PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Museum of Art is currently hosting Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum, a rich display of 18 works of French Romanesque and Gothic art on loan from the museum in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, which is renowned for one of the world’s finest collections of medieval sculpture and stained glass from 12th-century France. Glencairn Museum is currently closed to the public for extensive infrastructure renewal, presenting the opportunity to display highlights from its collection in context in the medieval galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibit will continue through Fall 2023.
Glencairn Museum, located in the 1930s home built by collector Raymond Pitcairn (1885–1966), has a long history of generous loans to the museum’s medieval galleries, and often lends work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Met Cloisters, the J. Paul Getty Museum and major museums across Europe, including the Louvre Museum. This is the first major loan grouping to a US museum from the Glencairn Museum since 1982.
The installation is organized by Henry P. McIlhenny Curator of European Decorative Arts & Sculpture Jack Hinton. He remarked: “This exciting collaboration further enlivens our medieval galleries with astonishing examples of stained glass and sculpture that bear remarkable narratives intended to teach and inspire the faithful. The juxtaposition of the two collections also sheds light on the broader histories of early medieval and Gothic art and how these important gatherings of medieval art came about.”
Director of Glencairn Museum Brian Henderson said: “We are proud of the nearly 100-year history of lending between our two institutions, and we are honored that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is exhibiting significant works from our collection. This is an exciting opportunity for audiences to engage with works of art with which they may not be familiar, and I am grateful for the opportunity to keep our treasures in the public eye while Glencairn is closed for renovations.”
Among the works on view are exceptional limestone and marble sculptures and figurative stained-glass panels from 12th- and 13th-century France, and Spanish Romanesque ivories. Highlights include one of the most important and best-preserved pieces of early Gothic glass in America, showing the Flight into Egypt (from the Abbey Church of St. Denis, north of Paris, circa 1140); the Head of a King attributed to Gislebertus, sculptor of the 12th-century portal of the Cathedral of Saint Lazare at Autun, France, circa 1130; a capital from St. Guilhem le Desert in southern France, late 1100s–early 1200s; and limestone reliefs of the Temptation of Christ from the Collegiate Church of Saint Gaudens, France, circa 1150.
A particular strength of the installation will be a group of narrative stained-glass panels from the Gothic period. The stories depicted will be deciphered for visitors and placed into a broader context of their significance within the decorative schemes of their churches of origin. Similarly, the framing elements of some glass panels and the related decorative designs on the stone sculptures will show how narratives could be heightened by certain ornaments. The historic architectural interiors of the museum, including its cloister and monumental portal from the Abbey Church of Saint Laurent, near Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire, France, will lend further context and depth to the presentation.
The installation will also offer insight into the story of medieval art in the United States, its relationship to faith, and how the Pitcairn family amassed the extraordinary Glencairn collection.