There are four missing windows in the Baptistry in Pisa.
A competition was set up for interested parties to send examples of completed works. Several artists were selected to the second phase whereby designs were to be presented. I, in association with the Derix Studio, was asked to produce a set of designs.
In order to undertake such a design project, I made a trip to Pisa to see the setting. I had been to Pisa many years ago, but couldn't remember the windows in the baptistry. It is a lovely building with a series of relatively small windows about six meters from the ground running around the circumference. There is no discernible thematic pattern, or artistic concept. The windows are what I would call Gothic Revival style and made with the associated techniques of that period. Many of the windows have a feeling of high decoration and complexity. This is achieved by a concentration of different painted borders and backgrounds. There is a limited use of acid etching, but used effectively where applied. The overall effect is of richness and complexity. There are few, what I would consider excellent works here, but the works that stood out for me were, ?...
The windows are all figurative with the subject centred within the opening. Mainly there is some kind of decorative canopy above and a decorative plinth or similar below. Each of the figures holds their attribute.
In my discussions with those involved with, what was now, the competition, I got the string impression that a similar approach to the works present would be appropriate. However, there seemed to be a wish to exemplify some aspect of the life of the subject. I felt that it would not be in keeping with the pattern of the existing windows to create a scene within the main body of the
lancet, so decided upon creating a small tableau at the base. This is a traditional solution to this kind of situation. In each of these framed scenes, I represented an aspect of the life of the subject.
As can be seen in my designs, the use of colours is restricted. I used a minimum of acid etching and depended mainly on the use of leading and painting.
My presentation text is below.
I thought that it may be interesting to follow the design process, at least from once the figures were placed and the composition selected.
The overall concept
On viewing the existing windows within the baptistry, the immediate impression is one of high complexity and quality. There is no real pattern to the windows other than they all conform to the Neo Gothic style and method.
The proposed designs conform to this overall approach. The intention is to create another recognisable set of windows within the series.
The existing windows that I feel compositionally most successful are the Archangel Michael and the Saint Thaddeus. I decided to base the proportions of the new windows on the Saint Thaddeus window thus allowing an additional panel to be added to the lower section of each window enabling a further relevant aspect of the main figure to be explored. I have picked up on the use of multiple borders and a decorative canopy that can be seen in almost all of the existing windows.
The existing windows, in the main, have highly decorative clothing and robing. In all of these new figures this seems inappropriate. To balance this I decided to bring a certain level of high decoration and visual excitement into the borders.
Two unique borders have been designed for this project. One suitable for Popes and one suitable for the two other figures. I feel that the border itself should have meaning and not simply be a set of random shapes and images.
The borders for the Popes contain;
the symbolism of the crossed Keys, representing symbolically the keys of heaven given to St. Peter by Jesus.
The fish, a reference to the Fisherman's Ring , unique to each Pope.
The Golden Rose, a symbol of the Papacy.
The borders for Saint Ranieri and the Blessed Toniolo, are based on symbols of the eucharist and baptism.
The wheat and grapes, symbol of the Eucharist.
The scallop shell, although associated with pilgrimage, is also a symbol of baptism often seen represented in the Hand of St John the Baptist.
These borders are supported on either side by a sub -border. A glazing border on the outside and a dotted border within. Again, this is referencing the existing windows in the Baptistry.
For the columns supporting the canopy, I have borrowed a decorative feature from the supporting columns in the Saint Thadeus Window.
The canopies are based on a medieval design that I felt would be suitable for these figures and this location.
The background patterning or daipering.
I have used here the Pisan Cross to create either a positive diaper.
The function of the diaper in glass painting was to add a level of visual excitement to the glass particularly in the background to a figure.
White, so often used as a general background, is in these windows treated as a symbolic colour in its own right. I have also conformed to the tradition that is evident in this building, of the main figures being illuminated from an imaginary light source from above and to the left.
The Subjects and Iconography.
The order of the windows that I am suggesting are:
Window 9 - the Blessed Pope Paul VI
Window 10 - Saint Ranieri
Window 12 - the Blessed Toniolo
Window 15 - Saint John Paul II
Each lancet contains a major figure and a scenic panel. In keeping with the composition of the other windows in the Baptistry, I felt that it would be inappropriate to show a scene or event in the area of the major figure. It seemed more in keeping with the building to represent the figure with a recognizable gesture or attribute. The small panel allows a further exploration of the subject of the window. Due to the nature of the figures represented, it would seem to be inappropriate to ornament the robes.
The Blessed Paul VI
On researching Pope Paul VI I became aware of this gesture of the raised hands, a gesture of welcome and inclusion.
The symbolism of the lower panel refers to Paul VI devotion to Marianology and refers to his encouragement on establishing the Madonnaˋs position as mother of the Church during Vatican II.
This small panel suggests this deeply felt personal devotion to the Virgin Mary. The scene is located in the Santa Maria della Spina interior. A small late Gothic church in the Italian city of Pisa.
The sculpture shown here is seen in the center of the presbytery is one of the highest masterpieces of Gothic sculpture, the Madonna of the Rose by Andrea and Nino Pisano.
The main figure of Saint Ranieri shows him holding a crucifix clutched to his heart and his right hand he holds a rosary. Under the simple white cloak, as is traditional, he is wearing a hair shirt.
The small panel shows the transformative incident when he gave up his life as a traveling musician following a long discussion with a holy man. The scene depicts the moment that he casts his violin in the fire and turns his back on his former life.
The Blessed Giusepe Toniolo.
The figure is seen dressed in a typical suit of the period as can be seen in the few existing photographs of him. In order that this panel does not look out of place with the existing figures, I felt it would be appropriate to have him wear an academic cloak. In this representation, he holds the building of the Milan University that he is acknowledged to be the spiritual founder. In his other hand he holds his book, "Demecrazia Cristiana, Concetti e Indirizzi".
The scene below shows Toniolo in his life's role of lecturing to students. Other symbolism within this panel are the globe on the floor representing his world wide approach to his economic works, the scales represent his sense of social justice and a crucifix representing his strong catholic faith.
Saint John Paul II
I found this gesture of John Paul leaning on his Papal crozier to be a very powerful and suitable gesture for this long serving and venerated Pope.
The panel below refers to his establishment of World Youth Day initiated on Palm Sunday in 1984 and his outreach to the youth of the world and their response to him. He instituted World Youth Day on December 20 1985.
The techniques that will be used to create these works will be the same as those used to create the other windows in the building.
The glass will be mouth blown glass, the colours in keeping with the colours used to date in the building. Where appropriate flashed glass will be used, for example in the tracery of the canopy where a degree of acid etching will be used.
The windows will be hand painted using traditional glass paint. No additional colour, except silver stain will be added unless specifically requested. There is a minimal use of fired enamels in some of the faces in the other windows.
The faces will be hand painted, not photo printed or screen printed. Silver stain will be used where the design suggests this.
The windows will be traditionally leaded and soldered.
The support bars have been indicated, these should probably be bronze or treated stainless steel. The panels will be attached to these using copper wire soldered on to the panels. In keeping with the other windows in the building, these support bars will be fitted externally.
Due to its location on the inner skin of the building and the secondary light source and the staircase running situated behind, , window Nr. 15 will be treated slightly differently from the other windows. It will be made proportionately paler to cope with the reduced availability of natural light.
If this design approach is successful, samples of glass with differing amounts of patina will be tested in the building.