Sealing of the Twelve Tribes

American Stained Glass Superiority in the Gilded Age

Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed the difference between European and American stained glass with contemporary, reproduced examples. This time, we will showcase original pieces from our exhibit, Stained Glass Masters. We will show two real examples of European and American stained glass windows including descriptions so you can read and observe the differences between the two styles firsthand. 

Sealing of the Twelve Tribes

John La Farge, late 19th century

American

Adoration of the Kings

Franz Mayer of Munich, 1900

German

An American Example

JOHN LA FARGE, LATE 19TH CENTURY

SPECIAL FEATURES

• The garments in the lower panel of this window have pieces of glass positioned in all directions. La Farge used many small pieces of glass and layers instead of drapery glass or paint to create the realistic appearance of the clothing. The fabric has texture, volume, and draping effects.
• The soft faces are in an impressionistic style. La Farge could create authentic faces in part because he used live models. The faces here are likely based on Mary Whitney, a favorite La Farge model.

 

BIBLICAL STORY OF THE WINDOW

The window depicts an angel placing the seal of God upon the forehead of one of the faithful while two more figures ascend into heaven. 
 

Sealing of the Twelve Tribes

Sealing of the Twelve Tribes

• Types of glass: 1. Opalescent 2. Striated 3. Mottled 4. Rippled
• Painting on hands, faces, and feet
• Up to 5 Layers
• Late 19th century

This window belonged to a major American museum, which loaned it to another museum. The window was never returned and was presumed lost. But years later, a dealer offered it for sale with the top section missing. A dispute ensued between the original museum and the dealer over ownership rights to the remaining portion of the window. The museum eventually relinquished its claim to the window and it was subsequently sold by the dealer to this museum. We then began the endeavor of restoring the window.


Another Sealing of the Twelve Tribes window by La Farge is installed at Trinity Church in Buffalo, New York. That window won acclaim at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. La Farge received a first-class medal and the Cross of the Legion of Honor at this event. With the gracious cooperation of the church, we viewed that window to assist in our restoration. 
La Farge created this window in the late 19th century. It is unsigned but very similar in style to his other windows of the period. He often included waterfalls in his work after an 1886 trip to Japan, and he created other angels in the manner seen here. In this window, the talented La Farge produced a magnificent scene with depth and breadth as well as movement using deep colors and up to five layers of glass. And the transcendental gaze on the face of each figure was created through expert painting.


 

European Examples

Adoration of Kings

Adoration of the Kings

Franz Mayer of Munich, 1900

The Flight into Egypt

Franz Mayer of Munich, 1900

Adoration of the Kings and The Flight into Egypt

FRANZ MAYER OF MUNICH

• All Antique Mouth Blown Glass
• Extensive Painting 
• Single Layer

These windows display the skillful painting typical of the German firm Franz Mayer of Munich. In these European painted windows, the artist painted on cathedral or one color glass to create the folds and draping in the simple garments of the Holy Family, as well as the rich and lavish fabric in the robes of the kings.


These windows were originally installed in an Episcopal church in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The shapes of the windows and the decorative details in the lower panels are identical, confirming the windows were produced for the same church. 
 

SPECIAL FEATURES

• The artist painted the glass to create details such as the shading in the clothes. Then, the artist baked the glass in a kiln fired to 1250° to fuse the paint to the surface of the glass.
• The lead work in these windows is all one layer.
• Notice the beautiful amber color in these windows; the artist put silver stain on the back of the glass to create this radiant effect. 

BIBLICAL STORY OF THE WINDOW

These windows depict biblical events often found in paintings and stained glass. The Gospel of Matthew recounts the Adoration of the Kings (2:1–12) and the Flight into Egypt (2:13–15). In the first story, three wise men follow a star to the birthplace of Jesus; they come to worship Him, bringing gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. In the second story, Joseph flees to Egypt with Mary and the Infant Son after the Magi inform him that King Herod intends to kill Jesus. The abundant use of the color gold throughout these windows underscores the divinity of Jesus.
 

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