Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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John Hardman (1811 – 67) was one of the pioneers of the stained glass revival of the nineteenth century. His Birmingham based operation started out as an ecclesiastical metal works but, at the suggestion of A.W.N. Pugin, the business expanded into glass manufacture in 1845. Pugin designed for the firm until his death in 1852 when this role passed onto his nephew John Hardman Powell.

The Chapel glazing scheme was designed in house in the 1860s as part of Principal Forbes’ restoration project. Unlike Forbes’ architectural improvements, which were funded by the government, the stained glass was paid for by donations from private individuals. The whole process of the commission can be traced through documentation kept in the University Library and the unusually complete records of Hardman’s (now in the collections of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery).

Only two of the windows survive in situ but the University Collections hold the panels removed in the 1960s to make way for William Wilson’s new windows. The surviving windows occupy bays four and five (counting from the Chapel’s west end) and are excellent examples of the Gothic Revival style. Intricate tracery forms the matrix for designs that reflect the Victorians’ profound respect of the twelfth century stained glass of Canterbury and Chartres. Ruby reds and deep blues predominate in the compositions. Each window is divided into three lights which feature a Biblical scene framed by an elaborate canopy above and a Latin inscription beneath. Below the figurative scenes are placed square memorial panels. The centre panel bears heraldic motifs relevant to the personage commemorated in the winding scrolls of the flanking panels. All of the inscriptions are drawn in the Lombardic script popular in the twelfth century. The top third of each window is given over to ornamental, foliate designs and intricate tracery – trefoils, quatrefoils and similar Gothic forms.

The first Hardman window to be seen on entering the Chapel (in bay four) is dedicated to Lord Colonsay. The scenes depicted are, from left to right: Moses and the Ten Commandments; Christ Healing the Sick; and The Judgement of Solomon. The other window commemorates Jesse Playfair, the wife of the famous Provost Playfair who carried out a major renovation of the Chapel in the 1840s. The scenes depicted are: Moses and the Burning Bush; Joseph Triumphant in Egypt; and Joseph Sold by his Brethren.

Mid-nineteenth century stained glass is often viewed with derision by those more used to the agonies and ecstasies of the Pre-Raphaelite designs of Morris & Co. but there is much to commend in the windows of firms such as Hardman’s. The crisp, bright colouring and vigorous modelling of the figures in the Chapel windows is typical of the firm’s work. The juxtaposition of the Hardman windows with the neighbouring designs by Henry Holiday and William Wilson presents a striking contrast to the viewer. It is one not altogether unfavourable to the oldest surviving windows in St Salvator’s Chapel.

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