Verrière-tapis with Maple Leaves and The Crucifixion,
Rhine Valley ca. 1330
Stained Glass Tapestry
with Maple Leaf Pattern
Rhine Valley, ca. 1330
H. 0.85 m ; W. 0.35 m
church in Colmar (?)
Gift from Montreuil, 1899
At the end of the 13th and beginnin g o fthe 14th centuries, the Rhine Valley experience a real urban and economic surge. A renewal in faith turns into a period of intense creativity. This is the time of high choirs and vast naves, whose large and numerous bays spurred a huge stained glass movement.
After the Cistersians came the mendicant orders, who turned to the fatihful of the cities to whom they recommended a more personal form of piety. Without adopting the absolute austerity of the Cistercians, the general chapter of the Franciscans of Narbonne (1260) still prescribed the interdiction iconography, with the exception of Christ on the Cross surrounded by saints for the choir windows. These recommendations started by favourising bays with clear grisaille. However by 1280-1300, there was a return to bright blue and red colours, as seen in Strasbourg Cathedral. The 14th century saw stained glass pieced saturated with colours that highlight the quality of Germanic plated glass. Playing on a naturalist decoration, they created it on a grand scale; hence the name stained glass tapestry.
Surrounded by a decoration of maple leaves, under an architectured tabernacle and gable, appears the figured scene of Christ on the Cross which features an unidentified religious donor. The repetition of figurative and decorative themes in the Rhine Valley - for example, the axis stained glass in the choir at Mutzig - increases the difficulty of provenance.
According to a photograph taken before 1899, this stained glass would have been in the Colmar Dominican church, but the bays in this building are too big to hold it and the church already has a stained glass depicting Christ on the Cross. According to other sources, it could have come from the Franciscan church, but neither the white vestments of the donor, nor the scale of the maple leaf patterns, very much reduced compared to those still in place, support this theory. Equivalent ornamental panels are also preserved at Bradenburg cathedral and the museum of Nuremburg, but those of the museum of Munich, whose provenance is not certain (Comar, Franciscan church ?), follow an identical pattern. In any case, this group of stained glass pieces with common patterns, given a few variations, is attributed to stained glass workshops on both sides of the Rhine. It remains one of the most beautiful surviving examples.