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36ème Congrès du CIHA - Lyon 2024

Parrainé par le Ministère de la Culture,
le Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche,
le Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères

La matérialité du vitrail et de l’art du verre / The materiality of stained glass and the art of glass

Wojciech Bałus 1, Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz 2, Francine Giese 3, Sophie Wolf 4

1Jagiellonian University - Kraków (Poland), 2Université De Zurich, Zürich (Switzerland), 3/4Vitrocentre de Romont (Switzerland)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Glass is an exceptionally diverse material that has been highly valued ever since its discovery by human beings in the 4th millennium BC. In art, the malleable and translucent material has found many forms of expression in all epochs and cultures: from the earliest jewellery glass beads to the monumental stained glass windows of the Middle Ages and the glass sculptures of contemporary artists. Despite its wide and continuous use in art, the artistic and cultural- historical significance of glass has long been underestimated and even been neglected by researchers in art history.

This section is therefore dedicated to two topics:

 On the one hand, we will examine the role of the material in constituting a work of art and upon the perception of glass art, in particular stained glass. This artistic genre is considered as a special branch of monumental painting that is closely linked to architecture. This connection has an effect on the perception of its materiality, which gains force through the contrast between the transparency/diaphaneity of the glass and the opacity of the architectural structure.

On the other hand, we will take a closer look at the composition, the properties and the diverse uses of glass in art and discuss the increasing importance of material characterization for art historical research, the strength of which lies in its transdisciplinary approach and multidirectional nature.

To guide the discussions, we would like to raise the following questions:

  • How was the material aspect of stained glass presented in written sources, how were the possibilities of achieving visual effects with different methods of handling glass described (painting with grisaille, silver stain and enamel, connecting glasses of different colors, the type of painting, the line, the hatching, etc.)?
  • To what extent do the properties of the material and its handling determine the design process?
  • When and where did coloured or colourless glass itself become an aesthetic object or gain aesthetic value?
  • How was and is the material of an artwork perceived by the viewer (de- and re-materialisation in the process of viewing the artwork)?
  • What kinds of metaphors were used to describe the aesthetic effect of the material (e.g. comparisons with precious stones in the Middle Ages, or comparisons with bouquets of flowers in the 19th century)?
  • What information can the characterisation of the material and the techniques of a glass artwork provide us with?
  • What is the significance of knowledge about glass composition, raw materials and their provenance and glass manufacturing techniques for art history?
  • To what extent can these findings inform us about production sites, trade routes, knowledge transfer, technological and artistic developments, as well as the restoration and the long-term conservation of glass art?
  • The planned section is intended to demonstrate the potential of research on glass as a material, and its manifold uses and expressions in art, and to show the significance and scope of the findings for the disciplines of art history and material culture, over the centuries and across the world.