Today is the feast day of St. Genevieve (422-500), Patroness of Paris, whose prayer and encouragement of her fellow Parisians to not flee but to remain in their homes in prayer once saved Paris from Atilla II and his Huns. In this fresco, she is being blessed by Bishop St. Germanus; after hearing him preach when she was seven, Genevieve made the decision to dedicate her life to the service of Christ and His Church.
Today is the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. “Those who are learned will be as radiant as the sky in all its beauty; those who instruct the people in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity.” — Lauds Gospel Canticle Antiphon from the Common of Doctors.
“The heart that is taken and pressed with a desire of praising the divine goodness more than it is able, after many endeavours goes oftentimes out of itself, to invite all creatures to help it in its design.” — St. Francis de Sales
“You aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God’s Divine Majesty. But seeing that the small errors people are wont to commit in the beginning of any under taking are apt to wax greater as they advance, and to become irreparable at last, it is most important that you should thoroughly understand wherein lies the grace of true devotion; — and that because while there undoubtedly is such a true devotion, there are also many spurious and idle semblances thereof; and unless you know which is real, you may mistake, and waste your energy in pursuing an empty, profitless shadow.” – From the beginning of An Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales.
The “Martyrdom of St. Sebastian,” a 1465 tempera work by Benozzo Gozzoli (perhaps best known for his murals in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi,) shows the saint pierced by arrows… which was the price of offending the pagan Roman emperor by working secretly for the good of Christians suffering persecution in Rome. Legend relates that the arrows did not actually kill him; he recovered and eventually confronted the emperor by waiting at a place he knew Diocletian would pass. Sebastian chastised him for his cruelty and called him everything but a worthy public servant. For this, he was beaten to death with clubs and his body dumped in the sewer; it was eventually recovered and entombed.
In 367 a basilica was built over the site of his grave. The site was — about twelve centuries later — ransacked by rampaging Calvinists, who (again) dumped the bones in a ditch. They were again recovered (although they had been mixed with the bones of other saints, and so the knowledge of which bones belonged to which saint was lost). In 1578, these bones were recovered and today are in reliquaries in numerous locations, including Paris, Luxemburg, Antwerp, and Brussels.
The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the veneration of Sebastian dates to at least the time of Ambrose and that the oldest known depiction of him comes from around the year 682 and shows ” a grown, bearded man in court dress but contains no trace of an arrow. It was the art of the Renaissance that first portrayed him as a youth pierced by arrows.”
Today is St. Sebastian’s feast day. St. Sebastian is considered a protector against the plague; hopefully, he can also do something for the flu.
Grant us, we pray, O Lord, a spirit of fortitude,
so that, taught by the glorious example
of your Martyr Saint Sebastian,
we may learn to obey you rather than men.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
My wife and I were given a very nice (and very old) copy of “La Madonna di San Sisto” (the Sistine Madonna) for Christmas. The original, a 1512 painting by Raphael that was commissioned by Pope Julius II as an altarpiece for the church of San Sisto, is today in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.
This painting, one of Raphael’s last Madonnas, depicts the Blessed Virgin holding the Christ Child and flanked by Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara. In the background are dozens of obscured cherubs while two very distinctive cherub figures are in the foreground.
Research: It’s What to Do With Winter
Right now, I’m working on a project that involves tracing the development of iconography in certain key Biblical scenes relevant to the life of Christ and frequently depicted in visual art from their earliest origins to their most recent presentation, with the goal of closely examining the spiritual truths presented in these scenes and of coming to a fuller understanding of how those truths are communicated to the viewer in a meaningful way that further develops an understanding of the relationship between the substance of the message and the style of its presentation. This will, I imagine, at some point, result in an article. Although, if it doesn’t — if, ultimately, my working premise cannot be either supported or modified to produce a meaningful result and I end up abandoning the project entirely — well, at least the research is worth doing. Besides, I write this on a morning when the weatherman said we can expect our first winter weather, with possible minor accumulations of snow and ice overnight tonight and tomorrow morning. It could be a long winter, and I really can’t think of a better way to spend it than working on a few research projects.
There’s a nice research article in this issue. Bryant Stanton’s The Dark Age of American Stained Glass: The Tiffany Glass Company 1888 – A Productive Year (which begins on page 272) takes an in-depth look at a group of Good Shepherd-themed windows from Tiffany produced in 1888 and installed in churches across the country. I know Bryant personally, and I know he put a lot of time and effort into producing this article. It’s quite an article; I enjoyed reading it and am very glad to be able to include it in this issue of the magazine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
I would love to be able to print more research articles in the coming issues of The Stained Glass Quarterly. If there’s something you’d like to know more about — a window, a theme, a style, a particular artist, windows from a particular region or period — really, anything you want to know more about — I would strongly urge you to consider doing the research and presenting what you find in an article for publication. The fact that you want to know more about a certain topic probably means that others do, too. Doing in-depth research and presenting one’s findings is a great way to advance everyone’s understanding of stained glass, or religious art, or painting techniques, or even the history of how stained glass windows are sold.
One of the great things about pursuing a research article is that you don’t have to start out an expert… but you might end up one, if you carry the research far enough. It is amazing what one can learn if one is willing to collect the pieces and connect the dots. Besides: education is its own reward; it’s not possible to waste time when that time is spent in learning something new or in coming to a deeper understanding of something already learned.
If what I’ve written here inspires you to pursue such an article, I look forward to reading it and hope I can include it in a future edition of this magazine. Of course, I’m looking for other types of articles as well. I would very much like to be able to print more articles about the business of stained glass written by stained glass businesspeople. Technical articles — articles about how to do specific craft techniques, or a new way of approaching a task — are always something very much in demand.
The thing about the readership of The Stained Glass Quarterly is that the people who read it are the experts in the field. That’s the nature of a professional trade journal: Its readership includes the very people who should be sharing their knowledge, experience, and skills with others in the form of articles. Winter is upon us. Won’t you take a little time this winter and consider writing an article?
“The Good Shepherd,” by Bernhard Plockhorst
Plockhorst was a member of the late Nazarene movement, a German Romantic art school (together with other German painters such as Karl Gottfried Pfannschmidt and Heinrich Ferdinand Hoffmann). Influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, they had recourse to Medieval and religious art topics.
“The Good Shepherd” by Frederick James Shields
“Where the design for a window is ordered and paid for by the purchaser of the window, it is of course impossible to secure a duplicate; but where a picture that is already common property is reproduced, the work may be several times repeated.
“Thus “The Good Shepherd,” a very satisfactory figure of the Christ taken from the well-known painting by Frederick J. Shields, has been reproduced in glass three times, and now adorns as many churches in different parts of the country. It is too beautiful a conception to be rendered any less pleasing by this repetition. In all cases the patterns and other needed guides are preserved, so that, should the occasion arise, a picture-window once executed may be readily duplicated.”
— from the 1889 Popular Science Monthly article by C. C. Hanford Henderson entitled “History of a Picture Window”
I write this editorial at the end of a week that began at The Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, the site of the next Stained Glass Association of America Annual Summer Conference. I spent several days helping to plan events for the Conference but also enjoying views like the ones above. I took my sketch pad with me and spent some time outdoors — sometimes on the pool deck, sometimes in the gazebo (from which the photo above left was taken), and sometimes on the covered porch near the Café at the Elms — drawing and enjoying the relaxing environment that this amazing hotel offers.
I don’t think I can stress strongly enough that this Annual Summer Conference is going to be very different from those of past years. This Conference adopts a new orientation — perhaps I should say, a new atmosphere — made possible by a site like that at the Elms. The hallmark elements of education, information, networking, and fun that are part of all SGAA Conferences will be maintained while a new one is added: relaxation.
To those readers who are artists, I suggest that you bring pencils, pens, pastels, watercolors… whatever it is that you use to create, and be ready to enjoy using them in this wonderful and relaxing atmosphere… or, if I can perhaps coin a new word, artmosphere. But I also suggest that you bring something new… some new medium. Perhaps it could be something you’ve been wanting to try, or perhaps it could be something you’ve been wanting to return to and explore further. Regardless, the Elms is the place to try it.
And for those who are not artists, I suggest you bring a sketch pad, anyway. You are going to find yourself inspired by the grounds of the Elms, and, if you aren’t an artist when you get there, you may find yourself wanting to become one by the time you leave. Besides, even if you can draw only a stick figure, you’ll likely find it is the finest, most inspired stick figure you’ve drawn in a good, long while. And, most importantly, you’ll find drawing it both relaxing and refreshing.
I’m very excited about next summer’s Annual Summer Conference. I hope you’ll start making plans to join us and take advantage of all that an SGAA Annual Summer Conference has to offer. Also, please plan on entering the stained glass panel competition. It will be beautifully displayed in a sunlit hallway outside the Grand Ballroom at the Elms and will be a real opportunity to showcase the beauty of stained glass.