12.10.03, van Ruyven-Zeman, Stained Glass in the Netherlands before 1795

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Meredith Parsons Lillich

The Medieval Review 12.10.03

van Ruyven-Zeman, Zsuzsanna. Stained Glass in the Netherlands before 1795: Part I - The North and Part II - The South. Corpus Vitrearum the Netherlands, 4. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011. Pp. xiv, 816. ISBN: 9789069845180.

Reviewed by:
Meredith Parsons Lillich
Syracuse University, emerita

The appearance of each new volume of the international Corpus Vitrearum is an occasion to rejoice, for the quality and quantity of trustworthy information newly made available to scholars--and by no means just art historians--on the mysterious medium of stained glass. These two impressive tomes, comprising the fourth volume from The Netherlands, are no exception; they will surely remain the place-to- look on their subject for the foreseeable future. Dutch stained glass is covered from the earliest excavated fragments of ca. 1000 through, as the title indicates, nearly the end of the eighteenth century. The banquet even includes Gouda, the "Chartres" of The Netherlands, which was the subject of volumes I, II and III published previously in the same Corpus Vitrearum series. Van Ruyven-Zeman co-authored CVN I as well as authored CVN III, and here she returns to Gouda on pp. 503-547 of Part II.

Although all Corpus Vitrearum volumes are governed by guidelines for the series, the amount, condition and history of stained glass in each country vary widely. For these reasons each country may define its study and publication as is appropriate. Thus all Netherlands volumes are in English, which will surely disseminate their precious information to a wider audience. Volume IV adopts the numbering system for the location of windows within a church that was introduced for the Recensement volumes in the French Corpus series. In my opinion this system is the best. It uses Arabic rather than Roman numerals and requires no additional letters because the numbers themselves indicate which side of the church the window is on as well as approximately how far it is from the axial bay. Also like the French Recensement volumes--and unlike traditional CV volumes--not all windows are illustrated, only occasionally is a church plan provided or needed, and there are no restoration charts. The archival and physical evidence of restoration, however, is laid out in minute detail in the catalog entries.

Each volume begins with a thorough introduction to its area (North, South). The remainder of the book consists of sections on each Dutch province. These are arranged geographically from north on down, with beautifully detailed maps provided for each province: Friesland to Noord-Holland in the first part and Zuid-Holland to Limburg in the second. Each province has a detailed introduction followed by a catalog of sites arranged alphabetically. These catalog entries begin with Manuscript Sources and Printed Sources (referring to the extensive bibliography at the end of Part II), an entry on each surviving window (even if it is now a totally modern restoration), paragraphs on glass dispersed from the site and now in museums or other locations, and sections on Lost Glass. These lost works are reconstructed from the textual evidence of antiquarians and restorers and from existing cartoons, vidimuses, views and charts of windows made by early visitors, as well as the more famous church interiors drawn and painted by Pieter Saenredam. No stone is left unturned to compile as complete a record as possible of Dutch stained glass in existence now or indeed at any time in the past.

This publication presents "all in situ monumental stained glass found in churches and public buildings" (viii) while "domestic glass and glass panels of unknown provenance are outside the scope of the present work" (145). A future catalog is planned by Kees Berserik to cover roundels (unipartite panels) in Dutch collections. However, numerous roundels are or were in the structures included here and they are discussed in depth in the introductions to the provinces as well as in individual catalog entries.

Because this review is for medievalists, here follows a list of Netherlandish glass up to about 1500, with illustrations. Excavated fragments are associated with Maastricht (ca. 1000!, fig. XI.6); Usquert, Groningen (grisailles, 13th century, fig. II.1); Delft (late 13th and 14th century, figs. VIII.1-2); Hoorn, Friesland (borders, 14th century?, fig. I.1); and Zutphen, Gelderland (15th-early 16th century, figs. V.17-37). Fragments that have been preserved above ground: Kampen, Overijssel (borders, early 15th century, fig. IV.l); Utrecht (traceries, before 1497, fig. VI.16); Montfoort, Utrecht province (15th-16th century, fig. VI.1); Zutphen (architectural motifs, 15th century, fig. V.51, and figures of ca. 1500-1525 including St. Catherine, figs. V.44-48, all on loan from the Rijksmuseum). The St. Catherine panel is "by far the finest piece of stained glass preserved in the country from the first quarter of the 16th century" (194). Formerly attributed by the late Hilary Wayment to Arnold of Nijmegen, it is here assigned to an unknown glass painter from Gelre. Other early works of interest are a wall painting of ca. 1295 imitating a window (Maastricht, fig. XI.7); a panel of the Virgin and Child of ca. 1420, from Cologne or Nijmegen (now in a museum in Kranenburg, Germany, fig. V.2); a window of ca. 1440-1450 from the Sainte-Chapelle in Dijon attributed to a Delft glasspainter (now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, fig. VIII.10); and glass of 1460 by a glazier from The Hague (now in Bad Wilsnack, Germany, figs. VIII.4-6).

Architectural historians are richly served by the elaborate catalog sections devoted to the building history of each monument. Data is presented not only on rebuildings, damages, additions, restorations and the like, but on all previous, medieval structures on the site as well. Art historians interested in Dutch painters of the Golden age will be interested in these artists and their connections, real or imagined, with stained glass, extant or not. Specialists in stained glass will probably find the biggest surprise in the huge amount that continued to be made up to almost 1800. A surprising detail for those who work on Swiss heraldic glass is that the color green was still made by combining blue enamel with silver stain as late as 1765 (122). American readers will be interested to see that van Ruyven-Zeman has included panels in museums in Amherst MA, Baltimore MD, Ithaca NY, Los Angeles, Montreal, New London CT, Newport RI, Philadelphia and of course New York (the Brooklyn and Cooper-Hewitt Museums, New York Historical Society, Metropolitan Museum and The Cloisters). These as well as examples in European cities can easily be located in the index.

There are three indices. Index I includes iconography and monuments. Those churches listed in bold type were built for the Dutch Reformed and Lutheran congregations and thus are not medieval. All other churches--those in regular type--have medieval antecedents discussed in as elaborate detail as evidence allows. Index II presents persons: artists, donors, restorers, antiquarians, etc. Index III is for Places and Institutions, and here one can look under country (Great Britain, USA, etc.) to find the institutions and works of art therein. Certainly these marvelous tools will greatly facilitate access to and use of the encyclopedic labors of van Ruyven-Zeman. While her volumes will without doubt engender much future scholarly work, it is unlikely that they will be replaced as references for a very, very long time to come.

Not to be churlish in light of such wealth but, considering the vast amount of unpublished heraldic glass pictured and studied here, it would have been nice to have a heraldic ordinary...

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Meredith Parsons Lillich

Syracuse University, emerita