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On Saturday 1 April the ‘Cult of Saints in Wales’ project collaborated on an afternoon of talks about St Padarn and the saints of Wales at the Church of St Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr. My short talk focussed on three south transept windows of the 1930s by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, which depicted the saints Padarn, Teilo and David.
According to the Lives of all of these three saints, they journeyed to the Holy Land together, where they were met, and given gifts, by the patriarch of Jerusalem. As we were specifically remembering Padarn in the church that bears his name, I showed some more images of Padarn in other churches, but also took the opportunity to show windows of other saints by the studio of Heaton, Butler and Bayne.
When looking through my archive, I found a series of images of David, patron saint of Wales, made by the firm from the late 1880s up until the one at Llanbadarn Fawr of about 1930. What is interesting about all of these figures is that even though they use more or less the same kind of figure, none that I have seen are repeats of another, using the same cartoon. This use of the same cartoon for multiple windows is of course well-known among all stained glass studios, from Hardman’s to Morris & Co. to Celtic Studios and even some of the finest individual artists in the medium, such as Christopher Whall and Karl Parsons reused designs and cartoons. Note the range of unusual headgear provided for the saint, not a mitre in sight!
As part of my work on ‘The Cult of Saints in Wales‘ project, I have been co-curating an exhibition of medieval and early modern manuscripts of saints’ Lives, poetry addressed to saints and saintly genealogies at the National Library of Wales.
It has also been an opportunity to display a couple of the hundreds of cartoons acquired by the National Library from Celtic Studios in the late 1990s. The figure of Illtud from Mountain Ash, and the scene showing David, Padarn and Teilo leaving for Jerusalem from Ebbw Vale are displayed with illustrations of the windows on the interpretation panel.
In addition, John Petts’ design for his first window at All Saints, Penarth is included in the show, as well as the scale drawing by A.L. Wilkinson of his saints window at Peterston-super-Ely. The latter comes from the diocesan archives at the Library, which include many such drawings submitted as part of the process of obtaining a faculty.
I designed the exhibition displays which include my photographs of modern and medieval images of saints, and some of these are displayed as framed prints. To coincide with the exhibition, I will be speaking at the National Library about images of saints from churches in Wales on 17 May, as well as doing a gallery talk on 29 March.
The exhibition opens to the public on 18 February and runs until 10 June 2017.
I have mentioned the upcoming exhibition of the work of Margaret Rope at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery on these pages before, and I was pleased to be able to attend the private view for the exhibition on 9 September.
This innovative exhibition includes drawings, cartoons and projections of many of her windows, as well as work in glass and sculpture. The exhibition includes coloured cartoons of all three of her windows in Wales, the pair of saints at Llanarth in Monmouthshire and the memorial window to her niece and nephew at Llandovery, who both died in childhood.
This exhibition view shows the Llanarth cartoons with (just visible!) my photograph of St Bernard projected on the wall. Also at the exhibition is a cartoon of the window depicting St Winifrede at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Newport, Shropshire, which found its way to the museum at Holywell at some stage in the past, and has been lent by the Diocese of Wrexham.
I also took the opportunity to visit Shrewsbury Cathedral, where there are seven windows by Margaret Rope. and I will post a further piece about the imagery of Winifrede on the Saints in Wales project website.
I will be back in Shrewsbury, on the 17 November, if not before, to give a talk about David Evans, another important artist with Shrewsbury connections, for the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum. The exhibition continues until 15 January 2017.
The new window by Helen Whittaker for Abergavenny is described, with some justification, as ‘one of the greatest new works of church art in Wales since the Second World War’ on the Church in Wales website.
A crowned figure at York Minster dating to the mid-twelfth century is sometimes described as the earliest surviving painted panel of window glass in Britain, and probably came from a Jesse window. Other important medieval survivals include the later Jesse windows at York and Wells, as well as the most complete medieval window in Wales, at Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch, dating from 1533. But the subject is still returned to. The big east window of the Lady Chapel at Llandaff Cathedral also features the Tree of Jesse, and since it was made by Geoffrey Webb in 1951, it might also claim to be one of the most important commissions for church art in Wales. But in truth, there are plenty of others to choose from, such as Jacob Epstein’s Majestas in Llandaff, and other outstanding windows on the same scale or of the highest quality, but they are just not so well known.
The new window will be dedicated on 7 July by the Bishop of Monmouth.
As the the new window, designed by Helen Whittaker, is installed Canon Mark Soady reflects:
Stained glass windows came in to being in Medieval times as a means of educating the largely illiterate public about the Good News of the Bible through visual images.
Helen’s window does an amazing job in encapsulating the various themes and messages that run through the Bible. It will be a great aid to teaching and a wonderful compliment to the Jesse artefact itself.
The starting point for Helen’s design is the ‘centrality of Christ as God and man’. The dual aspects of Christ are explored through images and relationships connected with the five principal themes: Christ, Kingship, Prophecy, the Church and the Sacrament.
At the top of the tree sits the Virgin Mary with the Christ child on her knee. They are shown to a larger scale then other figures in the window, recognising…
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The sorry remains of Thomas Johnes’ collection of sixteenth-century continental glass at Hafod seem to have escaped any scholarly attention since their arrival in west Wales in about 1803. Even the distinguished local antiquarian, George Eyre Evans, in his description of the church published a hundred years later, hoped that a ‘reader, who is well up in glass of this kind, would furnish an account of this window, at once full and reliable. My own opinions about it are as yet too crude and too immature for exportation.’ He was writing of the east window at the Church of St Michael, Eglwys Newydd, Hafod, and within thirty years the window was alomost completely lost in a devastating fire.
His faith in his knowledge about the glass matched my own when I added the panels to the online ‘Stained Glass in Wales‘ catalogue about five years ago, and I managed to fill a page of Stained Glass from Welsh Churches with two ilustrations and some information and references.
So when my colleague, Mary-Ann Constantine, was seeking contributions for speakers and contributors for a day of talks, performances and interventions at Hafod for an event as part of the Coleridge in Wales Festival, I didn’t think that I would be able to manage much more than ten minutes at best, which I was told would be fine. I then thought that a little picture book on the glass would be a good idea, and would help visitors to see the fragments, some of which are quite high up in the sanctuary windows that contain glass salvaged from the east window in 1932.
A newspaper report related the sorry story. ‘The Flemish window above the chancel lay beneath our feet, a mass of molten metal and coloured glass, intermixed with what remained of the Jacobean altar chairs and the slates from the roof.’ Today, reading the information about the stained glass in the displays and leaflets at the church can seem contradictory. There are stories that suggest that it was brought from a German convent, others that it came from Holland during the French Revolution, another tradition says that the glass was brought from the former Priory Church of St Mary of Cardigan. Although the glass was formerly in chancel window, earlier sources located the stained glass, given by Thomas Johnes, in a transept window or a north-west window.
So I have risen to the challenge of making something of these fragments, and produced not only a picture book of all of the main diamonds and roundels, but also a fuller account of what can be deduced from the glass and reconciling the few sources that mention it. This will be published shortly in the online journal Vidimus, and I am also very grateful to Joseph Spooner for sending on a transcription of a letter (discovered by Marie Groll) mentioning the stained glass bought by Thomas Johnes that sheds new light on its acquisition.
If only George Eyre Evans had troubled to explain even the subjects and arrangement of the panels, and perhaps discovered whether or not it had been recently moved, we would know rather more about the glass. I hope that my attempts to draw attention to the glass at Hafod may yet encourage a ‘reader, who is well up in glass of this kind’ to add to our knowledge of these fragments of Renaissance stained glass.
The book is available from me for £5 plus postage, but I will put a link up before long to a new website for my imprint Sulien Books, I will also add a note when the next Vidimus is published.
In an addition to a post about five months ago I mentioned an upcoming exhibition and book about the work of Margaret Rope.
Margaret Agnes Rope (1882–1953) was born in Shrewsbury and was trained in stained glass at Birmingham School of Art under Henry Payne. Her first major work was for Shrewsbury Cathedral and in September an exhibition about her work opens at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.
The exhibition ‘Heavenly Lights: The Untold Story of Stained Glass Artist Margaret Agnes Rope’ runs from 12 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.
As part of this initiative, Arthur Rope has produced a large-format book of her work with colour illustrations of full windows and details, and a list of her works. It is a considerable achievement, and a reminder of how little has been published on artists of this quality working in stained glass. Faced with a vast gap in developed academic study of the field of stained glass, and art in churches in general, books like this, as well as those by Roy Albutt and Alan Brooks’ study of Francis Spear, have mostly been privately published and rely on the strength of conviction (and financial commitment) of their authors.
These books, from the bottom up, if you like, easily outnumber those from the top down, such as Peter Cormack’s recent Arts and Crafts Stained Glass (2015). This is a book about which I have intended to write on these pages for some time, and may do yet. With such a huge range of material at his disposal, Peter Cormack’s book only illustrates couple of panels and one full window by Margaret Rope and does not have the space to discuss her work in any detail, which ably demonstrates the huge amount of work still to be published on the artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement. There are also those artists and studios earlier in the nineteenth century and later in the twentieth century about whom so little has been written, as well as the contemporaries of Henry Payne and Margaret Rope that have not been connected with the Arts & Crafts ethos, and remain (even) less fashionable.
Margaret Rope of Shrewsbury is announced on its title page as ‘an exhibition of her works in a book’, and since the book lacks a narrative, this is very much the case. Here, the contrast with Nicola Gordon Bowe’s recent book on Wilhelmina Geddes is stark, as her years of research and study have yielded a fascinatingly insightful portrait of the artist offering an absorbing narrative that sheds so much light on the windows.
In the case of Margaret Rope, she left few records, and there is an appeal for more information about her, as well as a team of volunteer archivists gathered by Shrewsbury Museum with the task of researching her life and work. In the meantime, we have a new book of her work, which will be available at the exhibition in September and beforehand via mail order, for details see Arthur Rope’s website.
Further to my last post about the upcoming Glass Conference, here is Rachel Phillips’ post on the Glass Beacon, which will be officially opened on Friday as part of the one-day conference.
I’ve been involved in a lot of work recently project managing and making a new architectural glass commission, the Glass Beacon, for the home of the glass course in Alexandra Road, Swansea where I also lecture. It’s been a hard task, with a lot of expectation- some I know and some I am less aware of thankfully but, most of all I just wanted to help make a good thing for the glass college. It’s been a collaborative project and working with my colleagues has been great- so many talented and dedicated people.
The final piece of the jigsaw is the official opening next Friday on the 11th March, as part of a day conference. Details can be seen here: Glass Conference
I’m just looking forward to seeing the scaffolding come down and seeing it properly!