14.02.11, Raguin, Stained Glass

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Meredith Parsons Lillich

The Medieval Review 14.02.11

Raguin, Virginia Chieffo. Stained Glass: Radiant Art. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2013. Pp. 112. ISBN: 978-1-60606-153-4.

Reviewed by:
Meredith Parsons Lillich
Syracuse University, Emerita

In 2003 the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles purchased its collection of stained glass, over fifty works dating ca. 1210-1575 and coming from Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland (10, 94). Following restoration the majority were put on exhibit in the museum's medieval and Renaissance galleries in 2010. This small paperback celebrates that event.

The Getty collection dates almost entirely from the 15th and 16th centuries. A single 13th-century panel is illustrated (4, 102), a fine seraph misattributed to Reims. [1] Two works appear from the 1300s: the only Austrian panel, a Virgin and Child attributed to Klosterneuburg (41), and the fragment of a French male head of the 1320s (94). Most of the late medieval works are small in scale, as is typical of so-called collector's glass; there are many handsome heraldic panels and silver-stained roundels. Several rarer, large- scale windows are attributed to Lorraine or Burgundy and dated in the early 16th century (16, 43, 62). The roundels and many related fragments from unipartite, silver-stained panels form the largest group. Seven roundels from ca. 1480-1530 are illustrated: two from Germany depicting St Bernard (39) and St Sebastian (66), the rest from the Low Countries with various Christological scenes (56, 58, 61, 81) as well as a virtuosic Archangel Michael Vanquishing the Devil (8, 21).

The group of works presenting heraldry is smaller but offers greater range and contrast. There are three German panels. The earliest, attributed to Cologne with a question-mark, dates ca. 1420-1430 and depicts St Margaret with an unidentified shield (per pale gules and argent) (64). Margaret is most likely a name-saint, and such a simple shield in the Cologne area should be traceable. Another German heraldic panel, attributed to Nuremberg, dates ca 1480-1490 and shows the arms of Ebra (51). The online wonders of Rietstap confirm that this is undoubtedly the family of Ebra genannt Pfaff, though the ladder is argent in their arms. They came from Prussia/Saxony, which puts into question the attribution of the panel to Nuremberg. The arms are reversed to honor, most probably, Frau Ebra, whose heraldic panel may or may not survive somewhere in the world. This image took me by surprise because I once saw this panel hanging in the window of the late Jane Hayward. It is always nice when ancient glass moves from collectors to museums, where one hopes that it will remain safely and be cared for properly forever. The third German panel bears the date 1517 and depicts a handsome St George with the arms of Speth (6, 23). Again, Rietstap establishes that the family is Speth von Zwyfalten, an ancient family of Baveria. The St George is probably a name-saint. There are two Swiss heraldic panels. The earliest, ca. 1490, shows the arms of Eberler von Gr├╝nenzweig, an important family of Basel (54, 67); again, the arms are reversed, to honor (most probably) a wife's facing panel. The other Swiss panel is dated 1561 and attributed to the workshop of Carl von Egeri from Zurich, who died the following year (22, 71). The figure accompanying the shield is the suicidal Lucretia and the scenes in the upper spandrels concern Eve. A single panel of English heraldry dated ca. 1520-1530 shows the arms, within a garter badge, of Charles Brandon, husband of Mary Tudor (1, 52). And finally, French heraldry is represented by two large-scale works dated ca. 1500-1510, depicting the Crucifixion and St. Christopher (16, 62). The giant saint presents the kneeling donor resplendent in heraldic surcoat, and each window contains a shield of his arms. These windows are attributed to Lorraine or Burgundy, but the arms are not yet identified.

It is easier to say what this booklet is not than what it is. At 6"x9" it is too slight to be a coffee-table book, although the color images on nearly every page are handsome, beautifully reproduced, and often fascinating. It is not a gallery guide, since the glass is not presented for the viewer to follow easily in the museum. It is not an academic study; there are fourteen lean notes, mostly identifying quotations, in less than a hundred pages of text. It is presented as an introduction to the study of pre-modern stained glass, with a glossary, but the single page of "References" at the end is too meager and quirky to provide guidance to further serious investigation.

Following front matter and a brief introduction are the following sections: Materials and Techniques, Architectural Function of Stained Glass, Artists and Patrons, Collecting Stained Glass, and Challenges of Restoration and Display. This text is succeeded by the Glossary, "References", illustration credits and an index. The themes of the textual sections are well chosen as an introduction to the field but discussions are necessarily brief as well as largely undocumented; the gorgeous color images occupy all but one double-page of the booklet. The vast majority of these handsome pictures are from Getty collections, not only the newly acquired stained glass panels but comparative matter from their manuscript and painting collections. While this is hardly surprising in a booklet produced by Getty Publications, it does place serious limitations upon the author.

In spite of the restrictions on scholarly apparatus and on the choice of comparative materials, the author has produced an interesting and informative text closely tied to the accompanying images. Virginia Chieffo Raguin, a member of the American Committee of the international Corpus Vitrearum, is certainly qualified to write a more thorough and useful study of the Getty glass. In the fullness of time the Getty panels should be cataloged in a volume of the Corpus Vitrearum. For scholars in the meantime, there is the sale/exhibition catalog of the London gallery of Sam Fogg, which first presented the stained glass, now at the Getty, to the public: Michael Michael, Images in Light: Stained Glass 1200-1550(London: Sam Fogg, 2002). This sumptuously produced book combines the essential elements of sale publication with those of a thorough technical study as well as a scholarly text. The author is an academic who has published recently on the Canterbury glass, and a list of eighteen specialists-- including Raguin--receive thanks for help in preparing the catalog. The panels are discussed in chronological order and in detail, emphasizing stylistic comparisons as well as scholarly opinions, all lavishly illustrated. A long catalog at the end of the volume lists all the panels illustrated by thumbnails, provides measurements, identifies materials and their condition, transcribes inscription, lists the scholarly literature and often provenance, and even includes restoration diagrams of the type found in volumes of the Corpus Vitrearum. Only one work now at the Getty, the fine Swiss heraldic panel of 1561 (22,71), does not appear in the Sam Fogg volume. This handsome and invaluable publication, according to Worldcat, is available in thirty-six US libraries including Anchorage Alaska. It is also readily available for a reasonable sum on Amazon.com. For scholarly work on the stained glass in the J. Paul Getty Museum collection, it's the way to go for now.



1. Meredith Parsons Lillich, The Gothic Stained Glass of Reims Cathedral (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011), Appendix 8, 263-264.

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Author Biography

Meredith Parsons Lillich

Syracuse University, Emerita