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Stained glass, the most durable and brilliant of all forms of monumental painting, is well served by this broad spectrum of books. For Lucien Magne, writing on the art of stained glass in 1885, France could boast two great eras, the 13th and the first half of the 16th century. Magne's great eras are represented by two standard-bearers for the glaziers' art, Chartres (studied by Colette Manhes-Deremble and Jane Welch Williams) and St.-Nicolas-de-Port (surveyed by Michel Herold). Richard Marks reviews the history of glass from the earliest examples of leaded windows in Anglo-Saxon times through the Renaissance and even into the 19th-century revival. The breadth of this study is seconded by Nicole Blondel's volume on terminology for France's Inventaire General des Monuments et des Richesses Artistiques de la France. All these studies are both limited and enhanced by their formats.
Two important books address the iconography of the cathedral of Chartres. Williams's Bread, Wine, and Money: The Trade Windows of Chartres Cathedral is a revision of her 1987 dissertation already available to specialists (including Manhes-Deremble). Williams's study attempts to present the perspective of those not directly exercising power. She constructs a discourse to articulate the conflictual situations that affected the windows over a half century of history. In doing so she tends to view all situations as equal, as if part of a catalogue of conflicts, each conflict demonstrating equally the hegemonic power of a controlling elite over a deprived class. Manhes-Deremble, in a Corpus Vitrearum Etudes volume, more simply takes a perceived intention of the "responsables" as the controlling productive strategy for the glass. She sees those responsible as the bishops and canons and also "the donors," whom she believes responded to the clergy. The clergy, however, she characterizes as having a "new concern for pastoral work," and she labels the audience for the glass as "the faithful."
Williams's scholarship reveals as tenuous the evidence for the belief that artisans actually donated windows (in the modern sense). She explains the concept as a retrospective application by historians of the later-medieval autonomy of guilds and their veneration of select patron saints. By questioning the meaning of representation, her work has profound implications for studies of supposed donor portraits of other classes, for example, those of the Capetian dynasty published by Beat Brenk or Francoise Perrot.(1) Williams argues that windows were constructions whereby a self-serving clergy could represent classes over whom they desired control. If we look at any kind of self-imaging, especially by a corporate body, we find such strategies to be an inevitable pattern. We can observe in our own modem professional spheres university brochures and view books depicting a society of cultural and gender parity. Students of different regions and races are represented in ideal mixtures, whatever their statistical ratios on a real campus. The producers of such publications endeavor to construct the most attractive environment for the very students they see as essential to attract. Similarly, the butchers at Chartres may not have been giving windows freely, but the tithes (in kind or money) extracted by the canons to fund the enterprise also validate their labor. Art does not mirror life, however realistically we may interpret the depiction, say, of wine criers, money changers, or a contemporary hunt or wake (as in the windows of Saint Eustace or of the Funeral of the Virgin). This is not a real hunt or wake, but rather a construction of signifiers that evoke both the mundane and the otherworldly with equal power. It is because art stands outside everyday life that it fosters a dialogue between the desired and the actual.
Manhes-Deremble's overriding concern is to explore medieval intellectual paradigms, such as genealogy, typology, parables, Marian devotion, and the function of dreams and visions. The Joseph window thus becomes an example of dreams, connected to dream stratagems found, for example, in the writings …