Reading Stained Glass: Easter Day by Adrian Barlow

These days most people, if they associate Coventry with stained glass at all, think of John Piper’s great Baptistry window. And rightly, for it was the first, and I believe remains the finest, modern abstract window in any British cathedral. But the city has a distinguished tradition of stained glass, going back to the 15th century, when John Thornton was the pre-eminent English stained glass artist. He and his workshop created the enormous East window of York Minster, while at the same time continuing to fill the churches of Coventry with stained glass promoting the city as a place of culture, wealth and civic pride. Much of this celebrated glass adorned St Michael’s Church, the former Cathedral, until hurriedly taken out and stored as loose fragments in 1939 when war loomed. Unlike the Cathedral itself, most survived the war, but only recently has the scale and importance of this forgotten treasure begun to be appreciated again. Some of the glass has already been restored and a small amount is on display in the …

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Reading Stained Glass: Good Friday by Adrian Barlow

When I was a child, I was fascinated by a picture that hung in my father’s study. It was (as I learned much later) a Baxter Print of Rubens’ Descent from the Cross, (1612-14; fig.i) and I wish I had it now, for images of the Deposition – its alternative name – have a long history in stained glass, going back at least to the 12th century. None, though, are quite like Rubens’ altarpiece. Rubens’ tableau has no fewer than five men, four ladders, three women, and the magnificently athletic but pallid corpse of the dead Jesus being lowered into the arms of John, the beloved disciple. To help take the backbreaking strain, St. John has placed his right foot onto the second rung of a ladder. In accordance with tradition, he is dressed in a red robe, while Mary is already in deep mourning. Joseph of Arimathea, swathed in a huge cloak and wearing a red bonnet, looks more like a Venetian magnifico than a member of the Sanhedrin. He holds one end …

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Reading Stained Glass: Maundy Thursday by Adrian Barlow

The first of three posts discussing ways in which the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day have been depicted in stained glass from the 12thcentury onwards.I am interested in the different ways stained glass artists have portrayed Judas. Sometimes he is shown almost as a pantomime figure – black faced, even black haloed – clutching a moneybag. In the E window of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the Last Supper (1874; fig. i) is cast in an almost lurid light: yellow and black tiled floor, benches even brighter than the brass dishes on the table.  Around this table Jesus and the twelve disciples form a tight circle. Jesus sits in the centre, St John, the beloved disciple, leaning his head on Christ’s right shoulder; St Peter, tonsured according to tradition, sits on his left. The faces of the twelve, offset by the whiteness of their haloes, are variously perplexed, apprehensive or reflective. With one exception: Judas, the man in green with his back to us, has no halo. Scowling and with …

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“Mephisto” – the greatest Queensland war trophy

Proudly hosted by  Abbey Museum Friends is the next of our talk series for 2019: “Mephisto” – the greatest Queensland war trophy. Greg Czechura, Queensland Museum research author and long-time Abbey Museum supporter and Friend, will share his fascinating insights into this battle-scarred war trophy. Many Queenslanders over the age of 40 years will immediately recognise the magnificent WW1 German-built tank, which for many years guarded the entrance of Queensland Museum and is now the sole-surviving A7V tank in the world.

Queensland significance

Mephisto has special significance for Queensland as a powerful commemoration of our wartime sacrifice and silent witness to the horrific events of WW1 frontline battle.  In July 1918, near Villers-Bretonneux in Northern France, a detachment of soldiers from the 26th Battalion, mainly comprised of Queenslanders, helped recover the abandoned tank and drag it back to the allied lines. It was soon after claimed as a war trophy by prominent Queenslanders and transported to Brisbane, arriving at Norman Wharf in June 1919.  It took two Brisbane City Council steamrollers to transfer the tank to the …

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Intact 1st - 3rd century Roman Glass Flask found in Turkey

Abbey Roman Flask – still in one piece after 2,000 years.

Among the Abbey Museum’s more recent acquisitions is a collection of forty-four objects from Turkey, Tunisia and Papua New Guinea including an amazing intact Roman glass flask. It is incredible to have such a fragile object in our collection, considering it was used by someone when togas were all the fashion and attending chariot races or watching gladiatorial battles were on the top of the entertainment list.

Our very fine large bulbous flask in green-yellow glass originated in the Roman Imperial Period and dates somewhere between the 1st and 3rd Century AD. Now to get a little technical – the flask has a slightly retracted base and long thin cylindrical neck ending in a solid rim with a rounded lip and flaring mouth. It was blown to a very fine standard and has this beautiful iridescent weathering and lime encrustation.

Intact 1st to 3rd century Roman Flask

The glass in our flask has iridescence where it has oxidised. This is a good sign as it indicates that this flask had been underground for much of the time …

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A world icon at the Abbey

From the collection of the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology,‘Ehon Azuma-asobi’ (Picture book of the pleasure spots of the Eastern Capital)

Here at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology we are the fortunate custodians of a series of woodblock printed illustrations from an icon of the art world.  Can you guess the artist?

Born in 1760 in Edo (Tokyo) Japan, he would go on to inspire an entire 19th century cultural craze in the decorative arts to collect ‘all things’ Japanese (‘Japoinism’).  This artist inspired Art Nouveau, Impression, and was highly collected by none other than Degas, Gaugin, Klimt, Van Gogh and Manet.  Later in his life, at the age of 70 years, he created one of the most famous images of Art History, titled: ‘Under the wave off Kanagawa’ (Kanagawa oki nami ura) or ‘The Great Wave’ from the series of ‘Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji’ (Fujaka sanjurokkei).

I am of course referring to icon of world art, Katsushika Hokusai. 

The Hokusai prints held at the Abbey are …

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Conservation strategy discussion for Winchester Cathedral stained glass fragments

Stained Glass Studio – Where the Magic Happens

Recently, Michael Strong, the Abbey Museum’s Senior Curator and I headed north to Belli Park to meet with stained glass conservators Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn. Gerry and Jill have been involved with the Museum’s stained glass conservation program for over ten years now. These two extraordinarily talented artisans have been responsible for the conservation of nearly all of the Museum’s medieval, Victorian and Edwardian stained glass collection.

As you may be aware, in 2017 we completed the conservation of all the stained glass windows housed in the Abbey Church. These windows include medieval panels from Winchester Cathedral and also the mortuary chapel of the Shirley family manor house in Ettington. There is a splendid panel of God the Father, believed to be from the Charter House of St Barbara in Cologne and a very fine Winged Ox and a Winged Lion from Heckenrode Abbey in Belgium. If you would like to have a tour of these beautiful windows the Abbey Museum runs guided tours on Tuesday and Thursday at 11.00 am or for groups …

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Deatil from Sale of Land document from the Abbey Museum Collection

BUY AN OXGANG OF LAND

Imagine walking into a real estate agent’s office and asking to buy an oxgang of land.  You would most likely receive some very strange looks and be sent packing. Or you might just be lucky enough to talk to a real estate agent who knew something about historical land measurements. They would then realise that you were using a unit of measurement that has been in vogue in England and Scotland since the early 16th century and under another name, a bovate, right back to the Vikings.

Medieval Measures

The Domesday Book refers to a bovata, which represents the amount of land which could be ploughed using one ox in a single annual season.  The Latin word for ox is Bos (from which we also get our descriptive word, bovine, meaning slightly slow and stupid).  Thus depending on the abilities of a ploughman, an oxgang could range between  15 and 20 acres.  A furlong (meaning furrow length) was the distance an ox- team could plough without resting. Pulling a plough through the heavy northern soils of the British Isles …

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Abbey Open Day & Book Fair

Ditch the digital and enjoy the experience of a good book!

On Saturday 4 May 2019 the Abbey Museum will be hosting an Open Day and a greatsecond-hand Book Fair.  There will be FREE entry to the museum on this day.  All proceeds from book sales will go to installing LED lighting in the Museum display cases as part of our sustainability strategy.

Come and find a huge variety of books with all subjects from kids, cooking and craft to History.  The book fair promises to be a absolute bonanza for lovers of history, especially since the sale will include books recently deaccessioned from the Abbey Museum library and donated by local history buffs. So ditch the digital and enjoy the experience of a good book !

Early bird sales will start from 8am, so be sure to arrive early to grab a bargain on your favourite topic! The event will run from 8:00am until 2:00pm, and the Abbey Cafe will be open for scrumptious morning tea to enjoy while you browse. Of course you are always …

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Abbey Museum's stained glass window St Hilda

Symbols in Art – Clues and Problems

When we explore medieval religious art you could be astonished by the number of objects being held by the figures depicted either in paint or in stained glass windows. Looking at some of the stained glass windows in the Abbey Church there are a number of saints that follow this medieval tradition. They range from serpents to puppy dogs, from skulls to monstrances. Why are they there? What do they mean?

The use of symbols in figurative art began at a time when very few people could read or write, but also when the Church had a huge influence on the population. The introductions of symbols provided an easy form of identification for the onlooker. By incorporating symbols which were well known and associated with saintly men and women, the Church could use the works of art as teaching metaphors for a more spiritual life. These symbols often related to some aspect of the life of the individual depicted which they would have heard many times in sermons from the local bishop or priest. A palm frond told us that …

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