This post comes from Ilaria Camerini and Erin Fitterer, Rakow Library interns during the summer of 2018 working on the conservation of Library collections, including the Whitefriars stained glass cartoon collection. Read more about this project and the collection in previous posts.
This is the fourth year of the annual Whitefriars conservation project, a collaborative effort between West Lake Conservators and the Rakow Research Library. We — Ilaria Camerini and Erin Fitterer — are the lucky paper conservation interns for the summer, and we are excited to contribute to this project.
The Whitefriars stained glass cartoon collection consists of 1,800 rolls of cartoons, or preparatory drawings, for stained glass windows. Because of the way they were originally stored, each roll holds an unknown number of paper artworks. There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 cartoons, working drawings, and photographs overall.
Since June 4, we have unrolled 40 cartoons from a single roll. These drawings were all made for the Church of Sacred Heart in Lake George, NY. As one might expect, the subject matter of the drawings is primarily religious in nature. There are numerous images of the Holy Family, saints, and angels.
We also found a lot of interesting sketches and marginal notes along the edges of the drawings. As you can see in these next pictures, someone was sketching elements from the designs in the margins: a cross, an anchor, and a heart. The object on the far right that appears to be a broom or brush is actually an aspergillum, an implement of purification. All four images are symbols commonly associated with the Catholic Church. The graphite sketch resembles the subjects of the drawing: there is a heart encircled by light and an aspergillum. These sketches could have been proposed alternatives to the final drawing.
Many of the sketches are not related to the subject of the drawing. These marginal sketches feature human figures. There is also one that resembles a toothbrush.
While designing the cartoons, the artist would occasionally make mistakes, or change his mind. How do we know this? Some cartoons show evidence of altered lettering and modified drawings. Sometimes, the artist made these corrections in creative ways. Here, the artist pasted an altered image over the original drawing.
In this drawing, there was clearly some issue with the lettering. Rather than paint over the image, the artists scratched out the original drawing and made the necessary changes in graphite.
We have completed all the treatments planned on the first roll of drawings: surface cleaning with vulcanized sponges, erasers, and brushes; humidification and flattening; mending with Japanese paper and wheat paste. Now they are ready to be digitized.
We are excited to discover more interesting drawings. To see what we find, follow our posts on social media!
The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9 am to 5 pm 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.