Thank you to the knowledgeable guides and kind receptionists at Strawberry Hill who helped me on my visits there. Photographs by the author. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly and educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL, or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Painted glass in the central window of the three Blue Bedchamber windows at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill.
The central window in the bay of the Blue Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill. Walpole added the bay in 1753, when altering the rooms of the original house for his own use (see Wong and Hilyard 25). According to the sale catalogue of 1842, this central window has scenes depicting "the story of the Unjust Steward and two small Flemish Landscapes in grasaille, the sides decorated with various Crests, Figures and Birds" (Item 38, Robins 241). There are no crests now, but two sketchy landscapes, two figures, and three colourful birds in the corners — enough to give an idea of what it must have looked like originally.
A closer view of the The Unjust Steward, from the central window shown above, shows the steward busy reducing the debts of his master's debtors in order to have friends after his dismissal, to the approval of his master (see Luke 6, 1-13).
Details from the window on the right. Left: The story of Abraham and Melchezedec. Right: The story of David and Abigail.
The window on the right, described in the sale catalogue as "equally beautiful" (Item 39, Robins 241) includes the stories of Abraham and Melchezedec (Genesis 14, 18-20), and David and Abigail (1 Samuel, 25). In the former, above left, Melchezedek, King of Salem, comes to greet Abraham after his success in battle, and in the role of a high priest offers him bread and wine and blesses him. Abraham's followers look on wonderingly as he bows in reverence. Abigail (above right) is also seen at one of the dramatic moments of her life, placing herself in danger but pleasing David greatly by forestalling bloodshed with her diplomacy. He will end up marrying her after her foolish husband's death. Both these scenes are "enlivened with details in yellow or orange stain," marking them out as belonging to the early sixteenth century, before "coloured enamel paints" came into general use (Peover 5). Notice the turkey placed rather incongruously over this picture, with a hen roosting to its left, and hens in each corner as well. Here was an art which mixed lessons from the Bible with scenes of everyday life, and, as Walpole was demonstrating, sat well in the domestic context.
From the same window, a detail of The Departure of the Prodigal, as the two daughters look concerned about their distraught father.
More Stained Glass at Strawberry Hill
- The Little Parlour and Adjacent Rooms
- The Great Parlour or Refectory
- The Library
- The Star Chamber
- The Gallery
- The Round Drawing-Room
Peover, Michael. Strawberry Hill: Renaissance Glass. London: Scala, 2010.
Robins, George. A Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill Collected by Horace Walpole (auction catalogue). Internet Archive. Contributed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library. Web. 2 September 2014.
Wong, Kelly H., and Gretchen A. Hilyard. "Considerations for Strawberry Hill 21: Finding Meaning in the 'Original Rooms.'" University of Pennsylvania (Summer Conservation 2006). Web. 2 September 2014.
Last modified 2 September 2014