The Stained Glass Museum acquires window designed by Irish Arts & Crafts artist Wilhelmina Geddes
(23 Feb. 2022)
Thanks to a successful bid at auction, supported by Art Fund and the Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund, The Stained Glass Museum has acquired the last window designed and cartooned by renowned Irish Arts & Crafts artist Wilhelmina Geddes (1887-1955). The Faith, Hope and Charity window was designed for the now deconsecrated St Paul’s Church, Battersea, London.
Wilhelmina Geddes was an important figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement and 20th century British stained glass revival. She worked at the two leading Arts and Crafts cooperative stained glass studios in Britain in the early 20th century, An Túr Gloine (Tower of Glass) in Dublin (founded 1903) and The Glass House (Lowndes & Drury) in London (founded 1906). She was amongst the first generation of women stained glass artists who benefitted from professional training, achieving recognition in their own right, and whose careers benefitted from increased commissions in the periods after the First and Second World Wars.
The Faith, Hope and Charity window was designed and cartooned in 1955 and turned out to be Geddes’ final commission. The window was made to Geddes’ designs shortly after her death by friend and colleague at The Glass House, Charles F. Blakeman (1907-1989) in 1956. In the same year the three-light window was installed in the north aisle of St Paul’s Church, Battersea. In 1972 St Paul’s Church was united with nearby St Peter’s and Geddes’ Faith, Hope and Charity window was blocked and boarded up. The window was removed when the church was sold for mixed development and converted into private residencies and a nursery, c.2015.
Dr Jasmine Allen, Director and Curator at The Stained Glass Museum says;
“Geddes’ stained glass works are rarely available to acquire, and her output was relatively small. We are delighted to have acquired this window, which depicts the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity (Love), for The Stained Glass Museum’s permanent collection. It is an excellent addition to the museum’s collection of Arts & Crafts windows designed by women artists. As Geddes’ final commission it is also an important example of her later work, and an interesting treatment of this subject.”
According to Christian theology and philosophy, the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity (Love) are associated with salvation resulting from the grace of God. There is a long tradition in Christian art of depicting vices and virtues and these subjects are prominent in medieval stained glass. From the 18th century onwards, the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity were especially popular moralising subjects and appear as female allegories in both religious paintings and stained glass windows.
Geddes was a modern artist with spiritual vision, and her unique interpretation of this popular subject is full of symbolism and theological meaning, whilst holding true to tradition. Geddes’ window depicts three seated female figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity, one in each light. The figures all bear what have become known as Geddes’ hallmark stylistic features - strong necks, arched eyebrows and flared nostrils, long straight noses and large eyes. The window is made using very high quality streaky and flashed glass, with strong use of the pinks, reds, and purples favoured by Geddes. The three virtues are all shown with colourful angel wings, a halo inscribed with their virtue, wearing traditional robes, hair tied up and symbolic floral headband. Above and below the virtues are representations of biblical scenes which provide an illustration of the virtue depicted.
The window was purchased with support from the Art Fund and Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
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