Stained Glass - Art at the Glass Surface
Cambridge - Monday 4th and
Tuesday 5th September 2017

Sarah Jarron
article posted 17 May 2017

Sarah Jarron Conservator Stained Glass, MA ACR
Tealby, Lincs, LN8 3YB (UK)
Sarah is an ICON accredited stained glass conservator with a Masters in Stained Glass and Heritage Management from the University of York. She is an associate member of CVMA/ICOMOS International Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Stained Glass and is experienced in the conservation of ancient stained glass windows.

Katrien Mestdagh
Conservator Stained Glass, MA
Atelier Mestdagh VOF
Koolsteeg 22, 9000 Gent (B)
Katrien is the owner-manager of Atelier Mestdagh, in Ghent. She has many years’ experience in all aspects of stained glass creation and conservation, with a Masters in Stained Glass and Heritage Management from the University of York.

Sarah and Katrien were the responsible conservators for the 2016 Sint-Genovevakerk project.

Aletta Rambaut
Art historian – Conservator Stained Glass
Aletta Rambaut bvba
Sint-Markoenstraat 43, 9032 Gent-Wondelgem (B)
Aletta Rambaut is an internationally respected stained glass conservator, art historian and Corpus Vitrearum member. She is Vice-President of the CVMA/ICOMOS International Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Stained Glass. In 1998, Aletta conducted a thorough research project of the windows from Sint-Genovevakerk and was the architect of the conservation campaign in 2016.

Loss and reinvention: the changing surface of two Renaissance stained glass windows from Sint-Genovevakerk, Steenhuffel, Belgium.
Sarah Jarron*, Katrien Mestdagh & Aletta Rambaut

Almost twenty years after they were deinstalled for research, these two highly significant sixteenth-century windows are once again adorning the chancel of this magnificent church. Last year saw the culmination of the conservation campaign; the latest chapter in their long history. These fascinating windows invite many questions about their past, both art historically and technically, in relation to their current condition.

Created in 1535 and 1552 respectively, the north window - The Seven Sorrows of Mary and the south, The Holy Trinity, encapsulate the sixteenth century transformation in Flemish stained glass iconographical style. Both windows exhibit severe corrosion phenomena across the interior glass surface, affecting the entire colour palette. Both demonstrate severe paint loss. Each window has been subject to different retouching methods, resulting in multiple paint layers.

The church archive was destroyed by fire during the late eighteenth century, so information is scant regarding interventions and maintenance prior to this time. However, careful analysis of the panels and thorough art historical and archival research has provided more clarity regarding the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The most notable intervention was that of J.B. Capronnier c.1860. We can deduce that the glass corrosion and paint damage dates from before this restoration, as Capronnier added fake corrosion effects to his glass infills.

Whilst Capronnier releaded these windows, he retained a high percentage of medieval glass, securing broken pieces with repair leads and did not replace heavily corroded key pieces, such as painted heads. He also applied over-painting to enhance the iconography.

Our analysis has revealed that he employed a different approach with each window. On the south, he re-fired the glass, permanently fixing paint and transforming the appearance of the glass corrosion. However, the north window displays very little fired over-painting; instead featuring multiple layers of soft and cold paint. Analysis of the painting techniques has attributed some of this cold painting to the Capronnier restoration.

This paper explores the history of these windows, focusing on the glass corrosion and development of the painted decoration. It discusses the careful conservation of these fragile windows, the ethical justifications underpinning the work and the final installation with protective glazing and environmental monitoring.