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Medieval Stained Glass

Most of the windows of Thornewood Castle are filled with Medieval Stained Glass inserts. To add to his Castle and complete his construction in 1911, Chester Thorne purchased a special stained glass collection from a Duke in Europe who had spend 40 years collecting this collection salvaged from 15th &16th century churches. These are remnants, saved from a time when books and other works of art were being destroyed. Some pieces have specific dates on them, such as 1563 and 1650. There are approximately 100 of these special pieces in the house. In the past, a couple of university professors came to photograph and catalog our collection. They stated that there is not another house, that they know of in the United States, with this kind of collection.

Here is a description of some of the processes involved in making this glass, as we understand them.

Several different processes were used here with glazing enamels that had to be fired between 1225 and 1350 degrees.

Transfer Cartooning: The thick lines were painted by hand following a pattern over which the glass was set. Looking closely at the detail work, sometimes you can see in some areas the individual brush strokes of the artist.

Grisaille: The larger color fields were applied by mixing the toxic glass paints with water or oil and a medium such as honey. After mixing to a viscous consistency, the artist would lay a fine, completely smooth field of color using a very softly bristled brush. If the field isn’t consistent, the whole area has to be cleaned off and repainted.

Detail Stipling: In areas of shading, most often after Grisaille application of the color, the paint is allowed to dry and is carefully brushed off. Regular brushing will remove too much pigment too quickly, and will show obvious brush marks. So the artist uses the tip and softly taps it against the glass. Instead of shading to make things darker, the artist removes pigment to make details lighter. At any mistake whatsoever, the entire piece has to be cleaned and the entire process started over.

Because of the labor-intensive techniques, these stained glass panels are almost a lost art.