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Esau Gives up his Birthright

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Lower Rhine (Germany) (made)

  • Date:

    1521 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rensig, Everhard (maker)
    Remisch, Gerhard (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details and silver stain

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr E. E. Cook

  • Museum number:

    C.120-1945

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50b, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case WN

This panel is one of many in the V&A that comes from the cloisters at Mariawald. These panels come from ten windows on the west and north sides of the cloister, plus one from the north end of the eastern part. The glazing of these cloisters began about 1510 and seem to have been completed in the 1530s.

Mariawald was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1480. The Cistercians were a monastic order established in 1098 in Burgundy at Citeaux. The founder of the Cistercians had broken away from the Benedictines which had been the first monastic order to be established in Europe, in the 6th century.

During the Revolutionary struggles in France and the subsequent religious upheavals under Napoleon, many monastic institutions on the continent were 'secularised' and their buildings destroyed. The abbey of Mariawald was closed down in 1802 but fortunately its buildings, including the cloisters, remain largely intact. However, the stained glass windows had been removed and it is believed that they were purchased by John Christopher Hampp of Norwich. Hampp sold the Mariawald panels to various churches and to private collectors. Many of these were purchased by the collector, Lord Brownlow who had them installed in his new chapel at Ashridge Park in Hertfordshire between 1811 and 1831.

In 1928 the contents of Ashridge Park were sold at auction and a private collector purchased the stained glass and gave it to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

W are able to reconstruct how the panels were placed in the cloister windows. Each window was composed of two openings ('lights'). Each light was composed of three large panels, plus one small tracery panel. So there would have been eight panels to each window.

From the surviving stained glass panels we can determine the theme of the cloister glazing. Each window had two panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament and two panels with scenes from the New Testament. Above the biblical story panels, were two smaller prophet (or 'messenger') panels. These contained half-images of Old Testament prophets holding scrolls with text relating to biblical passages connected with the scenes below. At the base of each window were donor and patron saint panels. These donors were the ones who contributed to the financing of the cloister glazing.

This type of narrative arrangement is known as 'typological'. Each Old Testament story was a 'type' or a prefigurement of a New Testament story ('antitype'). The prophets on each window would hold text from the Bible relating to the Old and New Testament stories. For example, this panel shows the Old Testament story of 'Jacob Tempting Esau'. It was placed in the window just above that of the New Testament scene of 'The Temptations of Christ (Museum no. C.237-1928). Jacob and Esau were the sons of Isaac. Jacob tempted the hungry Esau with food in exchange for his birthright as the eldest son and heir. This event prefigured that of the devil tempting Jesus Christ with worldly goods.

The typological arrangement was popular in the Middle Ages. The stories were reproduced in manuscripts and in engravings from woodcuts and collectively became known as 'Biblia Pauperum' ('Bibles of the Poor'). At the end of the 15th century the Biblia Pauperum were printed in book form and sold in their thousands. These books were used as design sources for artworks including stained glass panels.

Physical description

Esau stand in profile on the right of the panel. He wears a short blue garment over which is a red robe. He wears green tights and yellow boots. Slung across his back is a bow and a quiver of arrows. Jacob approaches him from a doorway on the left. He is wearing a yellow shirt with green sleeves and a blue coat richly trimmed with fur and a yellow and white, jewelled, trim. He has a red cap on his head and a red pouch attached to his belt. Jacob hold outs a bowl of pottage to Esau who points towards it. The scene is contained within a Renaissance-style porch.

A small kitchen is visible through a door where a boy crouches, tending a pot and a roasting iron on which is a small animal. Five fish are suspended from a rod above. A small dog looks into the kitchen. All painted in brown pigment and silver stain.

Place of Origin

Lower Rhine (Germany) (made)

Date

1521 (made)

Artist/maker

Rensig, Everhard (maker)
Remisch, Gerhard (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details and silver stain

Marks and inscriptions

Genesis XV 1521

CSLENT
1521
artist's monogram but unclear what letters they represent

Dimensions

Height: 73.0 cm in display frame, Width: 70.5 cm in display frame, Weight: 9.2 kg in metal frame with perspex backing, Depth: 3.2 cm in display frame, Height: 69.6 cm sight, Width: 67.3 cm sight

Object history note

See Nominal File (MA/1/A975) for acquisition and condition information.

In the cloister of Mariawald until about 1802.

From about 1811 until 1928 it was installed in the Chapel at Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire.

(12 July 1928) Sold at Sotheby's.

The glazing of the Mariawald cloister, confined to ten windows on the west and north sides and one at the north end of the east walk, and made up entirely of two-light windows, seems to have started at the beginning of the second decade of the 16th century and probably continued until the early 1530s.

From the surviving panels and the existing windows it can be seen that the programme was made up of paired Old and New Testament scenes arranged typologically one above the other (New Testament at the second level, Old Testament in the third), as in the Biblia Pauperum, with donor panels placed on the lowest level. A prophet with a scroll occupied the cusped head of each light.

Believed to be from the sixth window in the cloisters at Mariawald.

Historical context note

Mariawald was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1480. The Cistercians were a monastic order established in 1098 in Burgundy at Citeaux. The founder of the Cistercians had broken away from the Benedictines which had been the first monastic order to be established in Europe, in the 6th century.

During the Revolutionary struggles in France and the subsequent religious upheavals under Napolean, many monastic institutions on the continent were ‘secularised’ and their buildings destroyed. The abbey of Mariawald was closed down in 1802 but fortunately its buildings, including the cloisters, remain intact. However, the stained glass windows had been removed and it is believed that they were purchased by John Christopher Hampp of Norwich. Hampp sold the Mariawald panels to various churches and to private collectors. Many of these were purchased by the collector, Lord Brownlow who had them installed in his new chapel at Ashridge Park in Hertfordshire between 1811 and 1831.

In 1928 the contents of Ashridge Park were sold at auction and a private collector purchased the stained glass and gave it to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

This panel is one of many in the V&A that comes from the cloisters at Mariawald. These panels come from ten windows on the west and north sides of the cloister, plus one from the north end of the eastern part. The glazing of these cloisters began about 1510 and seem to have been completed in the 1530s.

As the cloisters were never dismantled we can reconstruct how the panels were placed in the architectural structure. The window openings in the cloisters were each composed of two openings (‘lights’). Each light was composed of three large panels, plus one small tracery panel. So there would have been eight panels to each window.

From the surviving stained glass panels we can determine the theme of the cloister glazing. Each window had two panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament and two panels with scenes from the New Testament. Above the biblical story panels, were two smaller prophet (or ‘messenger’) panels. These contained half-images of Old Testament prophets holding scrolls with text relating to biblical passages connected with the scenes below. At the base of each window were donor and patron saint panels. These donors were the ones who contributed to the financing of the cloister glazing.

This type of narrative arrangement is known as ‘typological’. Each Old Testament story was a ‘type’ or a prefigurement of a New Testament story (‘antitype’). For example, the Old Testament story of the 'Sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham' was a prefigurement of the New Testament ‘Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross’.

The typological arrangement was popular in the Middle Ages. The stories were reproduced in manuscripts and in engravings from woodcuts and collectively were known as ‘Biblia Pauperum’ (‘Bibles of the Poor’). At the end of the 15th century the Biblia Pauperum were printed in book form and sold in their thousands. These books were used as design sources for artworks including stained glass panels.

In the lower left of this panel is a monogram of the name of the glass painter. Researches done on this panel in the past have suggested that the monogram is that of Gerard Remisch who painted a series of stained glass painters in the nearby cloisters of Steinfeld Abbey and whose monogram appears in a window there. However, the two monograms are not exactly the same and the attribution of the Mariawald panel to Remisch is not certain.

The story of Esau giving up his birthright to his younger brother Jacob is taken from the first book of the Bible, Genesis, chapter 25. Note that the inscription near Jacob erroneously reads 'Genesis 15'.

Esau and Jacob were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob being born second. Esau was a hunter and Jacob was a man of peace. Isaac favoured his older son upon whom he was going to bestow the family wealth. One day Esau returned very hungry from a long hunt and saw Jacob preparing a stew, a pottage. Jacob convinced Esau to give him his birthright as the older and more favoured son in exchange for a bowl of the pottage. Later, Jacob and his mother Rebecca tricked Isaac, elderly and blind at this time, to bestow his blessing on Jacob.

This Old Testament story of temptation is often juxtoposed in the Biblia Pauperum with the New Testament story of the Temptations of Christ.

Descriptive line

Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain. Depicting the Old Testament story of Esau giving up his Birthright. Possibly made in the workshop of Everhard Rensig. From the cloister of the Abbey of Mariawald. German (Lower Rhine), dated 1521.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
Rackham, Bernard, 'The Ashridge stained glass', Old Furniture, vol.5 (1928), pp.33-7
Goerke, C., Das Zisterzienserkloster Mariawald, Mariawald, 1932
Clemen, Paul, Die Kunstdenkmaler der Rheinprovinz, Kreis Schleiden, XI, 2, Dusseldorf, 1932
Rackham, Bernard, 'The Mariawald-Ashridge Glass II', Burlington Magazine, April 1945, pp.90-4
Rackham, Bernard, 'The Ashridge Stained Glass', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd series, vol. X (1945-7), pp.1-22
Neuss, Wilhelm, ed., Die Glasmalereien aus dem Steinfelder Kreuzgang, Moenchengladbach, 1955
Kurthen, J., 'Die alten Kunstfenster', in Mariawald: Geschichte eines Klosters, Heimbach/Eifel, 1962
Conrad, M., 'Zur Geschichte der alten Glasgemalde aus dem Kreuzgang von Kloster Mariawald', Heimatkalender des Landkreises Schleiden, 1969, pp.95-102
Zakin, H., 'Mariawald:Cistercian Narrative', in Stained Glass as Monumental Painting (XIXth International Colloquium, CVMA, Krakow, 1998), Cracow, 2000, pp.273-80
James Wyatt, Description of the Stained Glass Panels at Ashridge Chapel, privately printed, 1906
MR James, Notes of Glass in Ashridge Chapel, Grantham, 1906
Hermann Schmitz, Die Glasgemalde des Koniglichen Kunstgewerbemuseums in Berlin, Berlin, 1913
Bernard Rackham, 'The Mariawald-Ashridge Glass', Burlington Magazine, Nov. 1944, pp.266-273
William Cole, 'A Hitherto Unrecorded Panel of Stained Glass from the Abbey of Mariawald', Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, XVII (1981-2). pp.21-4
Avril Henry, Biblia Pauperum, Scolar Press, 1987
Brigitte Wolff-Wintrich, 'Kolner Glasmaleriel sammlungen des 19. Jahrhunderts', in Lust und Verlust Kolner Sammler zwischen Trikolore und Preussenadler, exhibition catalogue (Kunsthalle Koln), Koln, 1995, pp.341-54
Raguin and Zakin, Stained Glass before 1700, part 2, pp.127-9, 170-6
Jakob Polius, 'Analecta sive collectanea antiquitatem', Duren, Stadtarchiv, A30, Hs. 2
Foister, Susan, Art of Light: German Renaissance Stained Glass(London: National Gallery Company, 2007), 32 p., ill., ISBN 978 185709 348 3.

Production Note

From the cloister of the abbey at Mariawald. In the style of the Master of Saint Severin, Cologne

Materials

Glass

Techniques

Painting; Silver staining; Pot metal

Subjects depicted

Fish; Dishes; Steps; Arrows; Bows (weapons); Spoons; Architecture; Quivers; Columns (architectural elements); Temptation; Children; Sheaths; Dog (animal); Basting spoons

Categories

Stained Glass

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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