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Stained Glass
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STAINED GLASS Stained and Painted Glass Windows of England

R EGARDING stained glass purely from the point of view of the builder of a Gothic cathedral, the glass of the fourteenth century may justly be regarded as the very best that the art has ever produced. The excellence of its material, the boldness and vigor of its design, mark it as distinct from that of both earlier and later periods.
To the taste of the English, the early glass was barbaric in color for their climate. The lead lines of the fourteenth-century work escaped notice altogether, while later they became a positive disfigurement over the delicately painted figures on excessively pale tones of glass.
    The glass in the east window of the choir of Exeter Cathedral represents the work of two different periods. In the early years of the fourteenth century, a window smaller than the present one was filled with figures painted under the direction of Bishop Stapledon. Later in the century this was incorporated in the present window when, following the fashion established by Gloucester, it was decided to enlarge and rebuild entirely the east window of the choir. The outer side lights and the upper tier of three large tracery openings contain the glass of the original window, supposed to have been executed for the authorities by "Master Walter" from Rouen (roo-eng), at that time a very celebrated center of glass manufacture in France.
    The central portion of the lower tier of figures is the work of Robert Lyen of Exeter, who, on the seventh of May in the year 1389, was engaged "to glaze the great window newly made at the head of the church behind the High Alter."
    To make the old fit their new settings he was obliged to paint new bases to lengthen them, and here he placed the interesting row of shields bearing coats-of-arms of donors of the window, or early bishops connected with the building of the cathedral. Having the Gothic craftsman's sense of fitness, Robert Lyen did not proceed to make the central part of the window in the new style of perpendicular work. Rather, he made all the patterns of border and canopy work similar to the old window, contenting himself with designing some very rich patterns for the draperies of his figures. For these he employed white glass instead of pinkish flesh color, as had been the habit of the earlier workers, and painted the heads, halos and crowns on one piece of glass enriched with yellow stain, which he used also on the ornaments, borders and hair in his figures.
    The window representing St. Edward the Confessor in St. Mary's Church, Ross, is a very delicate bit of English glass painting which exhibits the skill of the master painter at the very end of the fourteenth century or possibly the beginning of the fifteenth century, as it is commonly given that date.
    The figures of St. Anne and the Virgin, like that of St. Edward, are also beautiful examples of the fourteenth-century glass painter's art.
    Belonging to the fifteenth century, the figures of St. Gregory, in All Souls College, Oxford, is remarkable for strength and delicacy of execution combined. The very well managed lines of the lead were clearly planned from the start on the part of the artist craftsman and are placed in such fashion as to be a part of the drawing of the figure, following the precepts of earlier work.
    Though the monks who designed the great window of Gloucester Cathedral were not as clear in drawing the human figure as were some of their successors in later centuries, nevertheless they succeeded in creating in this largest of English church windows one of the most famous works of the fourteenth century. Lovers of stained glass find an abundance of examples dating from the period known as Middle Gothic in England (York, Wells, Ely, Oxford). Most admired all such examples is the East Window of Gloucester Cathedral.
    The glass of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, says L. F. Day, an English authority, "does not count for much. The art of the glass painter ... re-awoke in England with the Gothic revival of the nineteenth century. Early Victorian doings are interesting only as marking the steps of recovery. Except for here and there a window entrusted to E. Paynter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Edward Burne-Jones, glass, from the beginning of its recovery, fell into the hands of men with a strong bias towards archaeology. The charms of Burne-Jones' design and of William Morris' color place the windows done by them among the triumphs of decorative art."