Life of the Virgin Mary, The thumbnail 1
Life of the Virgin Mary, The thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 9, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Gallery

Life of the Virgin Mary, The

Panel
ca.1245-1250 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The scenes in this window are believed to be episodes in the 'Life of the Virgin Mary', mother of Jesus Christ. Such a window was erected in the centre of the apse of the Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church of Saint Germain de Prés in Paris. This abbey was closed down at the end of the 18th century and the Lady Chapel itself was destroyed in 1805. Prior to that, the windows from the church had been removed and some of them ended up in a temporary museum in Paris. After this museum was closed in 1816, the windows were sold. Some ended up in museum collections, others were reinstated in the church and others simply disappeared. This window here is now believed to have been part of the Lady Chapel 'Life of the Virgin Mary' window. The 6 panels that form this window are a modern arrangement and so it is difficult to be certain which scenes from the Life are depicted.

The scenes probably depict St Anne, mother of Mary, grieving over her husband Joachim's decision to withdraw to the country. Joachim's offering to the Temple had been rejected by the Temple elders because the couple were childless and he withdrew in dispair and shame. During this separation, an angel appeared to Joachim and also to Anne to tell them that Anne would conceive. Joachim returns and one of the scenes on this window probably shows Anne waiting for him at the Golden Gate. Anne and Joachim's child was Mary. In thanksgiving for her birth, her parents dedicated her to the Temple and when Mary was 14, the Temple elders were directed by God to find her a husband. A number of suitors assembled, one of whom was the elderly St Joseph. The bottom scene on the left of the window may depict a Temple Elder bringing the rather relunctant Joseph to the Temple. The story goes on that God showed favour on Joseph by causing his rod to blossom, thus signalling that he was chosen to be Mary's husband.

The New Testament of the Bible contains no information on the life of Mary prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. In the early centuries of the Christian faith, various authors wrote stories to fill gaps in our knowledge of persons important in Christianity. These writings were not authorised by the Church but were popular and were re-written many times over the centuries. Collectively, they were known as the 'Apocrypha'.

In the thirteenth century, these apocryphal accounts were included, along with other stories of the lives of Christian saints, in popular texts such as the 'Speculum Historiale' ('Mirror of History') and the Golden Legend. These texts exerted a great deal of influence over the imagery of artworks made for the Church. It is also at this time that the Church recognised the importance of celebrating the lives of people such as St Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. A Feast Day was established in her name. No information on her life exists other than in the Apocrypha and then in the compilation of these stories and saints' lives mentioned above.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 6 parts.

  • Panel
  • Panel
  • Panel
  • Panel
  • Panel
  • Panel
Materials and Techniques
Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details
Brief Description
Panel, The Life of the Virgin Mary, ca.1245-1250, France
Physical Description
This is a composite panel made up of six quadrants not originally joined together. At the bottom right is the figure of the seated St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin, grieving after the departure of her husband, Joachim. To the left a haloed, bearded man is held by the hand by a mitred high priest. The former probably represents Joseph, and thus the scene would have formed the left half of the Marriage of the Virgin. In the second register, on the left, a haloed young female figure is shown supported by an angel, perhaps illustrating the Virgin as an adolescent, visited by angels during her time in the Temple. On the right is a crowd of onlookers, led by a cowled figure. In the top register, on the left, a female figure moves forward with arms extended, possibly to be identified as Anne meeting Joachim at the Golden Gate. On the right are two men holding books, probably the elders of the Temple consulted about the refusal of the Virgin to take a husband.
Dimensions
  • Whole object, including frame height: 207cm
  • Whole object, including frame width: 91.8cm
  • Whole object, including frame weight: 46.5kg
Credit line
Given by Henry Vaughan, Esq.
Object history
History of windows at Saint Germain de Prés (SGdP):

(1793) Much destruction by revolutionists

(1794) Refectory pulled down

(1796) Alexandre Lenoir received glass - 8 panels - from the curate of SGdP (part of now back in the church)

Alexandre Lenoir set up the Musee des Monuments Francais in the old monastery of the Petis-Augustin. Many of these monuments came from Saint Denis and Saint Germain.

(1802) Lady Chapel sold by property developers

(1805) Lady Chapel pulled down

(after 1816) Closure of museum, glass [all?] returned to SGdP and installed in a window

(1867) Engraved plate, published by Albert Lenoir (son of Alexandre)

according to Albert these panels came from the Abbey of SGdP from buildings erected between 1245 and 1250 - Great Refectory and the LC (Life of Virgin from refectory)

(1867) Lenoir says that pre Revolution there existed at SGdP 13th century windows in

refectory

Lady Chapel

Chapter House

(1962-3) Grodecki says the Life of Virgin panels came from the Lady Chapel



Lady Chapel

(1245) Beginning of construction by Hugues d'Issy, abbot (1244-1246)

(by 1255) Chapel finished

presumably same makers and designers as in refectory

7 windows of 2 lights each

windows all established on a module of ca. one metre.

have the more fashionable narrow borders (demi-bordures) as at Sainte Chapelle



Surviving panels from the Life of the Virgin window:

2 panels of 4 quandrants reinstalled in Ste Genevive chapel in SGdP

1 panel of 2 quadrants in the Montreal Museum (Joachin with his sheep and cattle; Priest in front of the Temple making the gesture of repudiation)



It is believed that the original arrangement of the window was that of scenes in quadrants contained witin oval medallions, each quadrant bisected horizontally and vertically by structural irons
Historical context
The canonical gospels do not make reference to the parents of the Virgin Mary. Such information was gleaned from various apocryphal sources:



1) Protevangelium Jacobi (apocryphal)

2) Evangelium de Nativitate Mariae (apocryphal)

3) Evangelium de Nativitate (apocryphal)

4) Mariae et Infantia Salvatoris (apocryphal)

5) Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (apocryphal)

6) Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Maius (Historiale) (from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew)

7) Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew)



The Feast of St Anne was not instituted until the 13th century.



Artworks of St Anne:

First known appearance of is in the capitals of the 12th century West portal of Chartres Cathedral.

General scenes depicted:

Joachim's offering is rejected in the Temple

Joachim's withdrawl to the wilderness

Anne's sorrow

Angel appears to Anne

Angel appears to Joachim

Anne and Joachim meet at the Golden Gate

Birth of Mary

Dedication of 3 year old Mary to the Temple

Mary climbs 7 (or 15) steps to the High Priest Zacharias

(Mary at age 14) Zacharias told by angel to gather widowers to the Temple and to bring their rods

Joseph's rod blossoms



Grodecki believed these panels to have formed part of a window in the Lady Chapel at Saint Germain des Prés in Paris. He surmised that the window in this chapel would have contained scenes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and her mother Saint Anne.

He identified the scenes in the panels from the V&A as, reading from left to right and bottom to top:

Old nimbed man and priest? (from scene of the Marriage of the Virgin)

Nimbed woman sitting (St Anne distraught over the departure of her husband Joachim)

Angel ministering to a young girl (angel ministering to the Virgin)

Crowd of people (unknown)

Woman standing (St Anne at the Golden Gate)

Two men in white with books (Elders of the Temple)
Production
Originally from the Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church of Saint Germain de Prés
Subjects depicted
Literary References
  • Apocrypha
  • Golden Legend
  • Speculum Maius
Summary
The scenes in this window are believed to be episodes in the 'Life of the Virgin Mary', mother of Jesus Christ. Such a window was erected in the centre of the apse of the Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church of Saint Germain de Prés in Paris. This abbey was closed down at the end of the 18th century and the Lady Chapel itself was destroyed in 1805. Prior to that, the windows from the church had been removed and some of them ended up in a temporary museum in Paris. After this museum was closed in 1816, the windows were sold. Some ended up in museum collections, others were reinstated in the church and others simply disappeared. This window here is now believed to have been part of the Lady Chapel 'Life of the Virgin Mary' window. The 6 panels that form this window are a modern arrangement and so it is difficult to be certain which scenes from the Life are depicted.



The scenes probably depict St Anne, mother of Mary, grieving over her husband Joachim's decision to withdraw to the country. Joachim's offering to the Temple had been rejected by the Temple elders because the couple were childless and he withdrew in dispair and shame. During this separation, an angel appeared to Joachim and also to Anne to tell them that Anne would conceive. Joachim returns and one of the scenes on this window probably shows Anne waiting for him at the Golden Gate. Anne and Joachim's child was Mary. In thanksgiving for her birth, her parents dedicated her to the Temple and when Mary was 14, the Temple elders were directed by God to find her a husband. A number of suitors assembled, one of whom was the elderly St Joseph. The bottom scene on the left of the window may depict a Temple Elder bringing the rather relunctant Joseph to the Temple. The story goes on that God showed favour on Joseph by causing his rod to blossom, thus signalling that he was chosen to be Mary's husband.



The New Testament of the Bible contains no information on the life of Mary prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. In the early centuries of the Christian faith, various authors wrote stories to fill gaps in our knowledge of persons important in Christianity. These writings were not authorised by the Church but were popular and were re-written many times over the centuries. Collectively, they were known as the 'Apocrypha'.



In the thirteenth century, these apocryphal accounts were included, along with other stories of the lives of Christian saints, in popular texts such as the 'Speculum Historiale' ('Mirror of History') and the Golden Legend. These texts exerted a great deal of influence over the imagery of artworks made for the Church. It is also at this time that the Church recognised the importance of celebrating the lives of people such as St Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. A Feast Day was established in her name. No information on her life exists other than in the Apocrypha and then in the compilation of these stories and saints' lives mentioned above.
Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
  • Grodecki, Louuis, 'Stained glass windows of Saint Germain des Prés', Connoisseur, CXL (1957), pp.33-7
  • les vitraux de Notre-Dame et de la Sainte-Chapelle, Corpus-French I, Paris, 1954
  • Severens, Kenneth W., 'A Stained glass Flight into Egypt', Bulletin of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, vol.XXVIII (no.3), Spring 1971
  • Philippe Verdier, 'The Window of Saint Vincent from the Refectory of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, pp.39-99
  • Slocock, Gilia, ed., Saint Anne in History & Art, Oxford: St Anne's College, 1999
  • H. M. Bannister, 'The Inastitution of the Cultus of St Anne into the West', English Historical Review, XVIII (1903), pp.107-112
  • Albert Lenoir, Statistique monumentale de Paris, Paris, 1867
  • Shepard, Mary B. The St. Germain Windows from the Thirteenth-Century Lady chapel at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In: Elizabeth C. Parker, ed. The Cloisters. Studies in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with The International Center of Medieval Art, 1992. pp.283-30, ill. ISBN 0870996355.
Collection
Accession Number
1223:1 to 6-1864

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record createdJuly 28, 1998
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