Stained Glass Window with Scenes from the Life of Saint Vincent
|Medium:||paint on stained glass|
|Dimensions:||132 3/4 x 43 1/2 in. (337.2 x 110.5 cm)|
|Credit Line:||Acquired by Henry Walters, 1918|
|Description:||This window, part of a pair devoted to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, was made for the Lady Chapel at the monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris) and funded by the local lay community and pilgrims. The window commemorates St. Vincent's life and two of his relics-his tunic and his jawbone-given as royal gifts to the monastery.|
The story on the Saint Vincent Window reads from bottom to top and left to right.
The lowest pair of panels show at the left, Vincent's mentor, Bishop Valarius, dressed in a yellow cope and a miter and holding a crozier. Vincent wears a red dalmatic, the vestment of a deacon, and raises his hand in a gesture of speech to preach to the group of people gathered at the right.
Above, the next pair of panels depict the provincial governor of Saragossa, Dacian, standing to the left, dressed in a long green tunic and purple cloak and holding a sword. He points with his right hand to command the torture of Vincent over a fire shown on the rightmost panel. This right panel is a modern reproduction of the original in London (Victoria and Albert Museum, 8-1881).
On the next pair of panels, above, at the left is a modern abstract design of colored glass to fill a lost narrative scene; at the right, Dacian commands Vincent to be imprisoned in a cell with broken potsherds covering the floor. Vincent stands in a tower-like prison. Flowers with red petals surround him in his cell. The flowers illustrate the miraculous transformation of the sharp potsherds into soft flowers experienced by Vincent. A guard standing to the left of Dacian watches the miracle and converts to Christianity. Vincent turns his eyes toward this guard.
On the second pair of panels from the top, the leftmost panel depicts Vincent placed on a soft bed with pillows before another round of torture. Vincent dies in this bed. His soul, shown as a small, naked figure in an almond-shaped halo, is carried heavenward by two angels. On the rightmost panel, Vincent's body is left in an open field for wild animals to eat, but an angel watches over it and sends a crow to drive away the hungry wolves.
The uppermost scene on the window shows Dacian commanding Saint Vincent's body to be weighted with a millstone and cast overboard far out at sea by two sailors.
Attribution and Date
Scenes from the life of Saint Vincent of Saragossa are illustrated on stained glass panels in the Walters Art Museum. Recent scholarship suggests that these panels originally came from two windows of the Lady Chapel at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, built between 1245 and 1247, under architect Pierre de Montreuil. Mary Shepard identified fragments of window panels presently in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 24.167 A - K), Baltimore (Walters Art Museum, 46.65 - 69), London (Victoria and Albert Museum, 8-1881)) and Wilton Parish Church in Wiltshire, England as belonging to a pair of windows displaying scenes of the life and the relics of Saint Vincent from the Lady Chapel at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Saint-Germain-des-Prés possessed two important relics of Saint Vincent, the tunic of Saint Vincent given to the monastery by the Merovingian king, Childebert, in 542, and a portion of Saint Vincent's jawbone, a gift made to the abbey in 1215, by the future French king, Louis VIII. Shepard argued that the windows of the Lady Chapel were made to acclaim the prestigious saints, relics, and royal patronage of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Jane Hayward identified the window fragments in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Walters Art Museum as belonging to the Lady Chapel at Saint-Germain-des-Prés based on 18th-century descriptions of the glass in situ written by Sauval and Bouillart.
From the Lady Chapel of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris; Abbey of Saint-Denis, 1840 [as described by Baron François de Guilhermy]; Charles Tollin, Paris; Jacques Seligmann, Paris; Henry Walters, Baltimore, December 26, 1918, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
The windows were dismantled, cleaned and reassembled in 1958-1959 by Rowan and Irene Le Compte.
- Mary Shepard, "The Relics Window of Saint Vincent of Saragossa at Saint-Germain-des-Prés," Gesta 37 (1998): 258-65.
- Jane Hayward, English and French Medieval Stained Glass in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 1, Corpus Vitrearum, United States of America, Part 1 (New York: Harvey Miller Publishers and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for American Corpus Vitrearum, Inc. 2003),163-85.