Prophet from a Tree of Jesse
- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details.
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 9, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Gallery, case WS
This panel depicting an Old Testament prophet, and nine others in the museum's collections (Mus.nos. 5-5E-1881 and 6-6C-1881), formed part of a 'Jesse Tree' window. 'Jesse Tree' windows are a visual representation of Jesus Christ's genealogy which was traced back to Jesse, the father of the Old Testament Prophet/King David.
These prophets announce the coming of Christ from the line of David and appear on the Tree accompanying images of Christ's royal ancestors. The whole window would have culminated at the top with either an image of Jesus Christ or an image of the Christ Child with his mother, Mary. At the bottom of the window would have been an image of Jesse from whom the genealogical Tree emerges.
The prophet here can be identified by the name 'ABACUS' (Habbakuk). He lived in the late 7th century BC and his prophecies are recorded in the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk. This prophet announced the triumph of the Kingdom of the Messiah and is thus intimately associated with the geneaology of Jesus Christ. Jesse Trees with their kings and prophets were produced in all forms of church art from the 11th century and throughout the medieval period. There was no standard convention for the depiction of the prophets and the kings.
The style of painting on this figure is the same as on those in panels 5D-E and 6 and 6B-1881. The facial features are full and rounded. The eyebrows are heavy and the eyes and pupils of the eyes are large. The clothing follows the form of the body. The figures' hair is straight and not curled. These figures are identified by their inscribed scrolls, have a large stemmed flower within the demi-quatrefoil they stand in and there are no small sections of ground between their feet. All of these feaures distinguish this group of prophets from the other group (5 to 5C-1881). Most of the prophet figures in this collection are paired, are mirror images of each other, indicating that each pair was made from the same cartoon or design drawing. The whole figure in this panel is the reverse of that in no. 6B-1881 indicating that they were made from the same cartoon or design drawing.
Two other panels in the museum (Mus.nos. 6D and 6E-1881) depict Kings from a 'Jesse Tree' window but were not originally part of this series of prophets panels.
Full-length figure of a man with a full of head of long hair and a beard. His head is surrounded by a halo composed of red flashed glass. The figure is in profile facing the left side of the panel. His left arm and hand are raised and are indicating to the left. He is wearing a brown mantle over a green tunic. The mantle hangs down over his right shoulder. The figure wears yellow boots or stockings. He holds a scroll in his right hand which crosses over his body and extends to the right of the panel. The scroll is composed of yellow glass with a thick matt black coat of pigment which has been scratched away with a fine stylus to reveal the letters:
ABACUS bordered top and bottom.
The figure is placed within a half quatrefoil. His right foot rests on top of the lower inner border of the quatrefoil and his left foot is placed behind the lower inner border of the quatrefoil and is not visible. There are floral sprays of blue, green, yellow and clear glass in the upper and lower spandrels of the quatrefoil. On the right of the panel is a vertical border of floral sprays composed of clear, green and brown glass. This border floral pattern is broken in the middle where it is dissected by the left projection of the quatrefoil.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details.
Marks and inscriptions
The inscription identifies the figure as Habbakuk or Habacuc the eighth of the Minor Prophets.
Height: 67 cm, Width: 37.3 cm, Depth: 3.2 cm, Weight: 6 kg
Object history note
Origins of prophet panels:
At the time of acquisition, it was believed that this panel and others in the V&A's collection (5A-E-1881 and 6-6E-1881) had originally been located in the windows of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. This chapel had been restored in the 19th century and some of the medieval windows were removed.
Prior to 1936 opinion had changed and it was thought that the original location of these panels was Troyes Cathedral, possibly in the axial chapel. In 1779 the central window of this axial chapel had been removed.
History of Troyes Cathedral:
(c.1200) Work started in the eastern choir, leaving the axial chapel last.
(c.1200-10) First phase of work.
(c.1210-1220s) Second phase of work.
(1228) Much wind damage to cathedral and collapse of the upper choir. So there probably had been damage to the Jesse window which would account for a 15-year gap in styles.
(1779) Central window the axial chapel removed (not for revolutionary reasons)
Jesse apparently occupied the centre light with Life of Virgin and typological Life of Christ on either side
(c.1800?) 4 STG panels from a Tree of Jesse were indentified amongst the shattered glazing of the axial chapel after the Revolution
(1837) Arnaud: descriptions of 4 panels of a Jesse Tree located in the lowest parts of the two facing windows of the Public Life of Christ in the 2nd and 6th bay of seven-bay axial chapel
King David plays a ‘rote’
Solomon carries a cithar in his hand
Mary holds a palm branch
Christ is blessing
(1955) Jean Lafond: Chapel's central opening (reconstruction?)
Life of Virgin - Jesse Tree - Life of Christ
Life of Christ - Jesse Tree - Life of Virgin
(1958) Grodecki noted that the V&A prophet panels were of a similar quality to the Jesse panels at Troyes.
Jesse Panels at Troyes:
Located in the current Jesse window in a north ambulatory chapel:
1) King panel: Daniel [?], holds a guitar like structure and a bow which goes across the instrument and not on the shoulder
2) King panel: Solomon [how identified?]
3) Virgin panel
4) Christ panel – topmost as is arched
Paston Comments on why V&A panels are from Troyes window:
1) measurements match height of Troyes panels
2) all would fit into the axial chapel window
3) all panels exhibit similar pitting
A series of prophets at the V&A have been associated with the glass at Troyes since Grodecki (1958). The dimensions of the panels (65 x 36) fit perfectly in the axial window and complement the trunk figures. However, the prophets of this series are executed with a vaiety of pictorial styles associated with the years 1220 and 1230. This suggest that they were completed in a certain period and that they are probably from a ancient disruption of the glassmaking.
Historical context note
Father of David, grandson of Ruth and Boaz.
(Old Testament prophet) Isaiah (11:1-3) A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
Isaiah (?): Messiah would come from the House of David.
Named in Matthew (1: 5-6) and Luke (3: 22) as an ancestor of Jesus.
Gospel of St Matthew:
Jesse – David – Solomon – Rehoboam – Abijah – Asa – Jehosophat – Joram – Azariah – Jotham – Ahaz
Major Prophets: Elijah (Elias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (Ezechiel), Daniel
Minor Prophets: Hosea (Osee), Joel, Amos, Obadiah (Abdias), Johah, Micah (Michea), Nahum, Habakkuk (Habacuc), Zephaniah (Sophonias), Haggai (Aggaeus), Zechariah (Zacharias), Malaachi.
Others considered as: Moses, David, Solomon
III. Visual Representation of Tree of Jesse:
A window whose design is based on the descent of Jesus from the royal line of David, usually in the form of a tree springing from Jesse (David's father) and ending in Jesus or the Virgin and Child, with the intermediary descendents placed on scrolls of foliage branching out of each other.
Jesses appear from 11th century
(1086.) Vysehrad Codex in Prague University
(12thc.) STG window, St Denis -
Lady Chapel - restored in 1848, current window includes both 12th and 19th century glass
J jesse - king - king - king - Virgin - Christ
flanked by 4 prophets either side
(12thc.) STG window, Chartres
Branches are labelled with names of His ancestors.
(c.1196) Parma. Baptistery, West jamb of North doorway
Virgin, Jesse, six kings either side, David, Solomon, Roboam, Abia, Asa, Josaphat, Joram, Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, Ezekias, Manassss
They hold books or scrolls but how does Watson know who they
(end 12thc.) Hildesheim, St. Michael's Church, painting on ceiling
Restored in 19th century so how can be sure of names?
Isaiah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Michah, Hahum, Balalm, Jeremiah, Hosea, Obadiah, Haggai, Jonah, John the Baptist - ancestors of Christ according to Luke's geneology (42 out of 70)
(c.1185) Hortus Deliciarum
If Suger did initiate the idea of representing the Tree of Jesse at Saint-Denis, he did not evolve the design out of nothing. It is reasonable to think the representation in a window was based on an earlier minature. Because a group of prophets appears in the Chartres window, it isn't a given that it came from the Limoges prophet drama. Jesses can have or can not have genealogical tables.
IV. Textual Sources:
(5th or 6thc.) Pseudo-Augustine, Sermo contra Judaeos, paganos et Arianos de Symbolo (Migne, P.L. XLII, 1117-30)
precursor to 'lectio' read at Matins at Christmas [so developed into a Christmas play?]
Prophets from lectio:
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Moses, David, Habakkuk, Simeon, Zacharias, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Virgil, Nebuchadnezzar, the Erythraen Sibyl
(11thc.) Processus Prophetarum (Feast of Ass)
(12thc.) Prophet drama of St-Martial, Limoges (in Paris)
(12th-13thcs.) Ordo Representacionis Ade (in Tours)
probably written in England
28 prophets: Moses, Amos Isaias, Aaron, Balaam and his ass, Zachary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, 3 Gentile prophets
(13thc.) Ordo Prophetarum (in Laon)
(13thc.) Christmas Play (in Munich)
V. Design Sources:
Annunciation: Isaias, David, Ezechiel, Jeremias
Nativity: Daniel, Isaias, Habacuc, Micheas
Adoration: David, Isaias, Balaam
Presentation: David, Malachias, Zacharias, Sophonias
Flight Egypt: Isaias, David, Jeremias, Osee
Fall Idols: Osee, Nahum, Zacharias, Sophonias
Massacre: David, Proverbs, Jeremias, Osee
Return Egypt: David, Osee x2, Zacharias
Baptism: Isaias, David, Ezechiel, Zacharias
This panel depicting an Old Testament prophet and nine others in the museum's collection (Museum nos. 5-5E-1881 and 6-6C-1881) formed part of at least two different 'Jesse Tree' windows.
'Jesse Tree' windows are a visual representation of Jesus Christ's royal genealogy. Christ's ancesters were believe to trace their line back to Jesse, the father of the Old Testament Prophet King David.
These prophets announce the coming of Christ from the line of David and appear on the Tree accompanying images of Christ's royal ancestors. The whole window would have culminated at the top with either an image of Jesus Christ or an image of the Christ Child with his mother, Mary. At the bottom of the window there would have been an image of Jesse from whom the genealogical Tree emerges.
Two other panels in the museum (Mus.nos. 6D and 6E-1881) depict Kings from a 'Jesse' Tree' window but were not originally part of either of these series of prophets.
This panel depicting an Old Testament prophet, and nine others in the museum' collections (Mus.nos. 5-E-1881 and 6-C-1881), formed part of a 'Jesse Tree' window. 'Jesse Tree' windows are a visual representation of Jesus Christ's genealogy which was traced back to Jesse, the father of the Old Testament Prophet/King David. These prophets announce the coming of Christ from the line of David and appear on the Tree accompanying images of Christ's royal ancestors. The whole window would have an image of Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary, on the top. At the bottom of the window would have been an image of Jesse from whom the genealogical Tree emerges.
This panel depicts the Old Testament prophet Habbakuk as identified by the scroll he carries in his hands. St Paul, in his writings in the New Testament, cites the words of Habbakuk as proof that righteousness comes from faith.
Two other panels in the museum (Mus.nos. 6D and 6E-1881) depict Kings from a 'Jesse Tree' window but were not originally part of this series of prophets.
Panel of clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details. Depicting the prophet Abacus (Habbakuk), from a Tree of Jesse window. Probably from Troyes Cathedral. Made in France (Champagne), c.1210-45
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
V.C. Raguin, Stained Glass in Thirteenth-century Burgundy, Princeton, 1982
E.C. Paston, "And he shall gather together the dispersed: The Tree of Jesse at Troyes Cathedral", Gesta, vol.37, no.2 (1998), pp.232-9
E.C. Paston, "The Tree of Jesse at Troyes Cathedral", in Stained Glass as Monumental Painting (XIXthe International Cooloquium, CVMA, Krakow 1998), Cracow, 2000, pp.55-65
Madeline Caviness & Virginia Raguin, 'Another Dispersed Window from Soisssons: A Tree of Jesse in the Sainte-Chapelle Style'. Gesta, XX (1981), pp.191-198
Grodecki, Louis, Les Vitraux de Saint-Denis, I, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, 1976
Tree of Jesse; Prophet; Scroll
Religion; Christianity; Stained Glass