This post comes from Laura Hashimoto and Bonnie Hodul, Rakow Library interns working on the conservation of the Whitefriars stained glass cartoon collection over the summer, in conjunction with West Lake Conservators. Read more about this project and the collection in previous posts.
After our visit to Calvary Church in Summit, New Jersey, we headed into Manhattan to see Temple Emanu-El, for which we treated two paper cartoons. Walking into this synagogue was astounding; the building is one of the largest synagogues in the world. Right away we noticed that some of the windows, which were as high up as they possibly could be in the vast space, matched our cartoons.
We had already contacted Warren Klein, Curator of the Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanu-El, and knew that our cartoons were going to be a match to a few of the stained glass windows in their clerestory. What we did not know, however, is that three other exceptionally large pieces were also commissioned from Whitefriars for the synagogue. These were extremely exciting to see, and we can’t wait to look for the matching cartoons. They are among the collection’s unidentified rolls, but our hunt will begin with four rolls simply labeled “Temple.”
We were also excited to see that the windows matching the cartoons we treated were repeated, and accompanied by other designs and variations. It is unclear if there are unique cartoons for the variations, or if the two we have were used to create multiple different window designs. What was truly stunning was being able to see these designs realized in color, and in multiple color schemes!
The team headed home at the end of the day, but we stayed on for the weekend so that we could visit the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. Right before the trip, we pulled rolls for this church, and found very large cartoons labeled for the nave window on the north side of the church. At this point, we did not know if the windows in the church would be a match. The cartoons were stunning, with an intricate design and color running down the center. The cartoons are on wove paper, and are very tightly rolled, which made opening them difficult. They will need a significant amount of treatment time, including humidification to relax them so they will open more easily, and many tear mends, as the paper has cracked and ripped from severe embrittlement over the years.
Walking into the Church of the Heavenly Rest revealed a stunning sight, with six massive stained glass windows lining the north and south sides of the nave, a beautiful rose window at the front of the church to the west, and another large window facing 5th Avenue on the east side of the church. The window that matched our cartoon was not immediately visible, as we had only seen the left section of one of these windows. We found it on the far north side, and realized just how many cartoons were needed to create a single installation.
Because we had not yet seen cartoons for the six other windows surrounding the nave, we checked with binoculars for the characteristic Whitefriars monk in the bottom right corner of each window, a telling signature placed on many windows by the Whitefriars company. To our surprise, all but the rose window were made by Whitefriars and had variations of the monk in the corners. The church told us that Whitefriars was so proud of the West Window (also known as the Shipman Window) that when it was complete, they displayed it in an exhibition for King George and Queen Mary before shipping it to the United States.
We know that we have a few more very large rolls labeled for the Church of the Heavenly Rest, so we suspect we will be able to match more stained glass windows from the church to the cartoons here at the Rakow Library. Between these and the potential cartoons for Temple Emanu-El, we can’t wait to see what we uncover next! These connections and discoveries are precisely why site visits have been so important to the research and educational aspects of the Whitefriars project. By visiting these institutions, we learn more about our cartoons and, in turn, we connect the public to a part of their history. This wonderful exchange significantly adds to the knowledge of the Whitefriars stained glass window making process, a history that we aim to preserve at the Rakow Library.
Read about the 2015 Whitefriars team’s road trip to see Whitefriars glass in St. Stephen’s Church, Olean, New York.
Follow the progress of the 2016 project.
The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.