Repairing Fractures III

After the success with the polyester in the fabric tests we decided to see how it performed on fractures in stained glass.

white polyester on yellow glass

white polyester on clear glass sz14

The images above show that white polyester contrasts against the coloured glass and is visually distracting. Textile conservators suggested this could be improved with the use of coloured polyester. Because this is only available in a limited range of colours they proposed dyeing the polyester, as they do when the colours they require are not available.

Dyes were tested to create a range of coloured polyester that complements the colours of the glass, to reduce the visual impact of the treatment as much as possible. The white polyester was placed in a vat of dye and heated to around boiling point in order for it to absorb the colour.

Due to the large quantities of boiling water involved and the fumes released by the dyes there were health and safety implications. Because of this I used fume extraction and wore protective equipment: heat and water proof gloves, water resistant apron and visor.

Dyeing the polyester
Dyeing the polyester

It was not always possible to get an exact colour match to the glass, as some dyes absorbed into the fabric more than others. Reds were particularly hard to achieve as the red dye appeared pink when dried. I decided to aim for a colour that was lighter but closer in hue to the colour of the glass. I deliberately did not want the colour to be too strong in case it affected the tone of the glass.

As you can see below, the colour of the dye mixture didn’t always look too promising, but it managed to create some successful results!

Stirring the dye to ensure even colour distribution
Stirring the dye to ensure even colour distribution
Coloured polyester produced with the dyes
Coloured polyester produced with the dyes

Several pieces of glass of different colours containing fractures were selected for repair using the dyed polyester, of which a couple are shown below. The chosen colour of polyester was cut to shape and applied with wheat starch paste to the back of the fractures.

Example 1:

example 1 bigger writing

The repair provides good structural support and the polyester is remarkably invisible when viewed in transmitted light. When seen from the back of the panel it is still clearly discernable but blends in far more sympathetically than the un-dyed polyester. The colour of the polyester is sufficiently light that it does not alter the colour of the glass, yet it is enough to disguise the chink of light that had previously been visible through the fracture.

Example 2:

fabric repair example 2

Satisfied that this technique provides maximum support to the fracture with minimal intervention to the panel, and is durable yet easily reversed, we have now trialled this technique on several panels which we will continue to monitor regularly to assess its behaviour over the long term.


A final word on the outcome of our faces survey

You recognised the Virgin Mary immediately, and 61% of the survey results picked her out correctly by face alone, which was very impressive!


The devil was recognised by only 56%, which was surprising as I thought almost everyone would get him right with his elongated nose and animal-like ears to make him stand out:


Apart from the devil, I found recognising the faces extremely difficult. Especially the faces of God and Jesus which were harder to distinguish from the many faces of the good and the pious depicted in the Boppard panels.

There is a cartoon-like feel to the Boppard faces, which brings them to life in my opinion – what do you think? They remind me of the English angels (Oxford and Norwich Schools) of a similar date, such as the ones below.

45.43 Censing Angel on display at the Burrell Collection in the Hutton Drawing Room
45.43 Censing Angel on display at the Burrell Collection in the Hutton Drawing Room
45.87 Feathered Angel on display at the Burrell Collection
45.87 Feathered Angel on display at the Burrell Collection

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.


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.


Boppard Abroad: Detroit Institute of Art

Detroit is definitively worth a visit. It is a city of two halves, with beautiful art deco sky scrapers, huge boulevards, and an art collection in the Institute of Art (DIA) which is simply breathtaking.

Detroit Skypscrapers.
Detroit Skypscrapers.

On the other hand it is also visibly a city of poverty, ill health and desperation, a city which is in deep financial crisis, so much so, that the city fathers are considering the sale of some of their Museum Collections. Let’s hope that does not happen.

In the two days I was there I spent most of my time in the Institute of Art.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Technicians and the Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Yao-Fen You, had kindly removed the stained glass from the display to the store so that I was able to closely view both sides of the panels and compare the details with our windows at the Burrell.

40.52 Anonymous German "The Three Marys," 1444 Pot metal; white glass with silver stain and olive-green enamel 58 x 29 x 3/4 in. ( depth 1 5/8 in. including additional supporting molding attached to the back) / 147.3 x 73.7 cm Founders Society Purchase, Anne E. Shipman Stevens Bequest Fund
40.52, Anonymous, German
“The Three Marys,” 1444
Pot metal; white glass with silver stain and olive-green enamel
58 x 29 x 3/4 in. ( depth 1 5/8 in. including additional supporting molding attached to the back) / 147.3 x 73.7 cm Founders Society Purchase, Anne E. Shipman Stevens Bequest Fund.

The Three Marys panel came into the Detroit Institute of Art via the dealers Anton Huber and Seligmann, Rey & Co whereas the Burrell glass came to Glasgow via the Hearst and Goelet Collections. This makes the Detroit panels extremely useful to compare our glass with. Any interventions that are the same must be from the 1871 treatment (unless of course there was another treatment during the period that the glass was in the Spitzer Collection but this is very unlikely and no evidence of this has ever been produced).

What I found is that the tinned lead in the Detroit panel is exactly the same as the lead used in the Burrell panels which means that this work was carried out in 1871. We had already come to that conclusion, but it is nice to have additional proof.

The Three Marys panel, Detroit. Detail of tinned lead.
The Three Marys panel, Detroit. Detail of tinned lead.
Detail of tinned lead in Boppard panel in the Burrell Collection.
Detail of tinned lead in Boppard panels in the Burrell Collection.

The trace lines on the front of the Detroit glass have been retouched using the same dark grey paint carefully applied to follow the original paint. As in our panels this paint can sometimes be found on the edges of the lead which indicates that it is a cold, unfired paint which was applied when the panel was leaded up. This work was also carried out in the Berlin restoration of 1871. The restorers must have decided that extensive retouching was required because the original paintloss was substantial. However they did not want to put the glass at risk by firing it and therefore they carried out the retouching in unfired cold paint after the panel had been leaded together again.

The  Three Marys panel, detail of paint on lead.
The Three Marys panel, detail of paint on lead.

The third interesting similarity between the glass at Detroit and the glass in our collection is that some of the restoration insertions have been given a matt wash at the back. We were not sure if this had been done in Berlin as it could also have been carried out later while the glass was in the Hearst or the Goelet collections.

The Three Marys panel, matt wash  applied to the back of the panel.
The Three Marys, matt wash applied to the back of the panel.

The Three Mary’s were acquired by the Detroit Institute of Art in 1940. That means that they were probably with dealers from 1893 until 1940 and we know very little about where exactly they were (probably in Switzerland) and whether they were ever displayed. This could be another avenue to explore further.

Boppard Abroad

On Sunday I will set off on a tour of different museums and locations in the States and Germany to see other Boppard stained glass windows. I will visit the Detroit Museum of Art, Ochre Court and Seaview Terrace in Newport (Rhode Island), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Schnuetgen Museum in Cologne. All of them have panels from Boppard that come from the same windows as the ones we have at the Burrell.

I am focussing on the Tree of Jesse Window and the 10 Commandments Window.

The Window with Standing figures (St. Cunibert and Bishop Saint) has one associated panel at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco and ideally I would have liked to see that as well but as a conservator I should also consider the environment –  I have decided that this additional trip will cost me too many air miles!

The aim is to explore the details about how our windows differ, and in what ways they are the same, as the windows in these other locations and collections. Up to 1893, when they were sold at the Spitzer auction in Paris, they shared the same history and were kept in the same locations. The Burrell glass was then sent to the US along with other panels bought by Hearst and the windows remained together (probably at a warehouse in New York) until 1938/39, when some of the glass was sold to the Metropolitan and other panels were sold to William Burrell.

By comparing these windows, we should be able to work out what happened after 1939 and we will also be able to confirm all of the interventions that were carried out before 1939.

The glass at Detroit, Ochre Court & Seaview Terrace in Newport as well as the panels now in the Schnuetgen Museum in Cologne all have a very different – and varied – history since 1893 and the comparison with them will help identify restorations that predate 1893 and also make more clear what interventions were added after that date.

On my trip abroad I will study and compare original paint, over-painting and retouching, backpainting, lead condition, corrosion, glass repairs, replacements and restorations. I will also look at how the other Boppard panels have been restored and conserved in their more recent history.


Lead and tinning
Lead and tinning
Original paint retouched
Original paint retouched
Green enamel (microscopic image)
Green enamel (microscopic image)

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.