‘His Wrath is Come’
Following on from my slightly technical post about ‘Enamel Paintings on Glass’, I want to focus on one particular window. The Apocalypse window in St. Andrews church, Redbourne, Lincolnshire, displays a fascinating crossover between popular art and church art. I have never seen a stained glass window depicting a scene like this before, which makes it even more interesting!
Francis Danby (1793-1861) created the Apocalypse window in c.1836. He was a painter of the Romantic era who usually worked in oil. Although he definitely designed the scene it is not clear whether he actually executed it. It is likely that he employed a glass-artist to make it.
The scene depicts the opening of the sixth seal in the Book of Revelation.
“And when he opened the sixth seal there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto earth… for the great day of his wrath is come and who shall be able to stand?”
The artist has used enamel and grisaille glass paints on thin pieces of glass to create this dramatic scene. He may have used acid-etching to make the red sections of sky. The acid-etching technique uses a piece of clear glass with a layer of red glass on the top. The artist ‘etches’ off the red layer of glass so that clear glass can be seen through. (Although I have some of experience with glass decoration and stained-glass conservation, I am not skilled enough to give a detailed breakdown of how this window was made. But suggestions are more than welcome from people in the know – please put me right!)
Any glass artist must have seen this image as a challenge to create, but Danby has achieved it with masterful use of the media. He has created a dramatic, vibrant scene using the natural light that shines through the glass. It is far more impressive than some oil paintings I have seen!
Contemporary Art Climate
Talking of oil paintings, Danby was a contemporary and rival of the popular artist John Martin. John Martin created several apocalypse scenes for the art market and exhibited works from 1811 onward. He won several prestigious awards and this painting in particular shows the inspiration for Danby’s window in Redbourne church. It is called “The Great Day of His Wrath” , and was painted in 1851-3. I hope you’ll agree: Danby did it better
The development of enamel paints had allowed artists to create images in a much more ‘painterly’ way rather than relying on a mosaic technique achieved by fixing different pieces of coloured glass together with strips of lead (more here). But it didn’t last. The traditional ‘mosaic’ technique made a come-back during the gothic revival of the later 1800s and now enamel paintings on glass are quite rare. The enamels had a tendency to flake-off so their survival has been patchy. But thankfully this example in Redbourne church is standing strong and is protected by a layer of glass over its painted surface.
As I said, I have never seen a window like this one in a church and for this, and the reasons, above I think it is very special. Let me know what you think of it and if you want to tell me about your favourite unusual stained glass windows, I would love to hear about them!
Bye for now!