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}

Facts about glass – Cutting and shaping glass

Once a design for a window has been finalised the coloured glass is then chosen and cut to shape ready to be painted. When the Boppard windows were made glass cutting techniques were different to those we use today. Some medieval treatises survive which shed light on these early techniques.

The earliest surviving reference to the medieval process of glass cutting is found in the 12th century treatise “On Divers Arts”, written by a Benedictine monk known as Theophilus Presbyter. He very clearly explains in detail the techniques involved in painting, glassmaking and metalwork. Theophilus is believed to have been shown how to make stained glass windows by practicing craftsmen.  He tells us to:

“heat on the fire an iron cutting tool, which should be thin everywhere except at the end, where it should be thicker. When the thicker part is red hot, apply it to the glass you want to cut, and soon there will appear the beginning of a crack. If the glass is hard, [and does not crack at once], wet it with saliva on your finger in the place where you had applied the tool. It will immediately split and, as soon as it has, draw the tool along the line you want to cut and the split will follow.”

People have tried to recreate the medieval glass cutting  techniques described by Theophilus – below are some examples of this using slightly different shaped tools:

Using a red hot iron to cut glass. Image courtesy of Katie Harrison
Using a red hot iron to cut glass. Image courtesy of Katie Harrison
Cutting glass with a hot iron
Cutting glass with a hot iron

“When all the pieces have been cut like this, take a grozing iron, a span long and bent back at each end, and trim and fit together all the pieces with it, each in its proper place”. The grozing iron removes chips of glass from the edges to shape the glass, leaving a very distinctive chamfered edge.

Using a grozing iron
Using a grozing iron

You can see, in the photos below of the Boppard glass during restoration, the textured edges of the shaped glass pieces where they have been nibbled with a grozing iron.

Grozed edges on Boppard glass pieces
Grozed edges on Boppard glass pieces
Grozed edges on Boppard glass pieces
Grozed edges on Boppard glass pieces

Another treatise, dating from the late 14th century, also describes the use of a hot iron to cut glass. In contrast to Theophilus, this manuscript was written by an experienced glazier, known as Antonio da Pisa. An example of one of his windows, which was commissioned in 1395, survives in the nave of Florence Cathedral.

It is interesting to note that in addition to the use of a red hot iron to cut glass, he describes two other techniques; the application of a thread soaked in sulphur, wrapped around the glass and set alight (probably only used for very thick glasses) and the use of a hard stone, such as diamond or flint. This is the earliest known reference to diamond cutting of glass, which developed into the modern diamond wheel cutters we use today.

It is not known which was the preferred method at this time, it may well have varied from studio to studio. It is most likely that the change in techniques was gradual, and either the hot iron or a hard stone, such as a diamond, was used based on personal preference, before grozing the glass where necessary. The setting alight of threads dipped in sulphur would have been quite hard to control and therefore imprecise and so is unlikely to have been common practice.

Once all of the pieces of glass had been cut, they were then ready to be painted, fired and leaded together.

Faces in the Boppard Panels – Identification and results of the survey

In this blog, we are identifying the faces and showing the percentage of the forms completed that selected faces as good or bad, and more specifically, God, Jesus, Mary and the Devil. Our next faces blog will be a more general discussion of the faces in the Boppard panels.

Many thanks to all who took part in our survey!

Faces45-485-1a

Faces45-485-1c

FacesIndex1w

Faces from Agony in the Garden and Christ Before Pilate panels:

Face # Good or Bad? % correct Identity % correct
1 Good 11% Angel
2 Bad 15% Judas Iscariot
3 Good 6% Disciple
4 Good 6% Disciple
5 Good 16% Disciple
6 Good 5% Jesus 33%
7 Debatable! 9% Pilate
8 Bad 23% Calling for death of Jesus
9 Bad 17% Calling for death of Jesus
10 Good 2% Jesus 53%
11 Bad 63% Calling for death of Jesus
12 Bad 28% Calling for death of Jesus
13 Bad 12% Calling for death of Jesus

Faces45-489-1a

Faces45-489-2a

FacesIndex2w

 

Faces from Annunciation, Birth of Mary and top of the Christ Before Pilate panels:
Face # Good or Bad? % correct Identity % correct
14 Good 20% God 25%
15 Good 2% Angel Gabriel
16 Good 7% Virgin Mary 57%
17 Bad 59% Calling for death of Jesus
18 Good 2% St Ann
19 Good 15% Baby Mary 8%
20 Good 12% Nurse
21 Good 9% Nurse

Faces45-489-3a

Faces45-489-3c

FacesIndex3w

 

Faces from Annunciation, Birth of Mary and top of the Christ Before Pilate panels:
Face # Good or Bad? % correct Identity
22 Good 6% Jesus 27%
23 Good 12% St Peter
24 Good 0% Angel
25 Good 5% Jesus 45%
26 Good 4% Angel

Faces45-489-1ab

Faces45-489-1ce

FacesIndex4w

Faces from Ninth Commandment and Virgin & Child panels:
Face # Good or Bad? % correct Identity % correct
27 Good 2% God 1%
28 Bad 76% Devil 56%
29 Bad 6% People coveting their neighbour’s house
30 Bad 32% People coveting their neighbour’s house
31 Bad 51% People coveting their neighbour’s house
32 Bad 62% People coveting their neighbour’s house
33 Good 4% People looking to heaven
34 Good 6% People looking to heaven
35 Good 4% People looking to heaven
36 Good 4% People looking to heaven
37 Good 0% Angel
38 Good 33% Baby Jesus
39 Good 4% Virgin Mary 61%

Faces45-489-1fg

Faces45-489-2

FacesIndex5w

Faces from a canopy and the Siegfried von Gelnhausen panels:
Face # Good or Bad? % correct Identity % correct
41 Good 11% Praying man
42 Good 4% Praying man
43 Good 24% Siegfried
44 Good 4% Siegfried’s wife

 

 

Repairing Broken Glass

Glass fractures are one of the most common forms of damage found in stained glass panels. There are many different ways in which fractures can be repaired, all of which have pros and cons. Below is a selection of tried and tested methods that have been used to repair broken glass:

Repair Leads
The section of painted glass below was severely damaged at some point in it’s history – perhaps by a stone thrown into the window. The glass shattered into many small sections and yet the glaziers commissioned with the repair decided to keep the glass and repair the damage rather than replace the whole section. To replace a large piece of mouthblown red glass would simply have cost too much. Instead, the glaziers dismantled the whole panel and re-leaded it, incorporating the broken section into the lead network. They would have had to reduce each glass piece by a few millimetres to accommodate the lead. This has caused irreversible damage to the panel.

Detail of repair leads in Boppard panel 45.485.2.a-b
Detail of repair leads in Boppard panel 45.485.2.a-b

Repairs using lead are very durable but they interfere with the image and the original design. In order to fit them, the edge of each glass piece has to be grozed – this is irreversible and therefore not something a conservator would do today.

Strap Leads

Strap leads are a good alternative to inserting a whole lead as they are more reversible. A strip of lead is placed across the fracture and soldered to the surrounding leads and puttied into place. Strap leads can provide good support to broken glass but they also interfere with the image and the design of a window. The repair is usually very durable but can become weak, especially if the putty has become dry and crumbly. The putty applied to the glass surface can damage the paintwork – as it dries it shrinks and if it is well adhered it can pull away part of the paint.

Strap lead repar
Strap lead repair

Adhesives

Repairs using modern adhesives such as epoxy resins can produce aesthetically pleasing repairs which are far less noticeable than a repair- or strap lead. Resins can be tinted to match the glass colour and they can be formulated to have a similar refractive index to glass. In the hands of an expert restorer the result can be an almost invisible repair. Resins were introduced to glass conservators around 1975.

At the Burrell there are a number of excellent examples on display:

45.530 Scenes from the Life of St. Francis
45.530 Scenes from the Life of St. Francis
Detail of resin repair in panel 45.530 Scenes from the Life of St. Francis
Detail of resin repair in panel 45.530 Scenes from the Life of St. Francis
45.499 Pageant and Mock Tournament
45.499 Pageant and Mock Tournament
45.75 Princess Cecily
45.75 Princess Cecily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For many years resins were extensively used to repair broken glass and the aim of this kind of restoration treatment was to improve the appearance of stained glass and to “restore it to it’s former glory”. However there are increasing concerns about issues surrounding durability, aging characteristics and reversibility. 30 years down the line we are seeing many resins yellowing and also becoming brittle and failing.

The Venetian Tazza, or cup, below was repaired with a resin called Ablebond in 1987. Ablebond was also used a lot in stained glass conservation. The resin produced a good finish when first used but has become dry and brittle over time, and degraded to the point where the bond failed completely.

1896.38.c Venetian Tazza with failed resin repair
1896.38.c Venetian Tazza with failed resin repair

The remaining resin was removed so the cup could be conserved, and was found to be very yellowed and brittle (see image below).

Brittle and yellow resin removed from 1896.38.c Venetian Tazza
Brittle and yellow resin removed from 1896.38.c Venetian Tazza

Here is an example of stained glass where old repair leads were replaced with resin 26 years ago:

45.523 St Francis Receiving the Stigmata
45.523 St Francis Receiving the Stigmata

These repairs were not so successful – the stained glass was very badly damaged already and there were many losses (including those that had been caused by grozing the edges of the glass to fit the repair leads). A lot of resin had to be used to infill the gaps and over 26 years the resin has yellowed and become brittle. The whole treatment will have to be redone in the coming years.

As part of the Boppard Project we have considered alternative options alongside these for repairing or consolidating glass fractures. We have tested a couple of methods, based on their potential for providing support with minimal intervention and ease of reversibility, inspired by techniques seen in other studios and conservation disciplines. We will be looking at these in more detail in our next blog.

Armour in the Boppard Panels

Men in armour are a frequent sight in medieval art, including stained glass, and provide an invaluable source of information to those studying arms and armour. Since it is made of steel that rusts or can be recycled or reused, relatively little of the original plate armour remains, and even rarer are the leather straps and pins that held the pieces together. Images of armour found in stained glass, paintings, tombs and brasses, give vital insight into the the details of the armour and the way in which it was worn.

There are three main images of armed men in the Burrell Collection Boppard windows, appearing in the Agony in the Garden, Christ before Pilate and Resurrection panels, as shown below.

Detail from Agony in the Garden
Detail from Agony in the Garden
Detail from Christ before Pilate
Detail from Christ before Pilate
Detail from Resurrection Panel
Detail from Resurrection Panel

At the time the Boppard windows were painted (early 15th century), the two most important areas of fine armour production were Germany and Italy (mainly Milan). It is also an important period in armour design, with the transition into full body armour and plate armour.

The detail from Agony in the Garden shows a man wearing a sallet (a war helmet) and a kind of bevor or aventail. The bevor worn with a sallet, protected the throat and neck and was made of solid plate or lames (overlapping strips of steel held together with leather straps to which they were riveted). Interestingly, in this case it would appear that the chin area is in solid plate, but the throat and neck protection are in mail. This would require the bevor to be held in position by attachment to the sallet with straps. In battle, he would pull the sallet down to protect his face, looking through the two slits in the helmet. A selection of German sallets is shown in the image below  by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, a 19th century French architect and theorist.

German sallets is shown in the image below  by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
German sallets is shown in the image below by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

St. Quirinus, carved on a German oak stall end from the Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century, shown below and on display in the Burrell, is wearing a very similar sallet. This stall end was possibly made by the woodcarver Heinrich Bernts of Kalkar (d.1509).

 

Burrell Collection German oak stall end with St. Quirinus - Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century
Burrell Collection German oak stall end with St. Quirinus – Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century

The man in the detail below from Christ before Pilate is wearing a great bassinet, where the helmet, visor, chin and neck protection are all made of plate steel (replacing the mail aventail).

The rounded visor became popular in Germany, as shown in the detail below from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz.

the detail from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Konrad_Witz_Sabobai_And_Benaiah_(1435)_fragment.jpg
the detail from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Konrad_Witz_Sabobai_And_Benaiah_(1435)_fragment.jpg

The small circular metal shield (or Besague) worn by our Boppard knight detailed below, just beneath his left shoulder, differs from the leaf shaped protection on the right side as he would have carried a lance under his right arm.

Detail from Christ before Pilate
Detail from Christ before Pilate

The soldier on the right in the Resurrection panel detailed below, wears a Kastenburst breastplate, with flat surfaces and a sharp angular design. German armour had a more angular design than the more rounded Italian armour, as can be seen in the fabulous Avant Armour in Glasgow’s collection, made in Milan about 1445.

 

Detail from Resurrection Panel
Detail from Resurrection Panel
Avant Armour made in the Corio Workshop in Milan, Italy around 1445 (Glasgow Museums Collection)
Avant Armour made in the Corio Workshop in Milan, Italy around 1445
(Glasgow Museums Collection)

All our soldiers wear a mail skirt to protect the lower body. The armour of the soldier on the right is richly decorated with gilding.

 

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.

 

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?