Saint David’s School is an elementary school for boys located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in New York. The school’s chapel is home to two 16th-century stained glass windows, depicting scenes from the story of Mary Magdalene and from the conversion of the kings of France from pagan worship to the Catholic faith. The scenes are likely based on the Golden Legend, a hagiographical compilation by Jacopo da Voragine (ca.1230-1298), which became the source for the iconography of a large number of medieval works of art. These early and important windows had not been treated since their installation at the chapel in the late 1950s.
How We Helped
In 1988, WMF collaborated with the St. Ann Center for Restoration and the Arts to restore the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn, New York. WMF assisted in the development of an in-house conservation and training program for stained glass to address the increasing need for skilled craftsman in the field. It was a particularly acute problem, as so many important stained glass works are found in religious properties, schools, and other venues where there are not necessarily conservators and skilled craftspeople readily available. Capitalizing on the expertise acquired in the stained glass studio after years of restoring the windows of the Brooklyn Heights church, and wanting to continue the work of training young apprentices, WMF and the stained glass conservation team from St. Ann’s restored the two windows of Saint David’s. The windows were cleaned of soot and layers of over-paint, and the thick lead that had been used in a 19th-century restoration was removed. Before being reinstalled, five panels out of the 16 were shown in the World Monuments Fund Gallery in the spring of 2002, in an exhibition titled Masterworks in Stained Glass: Rediscovering the Renaissance Windows from Saint David's School.
Why It Matters
The rare Saint David’s windows preserve Renaissance stained glass and allow these works to be appreciated in an ecclesiastical setting, even if it is not their original location. Their conservation and reinstallation ensures their longevity. In addition to the conservation of this treasure, the project reinforced WMF’s long-term commitment to supporting training in the restoration crafts.