- The Seventh Window: The King's Window Donated by Philip II and Mary Tudor to Sint Janskerk in Gouda (1557)
Stained glass, though usually excluded from the canon of Renaissance art, was a significant area of endeavor in the Netherlands as in France. Large church windows powerfully conveyed the status of patrons in a way that few pictures on panel or canvas could match. These extensive fields of painted glass represented stories from the Bible and events from local history, newly interpreting the actions and solidifying associations with the donor. And the human dramas are framed by the latest architectural and ornamental designs in the windows' large upper expanses.
In 1557 Philip II, giddy from his victory over the French at St. Quentin, donated a particularly impressive window to the Sint Janskerk in Gouda, which houses an unparalleled ensemble of Renaissance stained glass. Philip, having only recently married Mary Tudor and risen to the kingship of Spain, had much to proclaim in this artistic gift. Commanding figures of the young king and his English wife are shown together, devoutly regarding the scene of the Last Supper. The choice of this subject reflected Philip's fervent Catholicism and implicitly endorsed the decree of the Council of Trent that validated the real presence in the celebration of the Mass. The large field above the Last Supper depicted the dedication of the Temple of Solomon. Philip, interested in distinguishing his monarchy from that of his illustrious father, Charles V, had styled himself as a second Solomon, imitating the wise ruler of the Old Testament who succeeded his own formidable father, King David. [End Page 585]
The Seventh Window, largely the product of Wim de Groot's organizational efforts, commemorates both the restoration of the king's window and the exhibition of the preparatory cartoons in the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. The book's focus has both advantages and drawbacks. To its credit, it allows for experts in several fields to address the object from different perspectives. Included are considerations of the imagery adopted in Philip's state entries in the Netherlands, diplomacy with England, Habsburg relations with Gouda, humanist culture in that city, the rebuilding of the Sint Janskerk after the fire of 1552, the afterlife of the window during the Dutch revolt, the heraldry and ornament presented in the glass, and an anthropological analysis of the ritual of the Last Supper. There is inevitably a certain overlap in this disparate coverage, but there is much information that is not found in the standard three-volume study of the Gouda windows (Henny van Harten-Boers et al., The Stained-Glass Windows in the Sint Janskerk at Gouda [1997–2002]). Occasional publications of this sort, however, have their limitations. On the one hand, there is little consideration of the other windows at Gouda that supplied a context for viewing; on the other, the search for "context" allows the inclusion of certain studies that are only tangentially related to the king's window and might be better located in other venues.
The scholarly contributions are too numerous to recount, yet a few may briefly be mentioned. Geoffrey Parker provides a useful prologue, describing the political situation in which Philip II found himself in 1557. Particularly informative is Jan van Damme's discussion of the commission of the King's window and the dynamics of patronage under the Habsburgs. The author addresses the tradition of Habsburg rulers donating windows to major Netherlandish churches that included Gouda's Sint Janskerk. Van Damme covers the negotiations between officials of the church and their prospective patrons. In the case of Gouda, he emphasizes the role of Viglius Aytta, a member of the privy council and trusted advisor to Philip, who most likely interceded with the monarch on behalf of the Sint Janskerk. Another important essay, by Juan Rafael de la Cuadra Blanca, concentrates on Philip's presentation...