Book Review in VIDIMUS on the Stained-Glass Collection in Wörlitz

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Die Glasgemälde im Gotischen Haus zu Wörlitz ('The Stained Glass in the Gothic House at Wörlitz')

One focus of this work is the acquisition history of the stained-glass collection in the Gothic House, which is inextricably linked with the travels in England of Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau (1740–1817). The travel diaries of Princess Louise Henriette Wilhelmine von Anhalt-Dessau (1750–1811), Franz von Waldersee (1763–1823), and the architect Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff (1736–1800) provide many clues as to the panels’ provenances, as well as to sources of inspiration and the prince’s intentions in bringing his collection together.

In addition to the history of the collection, each of its 231 panels is considered from a range of very different perspectives by means of a detailed scholarly catalogue. As a result, the reader will encounter not only careful descriptions of the images represented and the iconography, the heraldry and donors’ biographies, identifications of glass-painting workshops and precedents in the graphic arts, but notably also contextualizations of the panels within their cultural and historical backgrounds, as well as the networks of family, friends and political allegiances, all of which left their mark on post-medieval glass-painting.

One particular discovery was the paramount importance of the panel depicting St George in the prince’s study, which may be considered the most significant panel in the collection and the key to understanding the structural extensions to the Gothic House. It is not simply a homage to England, where St George is still honoured as the country’s patron saint, but also a reference to the famous Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry in England, if not the world. From the notes made by Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff during his travels (published in 1997 by Thomas Weiss), we know that St George’s Chapel in Windsor was the model for the space and windows of the Knights’ Hall in the Gothic House, as well as the inspiration for the league of princes (whose structure was intended to reflect that of the Order of the Garter, but which was never implemented), the commander of which was to have been the prince himself. The Knights of the Garter met in St George’s Chapel then, and every year in June they hold still their chapter meetings there, under the auspices of the monarch of Great Britain.

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