« PreviousContinue »
'archæologically,' and with respect to copying old works, until within the
last ten years.
The Germans have also bestowed much attention to the art, which is largely carried on at Munich, but they resort to the practice of using enamel colour over the glass, although professedly to obtain the harmonious tint of ancient glass; the real secret of success, however, must be found in using a correct imitation of the ancient glass itself.
It appears, however, that the French and German artists have or had until lately a greater regard for fame and less for profit than the English, and employed their genius in designing glass as well as in executing oil-paintings.
In 1851 some works were exhibited by Valsecchi of Milan ; a glasspainting entitled 'Lucia Mondella,' had all the effect of a portrait in oil, being produced on glass with the most marvellous fidelity;' but it was not to purposes such as these that painted glass was ordinarily applied. Glass is generally viewed from a distance and employed on a large scale, brilliancy is required, and this cannot be given by enamel with the same success as pot-metal glass.
Certainly blue pot-metal glass is only glass mixed with cobalt and fused, and blue enamel is soft white glass mixed with cobalt, applied to the glass where it is intended to be coloured, and fused upon it; but the greater and longer continued heat of the glass-house compared to the glass painter's kiln causes the colouring particles to admix more thoroughly, and so greater transparency is attained. It has been urged against the mosaic system, that so much lead work is required when using it; but it is found that it is impossible to properly burn in any sheet of glass larger than three feet by six at the most, and this would obligate a certain amount of metal joining. The mosaic system seems from its superiority of effect to be that most suited to the art of glass-painting. So far we have given a brief outline of a lecture delivered by Mr. Winstone before the Working Man's Association at Lichfield, 1859, with some abstracts of other parts of his 'Memoirs' on the History and Methods of Glass-painting.
How does the art of glass-painting stand with us at the present time? England is very rich in ancient specimens. We have abundant examples of rich harmonious colouring and arrangement, also of the height of perfection to which we should bring our manufacture of glass, and not rest until we have done so. Much beautiful glass has unfortunately been lestroyed in making room for modern windows, also in the touching up and putting to rights by modern so-called restorers.
Some of the oldest and best specimens are to be found in the Cathedral at York, where the glass is dated throughout nearly the whole of four centuries. It begins at about 1200-earlier than Canterbury—that series being considered most interesting which extends through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The oldest window in York, and also in England as far as known, is a Jesse in the north side of the nave clerestory, though only a portion of it remains in one of the lower lights. The glass of the Chapter House and vestibule leading from it are of the reigns of Edward II. and Edward III. There is also much glass in the nave clerestory and aisles of Edward III. The contract for glazing the great west window is 1330. The earliest perpendicular glass is in the south aisle of the choir. The contract for glazing the east window in three years is dated 1404, and this window is most beautifully and perfectly executed; the figures should be inspected closely to be properly seen. There is much glass of the reigns of Henry IV., V., and VI. Also of Henry VII.'s time in four upper south windows. The window next to the east window is a beautiful glass-painting of the latter part of the sixteenth century, brought from Rouen and presented to the Cathedral by Lord Carlisle in 1804. The design is, it is supposed, taken from a design by Barroccio, though varied to suit the nature of the material. This window is considered to unite an advanced style of drawing with the true practice of glass-painting, and forms a contrast to some of the modern windows of the Cathedral, in which the principles of glass and oil-painting are confounded together.
Canterbury Cathedral contains a great deal of Early English glass, Early Decorated, Decorated, and Perpendicular. The earliest windows are assigned at the middle of the thirteenth century.
The earliest glass of Winchester Cathedral is the original parts of the west window. Two or three circles are Early Decorated, and some remains are Perpendicular. These are considered to be the work of Wykeham's predecessor. For the glazing of certain windows in the aisles of the nave, orders are left in Wykeham's will. There is very little original glass left in the east window, it is principally composed of glass removed from other windows. It was the work of Bishop Fox, a little earlier than 1525, and must, from all accounts, have been truly magnificent.
At Lincoln the great rose window is one of the most perfect and splendid works of the thirteenth century. The lower lights of the east window are filled with a collection of Early English glass removed from the aisles of the nave, and represent the life of St. Hugh in medallions. St. Hugh was canonized in 1220, and this glass exhibits all the striking characteristics of Early English style; intensity of colour, vigour of outline and attitude, the tallness of the figures and the classical air of their heads. Lincoln is also rich in decorated glass.
During the restoration of Salisbury, there was great destruction of painted glass. The earliest original glass is valuable as belonging to the different periods of Early English style from 1240 to 1280, now mixed together in the cathedral windows; they are chiefly ornamental patterns, but there are remains of a Jesse and medallions. The Jesse seems to have been a vine ; it formed ovals containing figures of our Lord and His principal ancestors; the offshoots contain prophets and patriarchs. Only two ovals remain, one of our Lord enthroned, the other of the Blessed Virgin. The ground is intense ruby, the stem white, the leaves of various colours. The date is 1240. There are numerous remains of medallions of the thirteenth century, they were removed from the Chapter House to the aisles of the nave, and contain shields with heraldic designs, and heraldic designs are often of the greatest service in finding dates. The shields represent the arms of England, those of Henry III. or Edward I., St. Louis, and numerous honourable families. From these it is inferred the glass was executed a few years before or after the accession of Edward 1., 1272. Salisbury is also rich in geometrical pattern glass ; they have a cold but rich sea-green hue, to which, together with its texture, its substantial solemn appearance is due. There is also some late Perpendicular glass and Cinque-cento, some from France, some from Exeter ; these afford a proof of the exceeding skill of the sixteenth century. The latest old and very favourable specimen is a window in the south aisle of the nave, with the arms of Bishop Jewell, 1562.
New College, Oxford, was the first of Wykeham's great works. There is no mention of glazing it in his will, so it is inferred that the glass was completed in his lifetime, probably between 1379 and 1386. The general character of the glass is Perpendicular, but it contains Decorated features in the design of some of the canopies, and in the white hair and beards leaded into pink faces. With the exception of the west window of the ante-chapel, the windows are now filled with the dispersed remains of the original glazing, but these remains are of a highly interesting character.
It appears that originally the ante-chapel windows and choir windows contained a single figure in each light under a canopy : the patriarchs, the twelve apostles, and numerous Old and New Testament saints, various orders of angels. The fragments taken to make room for Sir Joshua Reynolds's window were preserved in boxes at Winchester. In spite of bad perspective and figure-drawing, these windows have an effect infinitely more agreeable and artistic than modern glass. The secret lies, we are told, in the fine tone and harmony of their colouring, and their perfect keeping with the architectural character of the building, The colouring is quiet, subdued, and in thorough agreement with the silvery tone of the white glass.
At Gloucester, the east window is one of the finest in England. The framework is Perpendicular, the glass Decorated, the shrine-work white enriched with the yellow stain; the figures have a background of alternate red and blue stripes with a double stripe in the centre of the window. These stripes give great breadth of effect, while the top and lower parts of the window are white and silvery. From examination of the style and evidence of the heraldry, date is affixed at 1347 or 1348. The hues of this window are very rich, and the distant effect excellent; the whole tone of the window fine. The figures are ill-drawn and insipid, and all look on the same plane with the shrine-work. This glass must have been a splendid work when first executed, and it is worthy of grateful notice, that instead of restoration, this window has undergone careful preservation.
At Lichfield Cathedral the seven eastern windows of the choir are celebrated as having belonged originally to the Abbey of Herkenrode in the old episcopal principality of Liége. They are specimens of the Italian Flemish school, and executed between 1532 and 1539. It passed into the possession of Sir Booth Brookeby, and was presented to Lichfield and placed in its present position about 1803. It has the usual error of the Renaissance style, too great complication of design.
At Beauchamp Chapel, Warwick, the east window, as is the usual fate it seems of east windows, is filled with fragments from other windows. The contract is 1447, and the window was executed by a Westminster glazier, who undertook to supply no English glass, but the best foreign, and as little white, green, and black as possible. The glass, at any rate, seems to be of a very hard kind, from the small effect that time and weather has had upon it; but Prudde, the glacier, consulted his own taste instead of his employer's, and wisely used the forbidden white, black, and green, as pleased him best. The colours are brilliant and rich, and this window is considered a good average specimen. Westminster Abbey contains some Early Decorated glass, brought, it is supposed, from Rouen. Britton mentions five hundred feet of glass bought in 1303–4, and 1317 at Rouen.
At Exeter very little glass remains in its original position, but some is remarkable from having received a judicious touching up in the last century. The west window contains some modern glass inserted for that purpose, which was the last ruby glass manufactured in England before the revival of the art. We have numerous examples of ancient glass in churches, chapels, and halls within reach of study; those mentioned are, however, our most famous English specimens. The well-known window of St. Margaret's, Westminster, is a splendid example of Cinque-cento, and was sent as a wedding present to Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII., on his marriage with Catharine of Arragon, by the magistrates of Dort. It was destined for Henry VII.'s chapel.
Having so many first-rate examples before our eyes, the difficulties of reviving the art of glass-painting do not seem at first sight to be very great. Yet they have been so, and in some respects continue to be found
At first the principal difficulty lay in the marked inferiority of modern glass to ancient. This was in some measure overcome, though inferior glass is still used in the majority of cases.
Before its revival about forty years ago, modern glass-painting had been misunderstood as to its very first principles, and treated like oilpainting. Its characteristics of brilliancy and transparency were overlooked, and subjects represented in which it was impossible to preserve them. The glass was covered and clouded with opaque enamel, the high lights being likewise darkened instead of left clear, as in ancient examples.
We have specimens of this in Sir Joshua Reynolds's windows at New College, Oxford, and the Lady Chapel of Salisbury Cathedral. The designs themselves considered as figure-paintings are very beautiful, but quite unfit for the position they occupy. To take the Salisbury window for instance. The subject is that of the Resurrection. It represents our Lord rising from the tomb. He emanates light from His person, but the rest of the scene is wrapped in gloom. This gloom, effected by dark enamel, has a flat opaque appearance.
Egington, who painted the window from Sir Joshua's design, took white glass as his ground, and in coloured enamel. Had he properly understood the theory of a "glasspainting,' he would, instead of simply making a copy of an oil without its transparency, have given the spirit of his master's design in accordance with the requirements of glass; but, as it is, the window is a failure. So far as applying the best modern art of the time, the principle was right; the glass possesses a period and an originality of its own, but unfortunately at the same time the use and characteristics of glass were ignored. The colouring is weak; the high lights dull. The east window of the choir is better in principle, but the composition not sufficiently simple.
The great difficulties we have to deal with in the chiaroscurs and composition of glass-painting are the fewness of the shades of colour and their uniform brightness, so that the colours of the distance are generally as bright as those of the foreground.
At the Exhibition of 1851, glass-painting was shown to have made some progress towards true principle. Almost every style of ancient glass was represented, but instead of the rich colour and superior texture of the old examples, it was the quaint and defective figure-drawing which the imitators had seized upon in most cases. Still many fine works by living artists were exhibited, both English and foreign, and the revival of the art was sufficiently announced. The foreign artists in glass were less imitative than English, their drawing was free and generally correct. The Munich glass-paintings received much attention, and are good as compositions; but they cannot be considered true glass-paintings, as the elaborate shading and enamel are contrary to being received as such. Compare the German windows of Glasgow Cathedral, and the early glass of York and Canterbury, and we shall at once perceive the want of simplicity, brilliancy, and harmony displayed in the former.
There was an idea prevalent that the ancient rich yet subdued colour was owing to age and weather, and modern imitations were coated over at the back to produce it, as at St. Barnabas, Pimlico; but this was subsequently removed with acid, and the church considerably lightened thereby; this notion, too, about the harmonious tone was found to be false.
Glass-painting in England has made much progress; careful analyzation and imitation of the old glass, particularly the ruby, has done much towards it. Many of our cathedrals possess first-rate imitations. The modern window of the south transept of Westminster Abbey is a 'hopeful specimen' of our time; and although the colours are rather duller than