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Luminosity of the East. Materiality, provenance and reception of Islamic stucco glass windows in the West

Stained glass windows are not only an important element of Western architecture, but also represent a characteristic feature of Islamic architecture. Unlike Western stained-glass windows, however, the glass pieces in Islamic windows are not set in lead but in stucco. Islamic stucco glass windows have been documented since the 8th century and found their way into Western collections and at World’s Fairs. This project focuses on stucco glass windows of the 17th to 19thcenturies, their materiality and formal characteristics, as well as their popularity with artists, architects, and collectors and their reception in Western art and architecture during the during the colonial age. Despite the relevance of the topic to the study of Islamic architecture and the significance of Islamic stucco glass windows in revitalising Western stained glass, the research questions raised within this project have hitherto received little attention. Based on a comprehensive corpus of original stucco glass windows, neo-Islamic replicas, and historical sources, the transdisciplinary team undertakes art historical and technical analysis. Other important issues addressed in the project are changes in manufacturing techniques and materials, the transfer routes and the ways of reception in Western art and architecture, as well as the provenance of stucco glass windows. 

See illustrations

Fig. 1: Domain.Stucco glass window, 17th century, stucco and glass, 85.1 × 46.7 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of William R. Ware, 1893, 93.26.1. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain.

Fig. 2: Stucco glass window, 18th century, stucco and glass, 41.6 × 41.9 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of William R. Ware, 1893, 93.26.9. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain.

Fig. 3: John Frederick Lewis, A Lady Receiving Visitors: The Apartment is the Mandarah, the Lower Floor of the House, Cairo (The Reception), 1873, Oil on panel, 63.5 × 76.2 cm, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.417. © Yale Center for British Art, Public Domain.

Fig. 4: Gunnar Berndtson, Almée, an Egyptian Dancer, 1883, oil on wood, 45 × 37.5 cm, Finnish National Gallery, A II 1396. © Finnish National Gallery, Public Domain.

Fig. 5: Three stucco glass windows in a house in Cairo. Published in: Émile Prisse d’Avennes (1877). L’art arabe d’après les monuments du Kaire depuis le VIIe siècle jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe. 4 vols. Paris: A. Morel et Cie., vol. 3, pl. CXL: Cairo, Maison Sidi Youçouf Adami: chambre de la nourrice.

Fig. 6: Stucco glass window with flower vase in the National Museum of Cairo. Published in: Max Herz (1902). Le musée national du Caire. Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 3. Pér. 28, pp. 45–59.

Fig. 7: Stucco glass windows of the Tunisian Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair 1867. Published in: M. Alfred Normand (1870). L’architecture des nations étrangères. Étude sur les principales constructions du parc à l’Exposition universelle de Paris (1867), Paris: A. Morel, pl. 40 41.

Fig. 8: Exhibition view with “window made of plaster and colored glass pieces, from a mosque in Cairo, XVI century.” Published in: F. R. Martin (1897). Sammlung aus dem Orient in der Allgemeinen Kunst- und Industrie-Ausstellung zu Stockholm 1897, Stockholm: Königl. Buchdruckerei P. A. Norstedt & Söner, s.n.

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