The Gertrude and Robert Metcalf Collection of Images of Stained Glass

Over the years the Index of Christian Art has been the welcome recipient of a number of image collections from various scholars in the world of medieval studies. Some of these collections are currently available on the home page of the archive and others will be added over time. The largest such gift we have received to date was the 11,000 slides of stained glass which is named after Gertrude and Robert Metcalf, the two scholars who were responsible for the photographing and cataloging of the collection. The fascinating lives of these two unique individuals is documented in a biography by their son, Robert Metcalf, Jr.

Gertrude and Robert MetcalfWith the advent of World War II, these fearless individuals traveled throughout Europe to photograph stained glass before it was either secured for safe keeping or else destroyed in the war. Kodak developed a special color slide film for them and they devised their own unique classification system to document these works. The glass in these images covers Austria, England, France, Germany, Switzerland. The coverage of these areas is not comprehensive. By far the largest area to be photographed was France and only one building for example was documented in Austria and indeed only one image as well. Within each building they photographed what was there often against tremendous odds with enemy forces arriving as they were still documenting. Every effort was made to satisfactorily cover all of the glass from the twelfth century to the twentieth century, but it is clear that there are omissions. The collection lay for many years in the Dayton Art Institute from where it was transferred to PrincetonÂ’s Index of Christian Art in 2004.

In some cases architectural views were taken and these are included where they contextualize the glass. Photographs were taken of entire windows as well as individual panels and details. The Metcalfs were not interested only in the representational, and foliate and ornamental details are covered in considerable detail. Multiple images may also exist of the same subject and for the purpose of having the collection intact, they have also been included in this database. The only omission is the post-1800 stained glass which we decided to exclude from this database.

Unfortunately, the quality of the slides varies and the color has deteriorated over time. A number of the slides have a pink tinge which, despite enhancement, still remains. All of the images have been scanned at a resolution which hopefully allows the user to view the collection in detail. In advance of iconographically analyzing these images and including them in the Index of Christian Art database, we decided to digitize the collection and to make them available to the scholarly community. This data is limited and records the names of the building and the location within the structure (sequence), the subject matter and the date of the work. The last field in each record-the Notes-references the Corpus Vitrearum publication for that image where this exists. This enables the user to find out more about the work where it has been published. This cross-referencing has highlighted a number of discrepancies between the Metcalf images and what now exists. Some panels have been reversed in the hardcopy publications and others have disappeared from when the Metcalfs photographed them. Such discrepancies have been left in the files and if scholars can provide us with information on these problems we would very much appreciate hearing from you. The MetcalfÂ’s catalogue numbers were specially created by themselves and no documentation exists as to how they were devised. They have given us considerable problems as to their meaningful order but as a historical process they have been preserved.

Sample Record:

Metcalf Number: R100F13
Country: France
Site: Evreux:, Cathedral, Notre Dame
Sequence: Clerestory, window x12, section B (Corpus: Bay 125 [107])
Subject: Virgin Mary and Christ Child
Date: 15th century
Notes: Corpus Vitrearum, France, Recensement VI, Haute-Normandie (2001), pp. 143, 144, 155 (Bay 125 [107])
Public Image:

Once the user enters the database they are presented with two pulldown menus that are used to browse the collection. The first is for country and the other is for site within the country you have chosen. To see the full record for any of these works it is necessary to click on the thumbnail image and this will show the full record along with a larger version of the image. Unfortunately this database is limited to browsing by country and site as freeform text search is unavailable.

It is one of the most comprehensive collections of stained glass images on the Internet and while the database structure and documentation is not as comprehensive as we would have liked it is a practical and sensible solution to getting their unique resource used by the scholarly community. The images may be used free of charge for scholarly purposes but permission has to be requested for any commercial use.

A number of individuals have to be thanked for their help in the creation of this resource. First of all the staff of the Dayton Art Institute who realized the potential for getting this collection transferred to the Index of Christian Art and in particular Ellen Rohmiller, Chief Librarian, for all her help.

Everybody in the Index of Christian Art helped with the compilation of this database and these include Adelaide Bennett, John Blazejewski, Lois Drewer, Maite Garcia Lechner, Giovanni Freni, Judith Golden, Marie Holzmann, Libby Karlinger Escobedo, and Barbara Shearn, Of all of these particular thanks has to be given to Barbara Shearn and Maite Garcia Lechner who worked assiduously on the database for many months. Thanks go to Jon Niola for devising this data structure. Many students have helped in the creation of this database and our thanks go to them for their work, in particular David Schaller for his persistence in resolving many of the image problems.

A final acknowledgment has to go to Robert Metcalf Jr., son of the two founders who has helped in numerous ways to preserve the memory of his parents and answered our many queries.

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