The Seventh Window is an anthology conceptualized and edited by Wim de Groot, which brings together twenty-one scholars from various fields and countries to ruminate over one of King Philip II of Spain’s lasting artistic legacies in the Netherlands: his stained glass window donated in 1557 to Sint Janskerk in Gouda. Depicting the dedication of the Temple of King Solomon in the upper register, King Philip and Queen Mary kneeling before the Last Supper in the middle, and a cartouche in the lowest register, this tripartite window has garnered little art-historical attention until this impressive volume. The book is conceived in two sections: first, the cultural and political landscape of the decade preceding the King’s commission; second, more art- historically-minded, the production and donation of the window itself and its afterlife. Because of the diverse approaches in the volume, the book presents an all-encompassing study of the window and the events and people that led to its commission and execution. In a Netherlandish context, King Philip II is often discussed in conjunction with the Spanish oppression that spurred the Revolt of the Netherlands; this book, however, presents a view into the early years of Philip’s sovereignty of the Netherlands, when the city of Gouda was still Catholic and loyal to their distant ruler.
Spared by the glass-shattering iconoclasts of 1566 and preserved by caretakers throughout the past five hundred years, Gouda’s Sint Janskerk holds a unique position as the only church in the Netherlands that still has the majority of its sixteenth- and seventeenth-century windows in situ, with their cartoons preserved in the archives. Because of Dirck Crabeth’s original cartoon and Christoffel Pierson’s 1675 drawings of the King’s window, restorers have been able to keep the window true to its original form and design. Indeed, while restoring Crabeth’s cartoon, Wim de Groot was inspired to create a book entirely focused on this well-preserved window and its drawings.
In the first section of the book, Geoffrey Parker sets out the political history of Philip II at the time of the commission and his predilection for Solomonic imagery. Estrella Cavero Saiz devotes a chapter to the transition between the reign of Charles V and his son Philip II. She reads the window as a multivalent representation: Philip’s marriage to Mary Tudor (she, too, is represented at the Last Supper scene); unity against the Ottomans; and political friction with France. Glyn Redworth’s chapter views the balance of power between Mary and Philip, who ruled as “co-monarchs” of England. Other essays focus on the relationship between Philip and the city of Gouda, noting that the King did not visit the city on his tour of the Netherlands. Yet, as Koen Goudriaan argues, the city authorities secured the stained glass commission with Philip to solidify a good relationship with their absent ruler. Corrie Ridderikhoff and Lucy Schlüter’s chapter decodes Erasmian elements in the window. Even Sint Janskerk is treated as a subject in a few chapters: selections review its architectural similarities to Gothic cathedrals and chart its history through fire, new building campaigns, other natural disasters, and wartime. Finally, Marloes Biermans reimagines the aural environment of the church at the time of the commission.
The second section focuses more narrowly on the history of stained glass commissions, the subject matter of the window, and finally the process of execution. Jan van Damme explicates the procedure of requesting a royal donation for a stained glass window, noting the long history of Burgundian dukes and Habsburg rulers commissioning windows, and he brings to light the role that Viglius van Aytta specifically played in planning the symbolism of the window. Several authors further extrapolate the symbolic program of the window: Juan Rafael de la Cuadra Blanco discusses how Philip II viewed himself as the second Solomon (shown to great effect at the Escorial Palace); Wim de Groot convincingly argues that the dedication of the temple of Solomon stands as a metaphor for the succession of Charles V to Philip II.
Other authors take up the depiction of the Last Supper in later chapters, arguing that the scene presents Philip II’s ardent belief in the Eucharist and the miracle of transubstantiation. Rebecca Zorach offers an anthropological view of the Eucharist scene and interprets the vertical axis of the window as a sign of masculine genealogy, of sacrifice, and of movement between the earthly and spiritual. Andrea C. Gasten shifts attention from the sacramental scene to the inspiration and sources for the representations of Philip and Mary.
Peter Fuhring presents Dirck Crabeth as an innovator of strapwork, and through speculative calculations, Wim de Groot argues that Crabeth was well paid for his work – at least for a craftsman. The procedures for creating a stained glass window are discussed by Joost M.A. Caen. He notes the uniqueness of the Crabeth brothers, who participated at all levels of creation: the design, cartoon, drawing, and execution. The book ends with a chapter on the history of the conservation of the window.
One of the best aspects of this anthology is the breadth of this multidisciplinary study, prompted by a single significant object. Examined from multiple angles and perspectives, the book presents an enlightening 360-degree view of the window. As noted by Wim de Groot in his preface, the characters of Dirck Crabeth and his brother Wouter are at times elusive. The shadowy Crabeth brothers do emerge in the last four chapters of the book, but more could be said regarding their style and how the King’s window compares to their other commissions. The reader should note, however, that Wim de Groot promises another book devoted solely to the Crabeth brothers.
If the Seventh Window had been even longer, more could be written about how a viewer encounters the window and how the surrounding stained glass in the church molds the worship experience. In the seventeenth century, for instance, moments from the Dutch Revolt were memorialized in glass at Sint Janskerk, creating a symbolic program at philosophical odds with Philip’s statement for Catholicism and monarchy. Readers will be pleased to find English transcriptions of all Latin texts in the window, and laudable reproductions of the windows and their drawings in both the book and a complimentary CD.
University of Pennsylvania/Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam