This beautifully produced volume presents all the cartoons, now newly restored, associated with the monumental glazing program of the Sint-Janskerk in Gouda, one of the most important series of stained glass windows created in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. While few full-scale cartoons for monumental Netherlandish glass windows have survived, those executed for the Gouda windows are particularly significant because they exist as a complete set, due to the churchwardens’ rare but fortunate decision to preserve them to use as guides for the future restoration of the glass. The group, still housed in Gouda, consists of thirty-four cartoons drawn between 1552 and 1601.
The book here under review documents the final stage of the ambitious plan to conserve this large and impressive collection of cartoons, which as a group has received relatively little scholarly attention and has remained for the most part hidden in storage, despite the sheets’ historical importance and their accomplished draughtsmanship. An enormous undertaking, its most recent phase aptly named by its organizers the Mega-project restauratie Goudse cartons, the work on the Gouda cartoons represents one of the largest endeavors in the history of paper conservation. The project has a long history, beginning in 1984 when the Rijksmuseum’s request to borrow one of the drawings led to the realization that the entire group needed restoration. In 1986, the churchwardens at Gouda created the position of permanent conservator in charge of the cartoons and work on them – as well as on the glass windows themselves, which were also in need of conservation – was carried out over several decades in numerous campaigns.
The present book was preceded by an earlier publication and exhibition focusing on the cartoons, Het Geheim van Gouda: De cartons van de Goudse Glazen (Zsuzsanna van Ruyven-Zeman, Xander van Eck, and Henny van Dolder-De Wit, Gouda 2002), produced after the completion of the windows’ restoration in 1989, which included sixteen restored cartoons and some not yet treated (reviewed by the present writer in the HNA Reviews of Books, December 2003). Conservation work on the remaining cartoons was completed in 2011.
De Cartons de Sint-Janskerk in Gouda is the result of a collaborative effort involving a team of art historians and conservators who provide a multi-dimensional and informative analysis of the cartoons and of the context in which they were produced. Detailed catalogue entries by various authors are supplied for all the works, accompanied by excellent illustrations, many of them in color. Some related cartoons for sites other than the Sint-Janskerk are also considered, such as a group from Dirck Crabeth’s workshop for the former monastic church of the Regulars in Gouda. Jan Piet Filedt Kok examines a cartoon of The Seven Sacraments, formerly ascribed to Lucas van Leyden, made before the 1552 fire in the Sint-Janskerk. The authors have also included cartoons for the twentieth-century windows in the church.
A series of substantial essays address specific issues central to the Gouda cartoons. In an important study that provides numerous new insights, Zsuzsanna van Ruyven-Zeman examines the many artists from various cities who designed the glass windows over multiple decades, including Hendrick de Keyser from Haarlem, Isaac Claesz van Swanenburg from Leiden, Joachim Wtewael from Utrecht, Lambert van Noort from Antwerp, Dirck and Wouter Crabeth from Gouda, Willem Tybaut from Haarlem, and others. In additional excellent essays, Xander van Eck studies the iconographic program and the contemporary context of the Gouda windows, Arjan R. de Koomen addresses the nature of cartoon production in the Netherlands, Anne van Oosterwijk and Zsuzsanna van Ruyven-Zeman analyze the artists’ working methods, Thomas Brain examines the artistic media employed in executing the cartoons, Henny van Dolder-de Wit documents the care and use of the Gouda cartoons in the centuries since their production, and Monique Staal provides an account of the conservation of the cartoons from 2005-2011.
The authors of the present volume conceived this publication as a pendant to the 2008 book on the Gouda windows, De 72 glazen van de Sint-Janskerk in Gouda (R. A. Bosch, Eburon, Delft). By simultaneously opening the two books to the pages that illustrate the windows and the corresponding cartoons, the reader can compare both stages of production, cartoon and finished window. The conservation of the Gouda windows and their cartoons, and the excellent publications presenting the results, represent a great achievement for the field of Dutch art. They will undoubtedly encourage further, much-needed study of other examples of Netherlandish monumental glass.
SUNY New Paltz