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America to meet the Ancestors

America to meet the Ancestors

Six of the Cathedral’s earliest and most important surviving examples of stained glass are to go on public display in Los Angeles.

The 12th century stained-glass will feature in an exciting exhibition entitled Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister; set to run from 20 September, 2013 to 2 February, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angles.

Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister will bring together two important examples of English Romanesque art, uniting six of the precious stained glass panels taken from the Ancestors of Christ Series at Canterbury with the St. Albans Psalter (circa 1130) on loan from the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany.

The exhibition reveals how specific texts, prayers, and environments shaped the medieval viewer’s understanding of these pictures during the era of artistic renewal following the Norman Conquest of England.

Uniting these two iconic works of medieval art for the first time makes possible an unprecedented display and investigation of 12th century English painting, ranging from the grand and public to the personal and private. The Ancestors of Christ windows at Canterbury and the St. Albans Psalter have not hitherto received the attention they deserve in the general literature on medieval art. This exhibition provides that rare opportunity to share these two masterpieces with a wider audience.

Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum


SXXVIII Total Ins CELThe Ancestors of Christ windows originally consisted of eighty-six life-sized seated patriarchs of the Old Testament, largely based on the list of names contained in the Gospel of St Luke (III, 23–28) and interpolated with additional names from the Gospel of St Matthew (I, 1–17). It was the largest known series of the genealogy of Christ in medieval art. Forty-three figures of the original series survive: twenty two of these have been housed in the Cathedral’s Great South Window since the 18th century.

The window is an incredible feat of medieval engineering as well as an amazing spectacle of light. Its stone frame houses a soaring crystal masterpiece containing some of the earliest stained glass in Europe. In 2009 the precious stained glass was temporarily removed from the window, to allow the Cathedral’s masons to undertake essential repairs to the architectural frame. Since then each individual panel has been cleaned and restored by the Cathedral’s stained glass studio.

There is very little comparable stained glass of this quality and age in the world. Detailed examination has always been hard as such windows are installed at a high level. Its removal has created a unique opportunity to see the dazzling medieval art displayed at ground level and a series of panels have been on display in the Cathedral’s Crypt. It is with great pride that the Cathedral can share this once in a life time experience with the Getty and its visitors.

SXXVIII 2,3e in situ 09-09-23 Joy Bunclark

The restoration of the stonework of the great South West Window gives us a unique opportunity to present the medieval glass at eye level so that people can relate to its astonishing colour and rich diversity. Already we have enjoyed this experience in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral and have been able to appreciate the work of the 12th century creators of the glass in a new way. Now we have the opportunity to share this with a much wider audience before the glass is replaced in the restored window. I know that this will be a very exciting exhibition and will display part of the creative heritage of the historic community at Canterbury to everyone’s delight and encouragement.

The Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury

Léonie Seliger, Director of Stained Glass, and Laura Atkison, Conservator, accompanied the glass to Los Angeles and are currently installing the panels for the exhibition. Heather Newton, Head of Stone Masonry and Conservation will also to travel to Los Angeles as a guest of the museum to complement the exhibition with conservation talks and demonstrations.

Following the Los Angeles exhibition, the stained glass windows will travel to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York City in spring 2014 before returning home to Canterbury and the Great South Window.

Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister, will run at the Getty from 20 September, 2013 to 2 February, 2014.

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