- The Seventh Window: The King's Window Donated by Philip II and Mary Tudor to Sint Janskerk in Gouda (1557)
This collection of some twenty essays is an in-depth discussion of a prestigious piece of artwork. The two scenes depicted in the large window described are the dedication of the Temple of King Solomon and the Last Supper, both scenes replete with iconic significance, particularly for Philip. At the time of the donation the King was not only patron of the church, but ruler of Spain, England, and the Netherlands. He was frequently compared to Solomon, just as his father was referred to as David, the Great King, and the Last Supper was also representative of the Eucharist, which was central to his personal piety. The gift was solicited and negotiated by Vigilius van Aytta, a royal official and courtly intermediary, and was occasioned by the rebuilding of the church which followed the destructive fire of 1552. Gouda at the time was a 'loyal' town, whose officials had taken their oaths to Philip during his visit to The Netherlands in 1549, although he had not visited the town. The church suffered from iconoclastic riots at the time of the Troubles in 1566, but the window was spared because the main targets of the rioters were 'graven images,' and in 1572 the town passed into Protestant control, remaining thereafter part of the United Provinces. Although the Provinces repudiated Philip's sovereignty in 1581, and the church was never again used for Catholic worship, the regime remained relaxed about the imagery of this—and other—windows in Sint Janskerk. Pride in their beauty and workmanship seems to have overcome any repugnance at what was represented, and Gouda was in any case never a center of radicalism. Over the succeeding centuries the window has been maintained, and periodically restored, as taste and resources have permitted, sometimes with beneficial results, and sometimes not. During World War II the whole collection was dismantled and stored, but the church fortunately survived both the occupation and the liberation, and the windows were put back in place in 1947.
One of the reasons why it has been possible to keep the King's window in something like its original form is that the cartoon, executed by Dirck Pietersz Crabeth, has also survived, much restored but still containing most of the original work. That, and the fact that the widow was finely illustrated by Christoffel Pierson in 1675, has kept subsequent renovations sufficiently accurate. Only a proportion of the original glass now remains, but that includes the images of the donors; Philip probably taken from a portrait by Titian (or possibly from the life) and Mary from an unknown source. The image of Mary is more significant for its iconography than for any accuracy of the likeness.
The essays in this beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated book cover every aspect of the window's concept, creation, installation and subsequent fortunes with relentless scholarship. Treated are the political and economic circumstances of Gouda; Philip's [End Page 320] relations with his Netherlandish subjects; Crabeth's educational background; the nature of Habsburg patronage; Philip's subsequent creation of the Escorial; and (in great detail) the iconographic significance of the scenes chosen. To the student of English history it is notable that Mary is a mere cipher. She just happened to be Philip's wife at the time, and although she bore his numerous titles, plainly had no role outside of England. This is made clear both from the heraldic representation, which is discussed by Andrea Gasten, and also from her general position in the iconography. In spite of the Queen's presence, England had no part in this piece of patronage, either symbolically or actually, and that is perhaps reflected in the fact that the longer of the two articles which deal with Philip as King of England, and with England's role in Philip's dominions at the time is reprinted...