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Glaise-Horstenau, Edmund - Gleinalpe (15/25)
Glasindustrie Glass, Fridolin


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Glass painting: Leidensgeschichte Christi, 1380-1390, in the parish church of Viktring, Carinthia

Stained Glass: The art of producing mosaic-type stained-glass windows has a very long tradition in Austria. Stained-glass windows are made up of a mosaic of pieces of coloured glass which are fitted into a framework of lead strips. Originally, stained glass was painted with black vitreous enamel. It was only in the Late Middle Ages that artisans started to use other colours. In Austria the earliest example of stained glass is the St. Magdalene window (around 1170) of Weitensfeld in Carinthia, today at the diocesan museum, Klagenfurt. The fourteen panes of Ardagger collegiate church (Lower Austria) (around 1240), depicting the legend of St Margaret, are considered to be amongst the most important pieces of the Romanesque period. The round stained-glass windows in Gurk cathedral, the "Ten Virgins" panes in the town parish church of Friesach and the "Virgins" windows in the Walpurgis church of St. Michael in Styria date back to the second half of the 13th century. During the Gothic period, walls in churches were reduced to a structural minimum and windows were widened and heightened. Glass windows are the chief artistic attraction in many Gothic churches, due to their gigantic size, dimensions and multitude of large figural panels. Gothic windows depict saints, scenes from the Old and New Testaments and allegories. With the changing concepts in the art of painting and drawing (three-dimensionality, naturalistic imagery etc.) in the Late Middle Ages the art of stained glass was also further developed.

The Babenberg portraits (around 1295) in the well house of Heiligenkreuz abbey illustrate the change in style from Romanesque to Gothic. Klosterneuburg became the centre of stained glass production in Austria, producing outstanding works of art, such as the windows of the parish church of Steyr, which had probably been intended for the "Capella speciosa", the windows of the cloister at Klosterneuburg (largely destroyed around 1330) and the famous stained glass windows of Leech Kirche church in Graz (around 1320/1330). The seventeen choir windows of St. Stephen´s Cathedral were outstanding examples of mid-14th century Klosterneuburg craftsmanship. Most of them were destroyed during the Baroque period, the three remaining windows are now at the Historisches Museum in Vienna. Other works produced at Klosterneuburg are the choir windows of Maria am Gestade church, Vienna, (partly destroyed), the Gaminger Stifterscheiben windows, (today at St. Florian, Upper Austria), and the windows of the pilgrimage church of Maria Straßengel (around 1350/1360) near Graz. In the late 14th century, a workshop which produced the most beautiful and technically refined pieces, mostly for the Viennese imperial court, also manufactured pieces for Ebreichsdorf (Lower Austria), St. Erhard in der Breitenau (Styria) and Viktring (Carinthia). The windows of St. Bartholomew´s chapel in St. Stephen´s Cathedral (around 1390, today at the Historisches Museum and the Museum für angewandte Kunst) are considered the workshop´s earliest and technically most refined pieces. Important works of other Austrian workshops are the windows in the hospital church at Judenburg, in the church of Maria Waasen in Leoben and the windows in the abbey of St. Lambrecht, which date back to around 1430/1440 (today at Joanneum in Graz). In the province of Salzburg, the most precious stained-glass windows can be seen in St. Leonhard church at Tamsweg (from around 1430-1450; the "golden window" is particularly beautiful). Each of the windows from the mid-15th century, is painted in a technique also used in panel painting: stylistic devices like shading were used rather than line-drawing and hatching. Most of the abundant 15th century stained-glass windows from the province of Salzburg have been lost, though, and it is only the names of the artists who designed them that are still known today. In the province of Tirol, the only pieces that are still intact are those of the hospital church of St. Johann in Tirol. In the province of Vorarlberg, the most famous piece of this period (originally from the town of Göfis) is exhibited in the Landesmuseum (provincial museum) in Bregenz. Many pieces manufactured by master craftsmen, mostly from Vienna, have been lost.

In the second half of the 15th century, a new genre, "cabinet-painting", successfully competed with the traditional monumental style. As a result, what were called cabinet-panes were mainly used in secular buildings (town halls, town houses, guild-rooms) as well as for heraldic panels.

Of the few windows from the Renaissance period, the "Marientod window" depicting the death of St. Mary can be seen at Steyr, Upper Austria; other significant works from this period are a window from the church of the Teutonic Order at Wiener Neustadt, now exhibited in the Museum für angewandte Kunst in Vienna, and the windows St. George´s chapel in the castle of Wiener Neustadt, portraying the chapel's founder, Emperor Maximilian and his family.

During the Baroque period, the art of stained-glass declined. Even before the Second Turkish siege of Vienna (1683), church windows were destroyed and Gothic churches were rebuilt in Baroque style. It was only in the Age of Romanticism and during the late 19th century that the art of stained glass windows was revived in Austria.

In the middle of the 19th century C. Geyling founded a studio in Vienna, in which his family still manufactures outstanding stained glass. The firm has produced windows for St. Stephen´s cathedral and Votivkirche church, as well as windows for fin-de-siècle houses for wealthy Viennese citizens. In the province of Tirol, the Tiroler Glasmalereianstalt, founded in 1861, produced stained glass in the late 19th century (Historicism) that was appreciated beyond Austria.

Literature: E. Frodl-Kraft, Gotische Glasmalereien, 1963; E. Frodl-Kraft, Die Glasmalerei, Entwicklung, Technik, Eigenart, 1970; E. Bacher, Die mittelalterlichen Glasgemälde in der Steiermark, part 1: Graz und Straßengel, (Corpus vitrearum medii aevi 3), 1979; M. Kristan, Die monumentale Glasmalerei der Romantik, des Historismus und des Jugendstil in Österreich, master´s thesis, Vienna 1986.

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