Tucks and Darts

Adjusting Patterns to Fit Figures for Stained Glass Windows around 1200
  • Madeline H. Caviness
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


It is well known to everyone who studies medieval stained glass that the standard way to design and execute a window was to draw the full-size cartoon on a sized tabletop. This process was described by a monastic author who dubbed himself “Theophilus” in the twelfth century, and the only extant tabletop with a window design is in the Cathedral of Gerona, where it was used more than once in the fourteenth century.1 Such designs showed very clearly the matrix of lead cames that were to join the pieces of colored glass, so that the glasses could be marked for cutting, or even cut, on the rigid working surface. They also showed sufficient detail—drapery folds, facial features, leaf veins—to guide the draughtsmen who were to paint these features on the glass. The Gerona table demonstrates the versatility of this kind of pattern, in that the architectural canopy was repeated in at least two lights, whereas the figures under it were changed; this was easily done by whiting out part of the design and drawing new elements. Colors were noted by letters, and these too could be changed. When the glaziers had finished with this tabletop, they abandoned it in the eaves of the cathedral. The question raised in this paper is what might they have done if they had wished to make replicas of this window at another site? Transporting large panels is not impossible, but it would be costly. I am looking for a portable intermediary that could be used to generate the new setting-table design.2


North Side Colored Glass Twelfth Century Architectural Canopy Figural Panel 
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  1. 1.
    Theophilus, De Diuersis Artibus II, in “De componendis fenestris ,” ed. and trans. C. R. Dodwell (London: Nelson Press, 1961), p. xvii;Google Scholar
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    Madeline H. Caviness, The Early Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 88–89, figs. 175 [upside down], 176;Google Scholar
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    Madeline H. Caviness, Sumptuous Arts at the Royal Abbeys in Reims and Braine: Ornatus elegantia et varietate stupendae (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 120 and Appendix D, esp. R.b.20 and C.b.4.Google Scholar
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    David O’Connor and Jeremy Haselock, “The Stained and Painted Glass,” in A History of York Minster, ed. G. E. Aylmer and Reginald Cant (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), pp. 318–19. They interpret this oiled cloth as a temporary weatherproof and translucent window filling, replaced by glass in 670, but perhaps it was the pattern.Google Scholar
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    Linen is mentioned by Scheller, Exemplum, pp. 72–73, who observes that the same fabric was used for both architectural templates and for patterns for glass. For templates drawn on wood or fabric,Google Scholar
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    Hermann Roth, “Der Maler Henritz Heyl und die spätgotischen Glasmalereien in der Pfarrkirche zu Friedberg / Hessen in urkundlichen Nachrichten,” in Festgabe für Christian Rauch, Mitteilungen des Oberhessischen Geschichtsvereins, n. F. 44 (Giessen, Germany: Wilhelm Schmitz Verlag, 1960), pp. 86, 97.Google Scholar

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© E. Jane Burns 2004

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  • Madeline H. Caviness

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