The Judgement revealed
Magdalen College's magnificent stained glass window,
depicting The Last Judgement, has been restored and reinstalled in
its Chapel, fifty-seven years after being removed for protection
during World War II.
The window was originally designed in the 1630s by artist Richard Greenbury, who took his design from a drawing of Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
Unlike typical stained glass windows which juxtapose bright, colourful panes of glass, the window consists of varying shades of dark paint on opaque glass, creating a strikingly powerful and unified piece. `What it lacks in pigments, the window makes up in vigorous, dramatic paintings of figures and faces, which are sometimes beautiful, sometimes moving and often both', said Mr Anthony Smith, President of Magdalen College.
The Last Judgement has undergone a series of transformations since its creation. Damaged in the great storm of 1702, the window was neglected until 1793 when the highly regarded glass painter, Francis Eginton, was commissioned to undertake its restoration. Eginton recreated many sections while attempting to remain true to Greenbury's original design. He repainted the entire window, replacing the grey and black tones of the original with warmer shades of brown, effectively modernising the window.
At the onset of war in 1939, the window was removed and placed in storage, but as a result sustained major structural damage. The glass sections were found in a variety of places around the college, including outhouses and tunnels. In addition to cracked glass and weakened lead strips binding the glass panes, two large panels and another section of tracery glass were lost entirely.
In 1993, Mr Stuart Lever, (Magdalen, 1948), Master of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass 1992Ð3, made a personal gift to Magdalen to fund the restoration of one of the panels of the window. Chapel Studio, a stained glass studio specialising in conservation, restored the sample panel while maintaining consistency with the original design and put it on display.
This generated the final £50,000 needed to restore the entire window, and thanks to the generosity of an American Magdalen graduate who wanted to commemorate his marriage in the Chapel to a Somerville student 20 years ago, Magdalen was then able to commission Chapel Studio to take on the project. The Last Judgement is now complete and once again installed in all its splendour in the Chapel.
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