in date order. Looking at examples in our collection, it seems that early inscriptions on glass are commonly white writing on a black background. The area would have been completely painted with black enamel, then the writing would have been scraped out using something like a sharp stick.

By the early 1300s, the writing is black on a white background. The skill of working with black enamels has improved greatly, and shading and stippling techniques make the images far more painterly. The writing continues to become more refined and ornamental.

Beatrix van Valkenburg panel and a detail of the writing.
Beatrix van Valkenburg panel and a detail of the writing.

Beatrix van Valkenburg

English, late 13th century

Sacrifice of Isaac panel and a detail of the writing.
Sacrifice of Isaac panel and a detail of the writing.

Sacrifice of lsaac

German, 1278, from the church of St.Thomas, Strasburgh

The Visitation panel and a detail of the writing.
The Visitation panel and a detail of the writing.

The Visitation

German, late 14th century

Annunciation panel and a detail of the writing.
Annunciation panel and a detail of the writing.

Annunciation of the Virgin

English, Hampton Court, 1400-1430

Judgement of Solomon panel and a detail of the writing.
Judgement of Solomon panel and a detail of the writing.

Judgement of Solomon

German, Cologne, early 15th century

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba panel and a detail of the writing.
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba panel and a detail of the writing.

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

German, Cologne, early 15th century

St Barbara panel and a detail of the writing.
St Barbara panel and a detail of the writing.

St Barbara

German, Rhineland, early 15th Century

Arms within Garter of Sir Henry Fitzhugh panel and a detail of the writing.
Arms within Garter of Sir Henry Fitzhugh panel and a detail of the writing.

Arms within Garter of Sir Henry Fitzhugh

English, early 15th century

Crucifixion panel and a detail of the writing.
Crucifixion panel and a detail of the writing.

Crucifixion

English, 1450-1500

St John the Evangelist and a kneeling Soldier panel and a detail of the writing.
St John the Evangelist and a kneeling Soldier panel and a detail of the writing.

St John the Evangelist and a kneeling Soldier

Probably from the church of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, 15th century

St Mary Magdalen panel and a detail of the writing.
St Mary Magdalen panel and a detail of the writing.

St Mary Magdalen

English, 15th century

St Nicholas Preventing an Execution panel and a detail of the writing.
St Nicholas Preventing an Execution panel and a detail of the writing.

St Nicholas Preventing an Execution

South Netherlandish, 1509-1513

St Francis panel and a detail of the writing.
St Francis panel and a detail of the writing.

St Francis

Swiss, 1671

The decoration on Greek vases from Athens between the 6th and 4th centuries BC show a parallel to the white on black then black on white writing in stained glass, but in reverse. The decoration begins with black figure decoration, where the leather hard pot has the images painted on with a slip (runny clay mix) which, when fired in a reducing kiln, causes the slipped areas to turn black – black figures on a red background. Around 530BC, the technique changes with the whole pot being coated with slip, then the images are picked out by scrapping away the slip resulting in red figures on a black background. More sutle details could then be added with lines or dilute washes of glaze applied with a brush.

Red and Black Figure Greek Vases
Red and Black Figure Greek Vases

Other famous writing on glass includes Robert Burn’s verse written on a pane in the globe Tavern, Dumfries:

Robert Burn’s verse written on a pane in the Globe Tavern, Dumfries
Robert Burn’s verse written on a pane in the Globe Tavern, Dumfries

Gin a body meet a body

Coming through the grain.

Gin a body kiss a body

The thing’s a body’s ain.

[Image from: http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/56181000/jpg/_56181517_burns_window_etching.jpg}