When the Vitromusée in Romont recently acquired through the international art trade an exceptionally beautiful panel of stained glass with a representation of Adam and Eve , it was known that the panel was executed during the Renaissance period, and that the arms were those of two donors from Freiburg. Dr Uta Bergmann of the Vitrocentre in Romont (the academic institutional partner of the museum) then made a small but sensational art-historical discovery – that this radiant panel had been donated in 1541 to the new town hall in Romont. The town hall is long gone, and the glazing with which it was decorated was no doubt sold off at the end of the Old Swiss Confederacy. Yet Uta Bergmann succeeded not only in locating evidence for the panel’s origins in the archives, she was even able to identify further pieces from this glazing ensemble in museums in Switzerland and abroad. The history of this precious panel, which has now found its way back to Romont after more than 200 years, is just one of countless examples of the new insights gained from a research project that has now been published in a splendidly illustrated, two-volume book.
Over a period of eight years, the author researched the more than 400 panels of stained glass ranging in date from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries that survive in the churches, museums and private collections of Freiburg canton. The catalogue alone of these artistic treasures takes up one volume. A further volume is given over to the rich and fascinating cultural-historical background to these pictorial panels. The publication chases up the donors, who are omnipresent in this stained glass, in depictions of the donors themselves, in their arms, and in the inscriptions. A large proportion of the work is dedicated to the often touching life stories of the glass-painters and glaziers, as well as to workshop practices and the custom of donating glass.
From the late fifteenth century onwards, the people and institutions of Freiburg im Üechtland, long the point of contact in Switzerland between the cultures and languages of the Germanic and French peoples, were enthusiastic participants in the custom that prevailed in the confederacy of mutual donations of stained glass. Donations of these radiant panels (which were extremely effective as a pictorial medium), given by cantons, sacred and commercial institutions, as well as by private individuals, were occasioned by the construction of new buildings. They played an important role in the confederates’ conception of themselves, and promoted the identity and solidarity of the confederacy itself to an extent that can hardly be appreciated.
This ground-breaking work on the art and history of Freiburg is at the same time an important contribution to the cultural history of Switzerland, and is the latest publication in the prestigious series of the Corpus Vitrearum in Switzerland. An international, art-historical research undertaking, the Corpus was founded in 1952 with the aim of researching and publishing all stained glass from the Middle Ages. Internationally, more than 100 catalogue and study volumes have already appeared. In Switzerland, where the Corpus functions under the aegis of the Schweizerische Akademie der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften (Swiss Academy for the Arts and Social Sciences), ten volumes have appeared to date, seven of them in collaboration with the Vitrocentre in Romont. Stained glass of the early modern period, such as that in the new Freiburg volumes, has been researched and published for the cantons of Zug, Aargau and Schaffhausen; a volume on Bern canton is in preparation. The Freiburg publication is the most extensive of those published to date, and is also the first Corpus Vitrearum volume in which large sections are in two languages. The book will not only be of interest to specialists, it will also appeal to a wide range of people interested in art, history, genealogy, heraldry, etc.
Die Freiburger Glasmalerei des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts, Corpus Vitrearum Schweiz, Serie Neuzeit, Band 6, published under the auspices of the Kommission für das Corpus Vitrearum der Schweiz, the Akademie der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften, and the Vitrocentre Romont, Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2014, 1069 pages in two richly illustrated volumes
(Text taken from the press release of the Vitromusée Romont, translated by Joseph Spooner)