This weighty publication completes the third installment of C.J. Berserik’s and J.M.A. Caen’s monumental checklist of Netherlandish painted-glass roundels preserved in Belgian public and private collections (the earlier two volumes were reviewed by this writer in this journal’s April 2012 issue: C.J. Berserik and J. M. A. Caen, Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels before the French Revolution, Flanders, vol. 1: The Province of Antwerp, and vol. 2: The Provinces of East and West Flanders, Turnhout, 2007 and 2011, along with Caen’s important technical study, The Production of Stained Glass in the County of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant from the XVth to the XVIIIth Centuries: Methods and Materials, Turnhout, 2009). Berserik and Caen have researched Netherlandish roundels for decades as members of the Dutch and Belgian committees of the Corpus Vitrearum, the international organization formed after World War II devoted to the study and publication of medieval and Renaissance stained glass. In recent years, the art of the stained and painted glass roundel, which enjoyed significant popularity in the Netherlands during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, has garnered increasing attention among art historians. The present, well-researched volume adds a wealth of fascinating new material for study, much of it little known, previously unpublished, and/or long hidden from view in private collections and museum storage rooms.
The American and British Corpus Vitrearum committees have produced earlier checklists dedicated to roundels, notably by Timothy B. Husband (1991) and William Cole (1993). In addition, several Corpus Vitrearum commentary volumes have addressed roundels along with larger panes, for instance Virginia Raguin’s catalogue of stained glass in the Midwest United States (2002) and, more recently, for the Canadian committee, James Bugslag’s and Ariane Isler-de Jong’s volume on the Hosmer House collection at McGill University (2014). The sheer number of entries in the three Belgian volumes attests to the popularity of the roundel art form and to its wide range in styles and subjects. As in their first two volumes, Berserik and Caen present a detailed analysis of each roundel’s attribution, technique, condition, and provenance, list bibliographical references, and identify related works of art. The third volume in particular provides extensively researched comparative material for each entry, describing and illustrating numerous related roundels, drawings, prints, and paintings.
The catalogue organizes the entries according to the panel’s current location, and consists of three parts. Part 1A, the largest section, examines figural roundels, unipartite panels, and roundel fragments. Part 1B treats inscription panels and armorials, identifying many of them with the help of the heraldic specialist Marc Van de Cruys. Part 2 documents now lost roundels, some listed in sales catalogues and some photographed before they disappeared through sale, destruction, or some other loss. The lost works are illustrated whenever possible, and as a result some may now come to light in a foreign church window, a private collection, or a museum storage room.
Produced for various environments in domestic, secular, and religious buildings, painted glass roundels depict a wide range of religious, secular, and ancient themes, as earlier checklists have shown. As a relatively new art form, roundels were not tied to older artistic traditions, and many subjects are unusual. Among other topics are the following: series of saints, seasons, and personifications; Old and New Testament miracles; heroes, such as Samson and Daniel; and narratives, for instance the Prodigal Son, Tobit and the Angel, and Herkinbald, cutting his nephew’s throat.
The demand for glass images encouraged designers to devise new methods of production. As the present volume especially highlights, compositions were frequently executed in multiples. For instance, four versions are published of a design of the Death of Charandos from the circle of Dirk Vellert, and numerous Trionfi scenes from the circle of Pieter Coecke van Aelst are repeated in at least two or three panels each. Netherlandish roundel cycles no longer exist in their original settings, and many series are only known in incomplete states. With the publication here of so many previously unknown roundels, it will now be more possible to understand their use, to reconstruct long-dispersed cycles, and to add previously unknown scenes to established series.
The checklist also includes a large number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century glass roundels, a group that has been less studied than those of the sixteenth century. While roundels from the first half of the sixteenth century favored subtle effects of grisaille and silver-stain, by the late sixteenth century glass panels were often executed with brightly colored enamels, as can be seen, for instance, in paintings by Jan Vermeer, such as the Young Woman with a Wine Glass in Braunschweig.
Berserik and Caen, who have assembled the most extensive database on glass roundels in existence, numbering about 30,000 datasheets, plan to produce more volumes on roundels and on larger glass panels. Their enormous contribution now provides a great foundation for further study of leading artists who designed glass – figures such as Coecke, Vellert, Jan Swart, and many others – and it may, in addition, help bring to light names that are less known, such as Jan Aeps, Pieter Boels, and Jan de Caumont, thus helping to add a further dimension to our knowledge of an important medium of Netherlandish art.
SUNY New Paltz