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The making of a reproduction of an antique stained glass window

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog post, even though I had promised to do this regularly. Shall I come up with an excuse? Like: I was so busy, you know…? I have to admit that when I see the huge amount of posts by successfull bloggers, insta-artists and youtubers I am amazed that they have time left to make any art at all! But without any further delay…here is the next part of my report on Judith by Dirck Crabeth.

Searching the archives

While I was sketching and painting on my reproduction, I have been researching past restaurations of the stained glass windows of the Sint-Jan in Gouda. The windows have had some repairs over the past centuries, some of them very sloppy though. In the twentieth century however, there have been two serious restaurations: by Atelier ‘t Prinsenhof owned by mr. Schouten in Delft (around 1930) and by Atelier Bogtman from Haarlem (80ies). According to my teacher, Rob Crevecoeur (he was involved in the last restauration), there should be plenty of documentation from that time. So I contacted the chruch and they were very friendly and helpfull. They let me look in the archives, old books and eventually in the Sint-Jan itself. This resulted in a large amount of pictures from different time-periods. Unfortunataly the documentation of the last restauration was nowhere to be found. It probably lies in the safe of the church, together with the original drawings. To enter the safe would have been a highlight in my quest for historical information, but I could not enter the safe…

My research was super interesting and fun! Even though I didn’t find what I was looking for, I found plenty of other information that I used to make my reproduction.

Choosing the right glass

I had a big fotoposter of the original window and I used it to pick out the glass for the reproduction. Later, when I had already cut all the pieces, I realised that I should have used the colours of the photo on my computer. The colours on the poster were quite saturated and the ones on the computer a bit more soft. It was particularly difficult to find the two purple hues I needed for the chest pieces. Eventually I found what I was looking for, even though I still think the blue purple is a bit too dark. I had already cut Judith’s face from a piece of clear mouthblown glass, when I discovered a small pit. It was exactly in the middle of her cheek, so I decided to cut the piece again! All the glass I used was mouthblown by Lamberts Glashütte in Waldsassen, Germany.

Making samples and painting the glass

Thanks to the detailed picture on my computer I could see a lot of the techniques used to painting the glass. The original window is located very high in the church and can only be photographed from a fair distance. This resulted in a little motion blur in my photo. It made me unsure of some of the painting techniques. It was clear that the shadows in the background were mostly painted by using the badger-brush on wet paint. This was probably done by Schouten, I had seen this technique in his work before. The portrait and clothes were shaded my removing dry paint from the glass, a classic technique. Unfortunately I could not be sure if the shading of the collar and the pearls were done wet or dry. I decided on the latter, but while painting I played a bit with wet and dry layers. As long as it looked most like the original.

I made several samples on which I based my decisions which paint to use. For most pieces I used I brown/gray paint for both the lines as the shadows. This warmer shade matched the original closest. The pearls and the collars are in a cold gray. The sword is in a deeper gray.

Silvery yellows…

There are three shades of silvernitrate yellow. It was not difficult to match the light and the midtone, but the dark silvernitrate was a problem. At the Master-Glass atelier was a dark silvernitrate, but it reacted heavily with the glass. It gave some staines on the glass that had lost all transparency. In the one of the two dark pieces came out allright. The second one I painted with the midtone and put an enamel paint over it to get the right shade.

Judith skin has a bit of a yellow glow to it. She has a yellow blush on her cheek, but the pearl in her ear remains very clear. I was afraid to do this with silvernitrate. My teacher, Sibylle, didn’t want me to do this at all, but I thought the portrait would be too cold without. I tested a couple of enamel colours, and found one that came very close, so I used that one.

Why oh why is there no more Jean Cousin?

Judith’s lips, headpiece and necklace have a peachy colour. This is the colour made by Jean Cousin. Because the recipe has been lost, I can only use an enamel to replace it. It was a challange to get the colour to match, but I think I came close enough.

I really enjoyed the painting. Especially the shading the face and fabrics I found pleasant and meditative to do. It is wonderful to see how, when you remove the paint, the light brings the face to life. I struggled with the straight lines and the pearls though, I am just more of a flesh painter.

After so much work, do I dare to put the pieces together?

I worked so long on the pieces of glass that make Judith, I was afraid to put them all in lead. Some of the pieces have complicated shapes and on the face had been in the kiln a maximum of 7 times, making it more fragile. I went to work very carefully, some times a bit too careful. To get all the pieces together I had to turn some of them into the lead and slowly hammer them in. In the picture the thickness of the lead lines varies a lot. I made some decisions on the lead lines that made most sense. In the end the painting has to come to life in contrast to the lines.

The reproduction was a lot of work, which I enjoyed a lot. It made me feel good to see that I mastered the technique of stained glass painting. I am proud of my work, but when I look closely I always keep thinking: if I had done a little bit more of this and a little less of that, it would really have been perfect….

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