Stained Glass - Art at the Glass Surface
Cambridge - Monday 4th and
Tuesday 5th September 2017



Birgit Verplancke
<hallo@birgitverplancke.be>

article posted 18 May 2017

Bachelor in the conservation and restoration of stained glass Currently finishing the master of conservation and restoration at the university of Antwerp Independent conservator and restorer of glass Recognized craftsman by the FOD economy Belgium


A specific approach for the conservation of fragment windows
B. Verplancke*, G. Bovyn, J. Caen

University of Antwerp, Faculty of Design Sciences, Heritage Department Conservation Studies

Heritage as a phenomenon presents itself nearly always as an assemblage of materials and techniques as well as an assemblage of values throughout time. Panels of fragments – produced as a ‘real assemblage’ on their own – have survived the ravages of time, and are, by interventions, re-assembled according to certain values and appreciations. This re-assemblage can be complete or partial. Inspired by the recent discussions about the removing of a window with fragments in the Church of St John in Gouda, this presentation probes into the necessity of a specific approach to the conservation of fragment panels.

The issue about panels with fragments is complex. The fragments have been placed together in a certain way (organized or not). They are mostly assembled according to a specific point of view. It is only in the past few decades that specific guidelines around the conservation of stained glass have been drawn up. These were kept quite broad, as they had to be applied to a varied range of stained-glass windows. This means the guidelines sometimes have to be interpreted, especially when it comes to panels of this kind. However, the guidelines and methods proposed by the Corpus Vitrearum do not always match the issues presented by these panels. This leads us to the following question: Do panels with fragments and mosaic windows need a specific approach with regards to conservation?

Not only we should confront ourselves with the question as to whether the accepted methodology is appropriate to these panels and windows, but we should also take into account that there is a difference between immovable objects – these are stained-glass windows that are still ‘in situ’- and movable (museum) objects. The latter are stained-glass windows that belong to a collection and can be freely manipulated.

The presentation will ask whether it is desirable/ethical to conserve objects whilst following the ‘classic’ methodology of conservation. Or whether the conservator should one follow an approach that recognizes the existence of such panels in their own context, and simultaneously stays close to the choices made by the artist or craftsman who produced them.

In this presentation a case study with six possible conservation possibilities will be explored.