Exploring the Art of Historic Stained Glass; Medieval Applied and Fine Art Is a Beautiful Thing. Richard Edmonds Delves Deeper into This Stunning Subject PROFILE

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Art of Historic Stained Glass; Medieval Applied and Fine Art Is a Beautiful Thing. Richard Edmonds Delves Deeper into This Stunning Subject PROFILE


THE Getty Museum in Los Angeles is arguably one of the most beautiful museums in the world. High up on a cliff and overlooking the Pacific ocean, reached by a funicular railway (making theft and a swift getaway almost impossible) this impressive site boasts white marble piazzas and luxurious exhibition spaces.

The museum is using its zillions to fund research in this country into important sites.

In fact two of the three books listed in this fascinating area of research into the medieval world of applied and fine art, (namely The Ancestors of the Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral and the St. Albans Psalter), reveal new information on medieval glass painting and the fine art of manuscript illumination.

This important, and apparently neccessary, work, has been carried out using funding from the Getty Foundation - surely good news at a time when many British research departments are strapped for cash.

The Getty scholars have made facsimile copies of these rare things and placed the originals on display while they are held at the Getty and before they return to England again early in 2014.

The Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral, which have left their home for the first time in their long lives, were a major worry and in need of restoration.

Thousands of tourists who visit the cathedral annually bear witness to the splendours of Canterbury's architecture and its stained glass windows. The 12th century Ancestors of Christ windows are an example of some of the oldest stained glass in England.

The glass paintings represent the individual male ancestors of Christ as listed in the Gospel of Luke.

The lovely illustrations in Weaver and Caviness' book give you a clear idea why people have been gazing up at these windows for nigh on 800 years, when the intelligent but illlterate congregation needed an image upon which to pin their prayers and hopes.

How medieval craftsmen worked on these windows with their largescale figures 60ft above the choir pavement is little short of a miracle.

This book, filled with excellent colour pictures and a wealth of detailed information, notes that one contemporary writer praised the windows for their splendours saying; "nothing like it could be seen in England, whether for the brilliancy of its glass windows, beauty of its marbled pavements or the many-coloured pictures".

Clearly, thanks to the Getty, some of the earliest monumental stained glass windows in Europe, which Canterbury's are, have been preserved for future generations to cherish - atheist or believer alike.

Virginia Chieffo Raguin's book, Stained Glass, Radiant Art includes such topics as the making of stained glass, the significance of stained glass in the Getty Museum and the importance in the past of patrons and collectors. …

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