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Work Window of the Renaissance
Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century
Window of the Renaissance
© 2000 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola
Visitors to the industrial exhibition of 1838 were welcomed to the Louvre by the sight of the Window of the Renaissance, a monumental work of stained glass made at the Sèvres manufactory. Done from a cartoon by Claude-Aimé Chenavard (1798-1838), it required the collaboration of a number of artists working in the recently established glass-painting workshop.
A hymn to the Renaissance
The Window of the Renaissance was dedicated to the "inventions, discoveries, and works that distinguish the epoch of the Renaissance, between 1450 and 1550." The design depicts the principal inventions of that period, and, due to the complexity of the iconography, a special booklet to explain the details was printed for the 1838 exhibition. In the center one sees Louis XI receiving the first printed Bible, and beneath this scene are the arms of Strasbourg, Mainz, and Venice, the birthplaces of printing and typography. On either side are allegorical figures: on the left, a woman with the emblems of painting, personifying Art, and on the right, a man holding a book, personifying Science. The ornaments that complete the composition are derived from Mannerist art: hides, candelabras, and putti. This taste for the Renaissance, of which Chenavard was one of the chief proponents, was part of a more general interest in history that characterized the July Monarchy. The window was as great a critical success as the so-called Renaissance Vase, also made at Sèvres and now at the Château de Fontainebleau.
A grand window for a prestigious institution
Unlike many stained-glass windows, the Window of the Renaissance was made for a secular and not a religious building. It was designed for the landing of the Henri II staircase at the Musée du Louvre, and intended as one in an extensive series. During his reign, Louis-Philippe commissioned many stained glass windows for the royal palaces.
Artists and techniques
As early as the First Empire, Alexandre Brongniart, director of the Sèvres manufactory, had been experimenting with painted glass. In 1824 the first glass-painting workshop was established there, and its products had been shown at the industrial exhibition of 1827. Two techniques were used in the making of this window: glass painted with vitrifiable and fusible colors, and glass colored all the way through, as in the stained glass of the Middle Ages. Many painters worked together on the project: M. Roussel did the figures and some of the ornament, M. Vatinelle designed the plan of the armature and of the painted ornament, while M. Bonnet did the plan of the carpet and M. Doré some of the painting and various decorations. All faithfully followed the design by Claude-Aimé Chenavard, today preserved at the Sèvres manufactory. Chenavard was also responsible for the supervision of the work. Today the Window of the Renaissance, a monument of painted glass that still welcomes visitors to the Louvre, is in a setting more sheltered from the weather, on the landing of the Colbert staircase.
BibliographyUn Age d'or des Arts décoratifs 1814-1848, Catalogue d'exposition, Paris, Edtions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991, pp. 416-417.
Feuillet de la salle sur les vitraux, musée du Louvre (à paraître).
Window of the Renaissance
Central window of the Pavillon de l'Horloge, Louvre, Paris, France
Painted and stained glass; lead and iron
H. 5.87 m; L. 3.71 m
Part of the estate of the Louvre Museum
The inventions, discoveries, and works that distinguish the epoch of the Renaissance, between 1450 and 1550
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.