March 28, 2013

Monumental Stained Glass Windows from Canterbury Cathedral to Travel to the Getty Museum

Six of the earliest and most important surviving examples of English stained glass, dating back to the 12th century, will be on view alongside one of the most famous English Romanesque manuscripts of this period

September 20, 2013–February 2, 2014
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center


MEDIA CONTACT:                 
Amy Hood
Getty Communications
(310) 440-6427

Jared (detail), 1178–80. Attributed to the Methuselah Master (English, active late 1170s).
Colored glass and vitreous paint; lead came. © Robert Greshoff Photography, Courtesy Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that six dazzling, monumental stained glass panels depicting the Ancestors of Christ from England’s famed Canterbury Cathedral will travel to Los Angeles later this year for an exceptionally rare exhibition opportunity. Five of these 12th-century stained glass works are leaving the Cathedral precincts for the very first time.

The colorful windows will be one of the highlights of the exhibition Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister, which will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from September 20, 2013 to February 2, 2014. Following the installation at the Getty, the stained glass windows will travel to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York City in spring 2014.

“To see these beautiful four-foot panels of stained glass—incredible masterpieces of medieval English art that have graced the storied, magnificent cathedral at Canterbury for more than eight centuries—will be an unprecedented and extraordinary opportunity for Los Angeles. Because of the generosity of Canterbury Cathedral and the Getty’s strong international reputation, visitors will have the opportunity to experience the majesty and romance of Canterbury by being able to see these windows in all their glory up close,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the best-known Christian buildings in England and is part of a World Heritage Site. Famously featured in Geoffrey Chaucer’s
Canterbury Tales, the Cathedral has attracted thousands of pilgrims honoring Saint Thomas Becket, who was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170. As the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, Canterbury will be the site of the March 21st enthronement service for the Anglican head of church, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The windows depict imposing, near life-sized seated patriarchs of the Old Testament, including Noah and Abraham, from a series representing the ancestors of Christ. The six figures on view at the Getty had been installed in the Great South Window at Canterbury since the late eighteenth century when they were moved there from their original settings in the cathedral’s clerestory. Along with 18 other figures, they were removed from the Great South Window in July 2009 so that conservation work could be done on the architectural framing. Since then, the panels have been exhibited in rotations of four at a time in the Cathedral’s crypt.

David as Musician (detail), about 1120–30. Alexis Master (English, active 1100–1130).
Tempera and gold on parchment. Dombibliothek Hildesheim

Alongside the windows, Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister will feature another rarely viewed medieval British work, the St. Albans Psalter (circa 1130) on loan from the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany. A landmark in English Romanesque art, this illuminated manuscript contains an extensive series of life-of-Christ images that act as a preface to the Psalter, which is further decorated with intricately painted and gilded initials. This book of psalms is believed to have been made for the anchoress Christina of Markyate (about 1095/1100–after 1155), a noble-born nun of Anglo-Saxon descent.

Like the stained glass windows from Canterbury, the exhibition of the St. Albans Psalter is possible for a brief time because of a conservation project. The Psalter was unbound for a facsimile project and will be rebound again in the coming years. In its unbound state, visitors will have the opportunity to walk through several galleries filled with its luxuriously painted pages.
  Halfway through the exhibition, the Getty will rotate the leaves on display, allowing visitors to view additional pages.

These two bodies of works—both rarely viewed in a museum setting—are among the most famous examples of English Romanesque art. Together, they offer visitors an unprecedented chance to study the innovations of 12th-century English painting on a monumental and miniature scale. Both the Psalter, created at the beginning of the 12th-century and the stained glass from Canterbury, created at the end of that same century, share the fully modeled and articulated figures, saturated colors and elaborately patterned border decorations that characterize Romanesque painting.

Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister is curated by Kristen Collins, associate curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum and Jeffrey Weaver, associate curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition will be accompanied by two publications, one about the St. Albans Psalter, edited by Collins, and one about the Ancestors of Christ windows at Canterbury, edited by Weaver.

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

The J. Paul Getty Museum
collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and photographs gathered internationally. The Museum’s mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.

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