For the restoration of a stained-glass window by Claudius Lavergne


3/4/09 – Restoration – Vrigne-aux-Bois, church – The parish church in Vrigne-aux-Bois, in the Ardennes region (France), was built in 1863 by Marguerite Evain Gendarme, on the estate of the family château which dated from 1820. After suffering damage during World War II (the bell tower was destroyed by French artillery in 1940), it was left in ruins for ten years and was finally destroyed around 1950 when it was replaced by a not very elegant modern building. Only a chapel (ill. 1), saved from the bombing, was preserved thanks to the protests of the Evain family to whom it still belongs. With support from the Fondation du Patrimoine, an “Association de la famille Evain” was created which then launched a campaign to restore the coatings and stained-glass windows.

1. Evain Gendarme’s Chapel
Church in Vrigne-aux-Bois
Photo : All Rights Reserved

2. Evain Gendarme’s Chapel
Church in Vrigne-aux-Bois
View of the Stained-Glass Windows by Claudius Lavergne
(before restoration)
Photo : All Rights Reserved


This latter feature is in fact what makes the chapel worthy of interest. The stained-glass windows are by Claudius Lavergne. A student of Ingres, he had already started his career as a painter when Didron, the founder of the Annales archéologiques, asked him for cartoons for stained-glass in 1852, thus introducing him to the technique. In 1856, the city of Paris commissioned the windows for the chapel in the Hôpital Lariboisière and insisted that he also take care of the production itself. This was a turning point in his career as he opened what would become a very successful workshop. Claudius Lavergne’s stained-glass windows can be found all over France, from Lyon, his native city (Saint-Nizier church, Saint-Cyr au Mont-d’Or church), to Paris (Hôpital Lariboisière, Saint-Augustin church,…), from Blois (château) to Compiègne, from Combourg (church) in Brittany to Roubaix (Saint-Joseph church)… He even worked for the Notre Dame Basilica in Geneva. Let us remember that Lavergne was also an influential art critic.

3. Claudius Lavergne (1815-1887)
Saint Nicolas
and Saint Catherine

Stained-Glass Window
(Before restoration)
Vrigne-aux-Bois,
Church
Photo : All Rights Reserved

4. Claudius Lavergne (1815-1887)
Saint Nicolas
and Saint Catherine

Stained-Glass
Window (After restoration)
Vrigne-aux-Bois,
Church
Photo : All Rights Reserved

5. Claudius Lavergne (1815-1887)
Virgin with Child, with Two
Angels
Saint Marguerite
Giving the Church to
the Virgin
Saint Florent, Saint
Jules and Saint Paul

Stained-Glass Window (Before Restoration)
Vrigne-aux-Bois,
Church
Photo : All Rights Reserved


Like many other designers of stained-glass in the 19th century, Lavergne reused his cartoons for different commissions. The two windows in the church at Vrigne-aux-Bois have unfortunately suffered extensively from vandalism (hit by beer cans !), and their restoration is now under way. One has already been restored without much problem as there were relatively few flaws and did not require too much work (ill. 3 and 4). The second one (ill. 5) is extremely damaged [1] and impossible to restore unless the original cartoon can be found, highly unlikely, or else a comparable work from another church. We are therefore putting out a call to readers of The Art Tribune to help us find a model in order to return this stained-glass window to its original aspect [2].

Version française


Didier Rykner, vendredi 3 avril 2009


Notes

[1] The face of Saint Julius (the second figure standing from the right), still visible in the photograph, has since disappeared. There seems to be an urgent need, therefore, to protect the window from the outside.

[2] Please contact us at this e-mail address. Anyone who would like to contribute to this restoration can send a check made out to “Fondation du Patrimoine – chapelle Gendarme” and mail it to Fondation du Patrimoine, 25 rue Libergier, 51100 Reims. This is a tax deductible donation.



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