Stained Glass before 1700 in American Collections: New England and New York
Excerpt from the Introduction to the 1985 publication
The present checklist of stained glass panels in public and private collections throughout the northeastern states has been compiled by a small group of scholars with general training as medievalists as well as particular expertise in judging the authenticity of glass. This checklist provides a preliminary overview of the holdings and is intended to inspire more detailed research. Full catalogues in the form of fascicules will follow. Though prophetically envisioned by Emile Male early in this century, the thorough publication of all extant medieval stained glass was first seriously planned by Hans R. Hahnloser in the 1940s. The scheme for a Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi was adopted by the Comité international d’histoire de l’art in 1952, and it has since flourished, under both their auspices and those of the Union académique internationale, with occasional aid from U.N.E.S.C.O. National committees have been formed in a dozen European countries, many with the support of a national academy. Most recently, a Canadian committee has been created. In this country, it was Sumner Crosby who up to his death in 1982 organized and presided over the national committee, and we regret that he did not live to see the first published fruits of that effort. That same year, the Eleventh International Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum was held in New York; the papers from that meeting, many of them dealing with series of windows from which important isolated panels are in American collections, are shortly to be published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As part of the international publication program, twenty-six volumes of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi have appeared to date, presenting in definitive catalogues the medieval windows of such major monuments as Notre-Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris (1959), Cologne Cathedral (1974), the churches of Erfurt (1976 and 198o-1983), and Canterbury Cathedral (1981). The glass of important regions such as Flanders ( 1968), Lower Austria (part 1, 1972), Umbria (1973), as well as Baden and Pfalz (1979) has also been published. These volumes are extensively illustrated, not only reproducing every panel of glass included in the catalogue, with a graphic rendering of the renewed pieces each contains, but also including comparative material.
The original concept of the Corpus, which limited study to the Middle Ages, has gradually been expanded. Countries such as Belgium, Great Britain, and Holland, where there is a great deal of Renaissance glass of high quality, have elected to publish these holdings in the Corpus Vitrearum series, and by international agreement the chronological limit may be extended to the Gothic revival. For American collections a terminus of about 1700 usefully serves to distinguish glass made for European buildings and patrons from glass intended for American structures. The latter is to be included in a separate study under the auspices of the newly formed Census of Stained Glass Windows in America. The international guidelines laid down for the Corpus Vitrearum have made one further distinction: in view of their special nature, the many small panes with painted, stained, or enameled figural designs, predominantly of post medieval date and often closely related to prints, will be published separately. Popularly known as roundels (whatever their shape), these panels are the subject of a special research center in Belgium; such individualized attention will facilitate their classification according to design sources. The publication format of the Corpus has also been varied. France, where the greatest amount of early glass is preserved, has embarked on a program of preliminary publication in a series of regional Recensements. In view of the scattered and inaccessible nature of much of the glass in American collections, it has been decided to publish such a checklist here as well. The list is to be presented in three regional installments with this on the northeastern states as the first. Next year, the East Coast holdings will be completed, and by 1987 the Midwest and Far West collections will have been inventoried. A fourth installment, in preparation by Timothy Husband, will deal with all the roundels. Both the checklist, and eventually the fascicules, will follow the established guidelines for the Corpus Vitrearum which give topographical organization precedence over chronological ordering. Collections are presented in the alphabetical order of states, cities, and museums or other sites, and organized in the approximate chronological sequence of the glass regardless of its country of origin.
Research on and publication of stained glass in collections presents special problems even to the scholar who has devoted years to the study of the windows of one monument in Europe. The panels here come from every region of Europe known to have glass and cover a chronological range from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries. In most cases, because glass was removed permanently from its monumental setting in disturbed times such as periods of religious war or political revolution, the provenance is undocumented. In many cases no glass is left in the original site with which to compare the pieces scattered in collections, and in some cases even the building has been demolished so that measurements cannot confirm the supposed provenance. Recognition of panels which belonged together in a coherent program, however, is one of the most exciting achievements of basic cataloguing work such as this. Listed below is a significant amount of fifteenth-century glass from the Carmelite cloister of Boppard on the Rhine, including a newly rediscovered window in a private collection in Rhode Island as well as the well-known pieces at The Cloisters. Several large figures of the early sixteenth century, from the same workshop that glazed the north nave aisle of Cologne Cathedral but from some smaller church, no doubt destroyed, are divided between New York and Rhode Island. An isolated figure of St. Adrian from a related series, listed here under the Worcester Armory, has companions in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Equally worthy of attention are the panels from major monuments that in some way complete or enhance our knowledge of the original collection.