Three Books published in conjunction with the J. Paul Getty special exhibition

  1. Stained Glass: Radiant Art, by Virginia Chieffo Raguin, (£16.99, 104 pages, hardcover 19.1 x 26.6cm, 80 colour illustrations, ISBN 978-1-60606-153-4).Stained glass has been part of our church heritage for hundreds of years and are, as the author states, “essential features of medieval and Renaissance buildings” p.9.The text of this book is enhanced by the beautiful selected illustrations from Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In 2003, the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired a large collection of stained glass some of which the author has illustrated and commented on in this book. The author has published widely in this area and evidence of considerable knowledge is demonstrated in the content. This book encourages one to look at stained glass in a new light – no pun intended here. Stained glass has for many centuries provided a shared culture of biblical subjects, saints’ legends and liturgical ritual.

    This small and compact book contains a brief history of the materials and techniques used throughout the ages. Whilst this may not be the main feature of the book it serves to help the reader understand how the beautiful stained glass windows were constructed from start to finish in an easy to follow manner. For example the use of the silver stain technique, which occurred around the fourteenth century, is the only stain used in stained glass and the illustrations, from many countries, show how a considerable detailed artistic picture can be produced. Stained glass was often damaged, destroyed or removed from its original location and reconstructed in new places. An example of this can be seen in St. Peter’s Church, Canterbury, shown on page 88 of the book, where fragments of fifteenth century glass has been reset in a window tracery.

    There is a handy glossary, bibliography and index provided as well as illustrations credits. This book forms part of the three books published on 23rd September 2013 in connection with the Canterbury and St Albans: Treasures from Church to Cloister, 20 September 2013 – 2 February 2014, by J. Paul Getty Museum publications and I would recommend using this book as pre-reading before visiting this museum or if you are embarking on a study of stained glass. It is a good introductory text to the historical, practical, religious and artistic elements of stained glass. If I have one criticism of this book is that it just ends, that is the text finishes and personally I felt that a summary or conclusion would have rounded off the book beautifully.

    2. & 3.The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral, and The St. Albans Psalter: Painting and Prayer in Medieval England both published by Getty Publications on 23rd September 2013.

    These two books are the other publications associated with this special exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California entitled Canterbury and St Albans: Treasures from Church to Cloister. This exhibition runs from 20 September 2013 – 2 February 2014.

  2. The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral by Jeffrey Weaver and Madeline H. Caviness (£18.99, 104 pages, hardcover 19.1 x 26.6cm, 68 illustrations, 63 in colour ISBN 978-1-60606-146-6).The Ancestors of Christ windows were created for the cathedral and priory church beginning in 1178 and are considered to be among the most famous works of English medieval painting. This book contains an in-depth study of the stained glass windows that are on loan from Canterbury Cathedral. Beautiful illustrations show the Canterbury windows in all their splendour. Forty-three individuals of the Ancestor of Christ series survive today and six of these ancestor windows and three boarder panels from the clerestory are on display at this special exhibition. These Ancestors of Christ windows are beautifully and richly coloured figures of the Old Testament. The windows on display for this exhibition are Jared, Lamech, Noah, Phalec, Thara and Abraham. In the book each widow is fully explained as to their original position in the cathedral, their history, the techniques used in construction and any subsequent restoration that had been carried out plus biblical references. I particularly like the biblical descriptions given along with the biblical references as this gives the reader context as well as artistic appreciation. In my opinion this book provides a way to understand the twelfth and thirteenth century’s visual images of faith and biblical reference. 

    The authors have carried out extensive research in order to write the text and their findings are produced in a way that a visitor to the museum can follow and understand the relevance of these beautiful works of art. I am looking forward to the windows return to Canterbury where I can look afresh at these in light of reading this book.

  3. The St. Albans Psalter: Painting and Prayer in Medieval England by Kristen Collins, Peter Kidd and Nancy K. Turner (£18.99 104 pages, hardcover 19.1 x 26.6cm, 96 illustrations, 94 in colour ISBN 978-1-60606-145-9.The original St. Albans psalter is thought to have been created in St. Albans abbey sometime in the twelfth century. During the reformation this psalter was carried by a group of English Benedictines to Germany for safe keeping. This original has been loaned by the Bishop of Hildesheim to the J. Paul Getty Museum and is on display at this special exhibition. This original psalter is believed to be a gift for Christina of Markyate from Geoffrey of Gorham, Abbot of St. Albans.The authors provide detailed descriptions of the art work contained in this original psalter and the devotional imaginations. This text book contains illustrations from the manuscript and gives up to date revelations, using new scientific evidence, about the manuscript and its makers. The history of Christina of Markyate is presented here in the text. There is still some dispute as to whether it was her own personal psalter or whether it was altered for her at a later stage. The authors present both scenarios and suggest that one looks at the manuscript as a physical object rather than its patronage.

    It is easy to forget that St. Albans was once a leading place of learning in England and this book delves deeply into its historical past. For interest a copy of the original manuscript was presented by the Bishop of Hildesheim to St. Albans cathedral and is on display in their exhibition area.

Summary of these two books

Both of these two books contain a wealth of notes and a bibliography to aid the reader and do a great job illustrating, with full photographs, the relevance of Canterbury Cathedral and the St. Albans psalter. These books are well written so that all can understand the history and biblical context surrounding these stained glass windows and the psalter. They are both well worth reading and even if one is not visiting the exhibition. They would make an ideal Christmas or birthday present.

Book Reviews by: The Reverend Susan Starkings, Assistant Curate G7 Benefice