Exhibition | 16.07.2021 - 03.04.2022

Colours revealed by light
Stained glass from the 13th to the 21st century

Exhibition

Stained glass: its profusion of motifs and radiant luminosity have captivated viewers for centuries. The Swiss National Museum owns one of the world’s largest collections of stained glass works. The exhibition in the Hall of Fame showcases the art of stained glasswork in Switzerland in all its richly hued facets, from its origins in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the modern stained glass art of the present day. Photos and old tools from the Halter stained glass studio in Bern give an insight into the elaborate technique involved in this handcraft, which has remained almost unchanged for around 800 years.

Schools

Colours revealed by light – Introductory tour

Intermediate level | secondary levels I and II

Guided tour of the exhibition ”Colours revealed by light. Stained glass from the 13th to the 21st century”.

1 hour
Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Guided tours in English can be arranged, even outside opening hours. Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Booking:  

at least 2 weeks in advance

Duration:

 

1 hour guided tours, other services by prior arrangement

Group size:

 

max. 25 people

Cost:
 

 

Guided tours for school classes from Switzerland are free of charge.

Reservations desk

+41 44 218 66 00 reservationen@nationalmuseum.ch

Media

Colours revealed by light. Stained glass from the 13th to the 21st century

National Museum Zurich | 16.7.2021 - 3.4.2022
published on 15.7.2021

The vast array of subjects and the dazzling luminosity of stained glass have captivated viewers for centuries. The exhibition in the National Museum’s Hall of Fame showcases Swiss stained glasswork in all its richly hued facets, from its origins in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the modern stained glass art of the present day.

The Swiss National Museum owns one of the world’s largest collections of stained glass works. The highlights of this collection form the starting point for a journey through the history of Swiss stained glass. Our journey begins in churches and monasteries, where the light streaming through the coloured windows into the hallowed interiors probably had much the same impact on churchgoers in the Middle Ages as it has today. The exhibition features works such as the ‘Madonna of Flums’ dating from the 13th century – the oldest surviving figural stained glass panel in Switzerland.

In the modern era, it became common practice in the Confederation, when a new building was constructed or an existing one refurbished, for benefactors to bear the costs for the design and manufacture of a window. In return, these sponsors were given the opportunity to have their coat of arms placed in the new window. The representatives of Confederate towns also put their coats of arms in the windows of council buildings, taverns and monasteries, giving expression for the first time to a ‘Swiss’ national consciousness. In the 19th century, the modern federal state reverted to this tradition of the Standesscheibe, stained glass that presented the coat of arms of a canton of the Old Swiss Confederacy, and donated the stained glass works in the Hall of Fame of the newly built National Museum (1898) and those in the domed hall of the parliament building (1901).

In the 20th century too, a number of town halls in major Swiss cities were presented with Standesscheiben, and stained glass is still a highly regarded art form today. One example is the glass windows in the Grossmünster in Zurich. In addition to the Augusto Giacometti stained glass panels in the chancel dating from 1933, the stained glass works by Sigmar Polke in the nave were added in 2009. To make them, the artist used a number of newly developed techniques. The exhibition displays the specimen glass panels made to Sigmar Polke’s designs.

The essential working process for manufacturing stained glass has changed very little over the centuries. Myriad individual production steps are required to progress from the design stage through the selection and cutting of the coloured glass, to produce the finished glass artwork soldered with lead rods. In addition to more than 90 stained glass works dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, the exhibition also shows old tools from the Halter stained glass studio in Bern. Soldering irons, lead mouldings and a portable furnace give an insight into the elaborate technique of this craft.

Images

Vierge de Flums

The chapel is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint James. The image of the patron saint was located in the window of the choir, the most important place in the chapel. Church window, around 1200, origin: Chapel of St. Jakob, Gräpplang near Flums, painted coloured glass

Swiss National Museum

Heraldic panel

A sailing ship loaded with passengers and barrels is bound for the city depicted on the left of the panel. The coats of arms of the donors appear on either side of the sail. The marks on the oars correspond to symbols in the coats of arms. Heraldic panel, Hans Caspar Gallati (1633–1699), 1679, painted coloured glass

Swiss National Museum

Welcome panel

A halberdier in mi-parti and an elegantly dressed lady with a bag and a cutlery case on a cord support the coat of arms of Peter Mutarda. Heraldic panel, around 1554, origin: Council Hall of the Town Hall in Le Landeron, painted coloured glass

Swiss National Museum

Welcome panel

With her right hand, Magdalena Gmünder passes a large golden goblet to her husband, Lorenz Vonwiler, while holding the lid in her other hand. She is wearing a fashionable robe with a black jacket, pleated skirt and white apron. Roundel, 1633, single pane of painted colourless glass

Swiss National Museum

Canton panel of Berne

A lion and a bear hold a large crown above the cantonal coat of arms of Berne. The lion – the heraldic animal of the Dukes of Zähringen – holds the calvary standard of the city founders, while the bear holds the banner of Berne. Canton panel of Berne, Hans Jakob Güder (around 1631–1691), 1675, origin: Church of Othmarsingen, painted coloured glass

Swiss National Museum

William Tell

William Tell stands with his crossbow in one hand and an arrow held high in the other. The landscape in the background includes high mountains and the Lake of Uri. Above Tell’s head hangs his coat of arms with the pierced apple. Picture window, Karl Wehrli (1843–1902), around 1880, painted coloured glass

Swiss National Museum

Little Meret

Ernst Rinderspacher’s subject here is ‘Little Meret’, a character from Gottfried Keller’s novel “Green Henry”. Keller, in turn, found his inspiration for the character in a child’s portrait from the early 17th century. Figurative panel, Ernst Rinderspacher (1879–1949), around 1920, grisaille and silver stain on blue flashed glass

Swiss National Museum

Test glass panel

Test glass panel prepared in connection with the Ascension of Elijah window in the Grossmünster church in Zurich, design: Sigmar Polke (1941–2010), realization: Urs Rickenbach (born 1957), Glas Mäder AG, around 2006–2009, Zurich, fusing glass On loan from Glas Mäder & Co. AG, Rüschlikon

© The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Anna Polke-Stiftung, Grossmünster Zurich, Glas Mäder & Co. AG

A view of the exhibition.

Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

Swiss National Museum

Swiss National Museum press contact

+41 44 218 66 63 medien@nationalmuseum.ch

Partner

The Swiss National Museum would like to thank for the generous support.

Exhibition imprint

  • Overall management Andreas Spillmann (bis März 2021), Denise Tonella
  • Project direction Mylène Ruoss
  • Exhibition Assistant Noemi Albert
  • Scenography Alex Harb
  • Graphics Maria Rosa Visuelle Gestaltung, Zürich
  • Advisory committee Heidi Amrein, Beat Högger, Markus Leuthard, Sabrina Médioni, Andreas Spillmann (bis März 2021), Denise Tonella
  • Controlling of project Sabrina Médioni
  • Cultural services and museum education Stefanie Bittmann, Lisa Engi
  • Advertising graphic Resort GmbH für Visuelle Kommunikation, Zürich
  • Technical management Mike Zaugg
  • Exhibition construction Janine Auf der Maur, Kim Badertscher, Bachir Ezzarari, Ladina Fait, Marc Hägeli, Mike Roder, David Schwitter
  • Conservation management Sarah Longrée
  • Conservation and montage of objects Gaby Petrak, Ulrike Rothenhäusler, Tino Zagermann; Alder Stahl + Schweiss: Chrigel Alder, Glasatelier Dold: Aline Dold, Friederike Szlosze
  • Loans Maya Jucker, Angela Zeier
  • Logistics of objects and montage of objects Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Simon d’Hollosy, Reto Hegetschweiler, David Pazmino, Markus Scherer
  • Photography Jörg Brandt, Zvonimir Pisonic
  • Photo library Andrea Kunz, Fabian Müller
  • Editor Pasquale Pollastro
  • IT / Web Thomas Bucher, Ulrich Heiniger, Danilo Rüttimann, René Vogel
  • Marketing and communication Andrej Abplanalp, Anna-Britta Maag, Sebastiano Mereu, Carole Neuenschwander, Stefania Nicolini, Alexander Rechsteiner
  • Translations Laurence Neuffer; Bill Gilonis, Zürich, Language Factory, St. Konrad (A)
  • Various Unless otherwise stated, exhibits and image rights belong to the Swiss National Museum.

Items generously loaned by

  • Sammlung Turamali, Dieter Decker, Oberboihingen (D)
  • Fritz Dold, Zürich
  • Galerie Barbara Giesicke, Badenweiler (D)
  • Martin Halter, Bern
  • Glas Mäder AG, Rüschlikon
  • Privatbesitz
  • Staatsarchiv Uri
  • Vitromusée Romont, Dauerleihgabe der Kunstsammlungen des Bundes, Bundesamt für Bauten und Logistik