15:23 PM

Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum

Through Fall 2023

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum, a rich display of 18 works of French Romanesque and Gothic art on loan from the museum in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, which is renowned for one of the world’s finest collections of medieval sculpture and stained glass from 12th-century France. Glencairn Museum is currently closed to the public for extensive infrastructure renewal, presenting the opportunity to display highlights from its collection in context in the medieval galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Glencairn Museum, located in the 1930s home built by collector Raymond Pitcairn (1885–1966), has a long history of generous loans to the museum’s medieval galleries, and often lends work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Met Cloisters, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and major museums across Europe, including the Louvre Museum. This is the first major loan grouping to a US museum from the Glencairn Museum since 1982.

The installation is organized by Jack Hinton, Henry P. McIlhenny Curator of European Decorative Arts & Sculpture. He remarked: “This exciting collaboration further enlivens our medieval galleries with astonishing examples of stained glass and sculpture that bear remarkable narratives intended to teach and inspire the faithful. The juxtaposition of the two collections also sheds light on the broader histories of early medieval and Gothic art and how these important gatherings of medieval art came about.”

Brian Henderson, Director of Glencairn Museum, said: “We are proud of the nearly 100-year history of lending between our two institutions, and we are honored that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is exhibiting significant works from our collection. This is an exciting opportunity for audiences to engage with works of art with which they may not be familiar, and I am grateful for the opportunity to keep our treasures in the public eye while Glencairn is closed for renovations.”

Among the works on view are exceptional limestone and marble sculptures and figurative stained-glass panels from 12th- and 13th-century France, and Spanish Romanesque ivories. Highlights include one of the most important and best-preserved pieces of early Gothic glass in America, showing the Flight into Egypt (from the Abbey Church of St. Denis, north of Paris, c. 1140); the Head of a King attributed to Gislebertus, sculptor of the 12th-century portal of the Cathedral of Saint Lazare at Autun, France, c. 1130; a capital from St. Guilhem le Désert in southern France, late 1100s– early 1200s; and limestone reliefs of the Temptation of Christ from the Collegiate Church of Saint Gaudens, France, c. 1150.

A particular strength of the installation will be a group of narrative stained-glass panels from the Gothic period. The stories depicted will be deciphered for visitors and placed into a broader context of their significance within the decorative schemes of their churches of origin. Similarly, the framing elements of some glass panels and the related decorative designs on the stone sculptures will show how narratives could be heightened by certain ornaments. The historic architectural interiors of the museum, including its Cloister and monumental portal from the Abbey Church of Saint Laurent, near Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire, France, will lend further context and depth to the presentation.

The installation will also offer insight into the story of medieval art in the United States, its relationship to faith, and how the Pitcairn family amassed the extraordinary Glencairn collection.

About Glencairn Museum
Glencairn Museum houses the collection amassed by Raymond Pitcairn (1885–1966) in the 1920s and 1930s. The house and collections came about through Pitcairn’s work on Bryn Athyn Cathedral, built for the New Church community (inspired by the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg) of which he was a leading member, and his collecting of examples of medieval art to inspire its craftsworkers. Glencairn is now part of Bryn Athyn Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, which comprises four buildings: Bryn Athyn Cathedral, Cairnwood Estate, Cairncrest, and Glencairn Museum. Built between 1892 and 1929, this district contains rare and outstanding buildings of Beaux Arts and Arts and Crafts architectural styles in a rural landscape. The National Parks Service of the United States Department of the Interior named the surrounding grounds a National Historic Landmark in 2008.

About the renovation at Glencairn Museum
Glencairn Museum is currently closed to the public for major renovations. The main components of the renovation project are replacing the electrical supply and rewiring most of the building, replacing all domestic water plumbing, and replacing the heating system and adding air conditioning throughout the building. The anticipated reopening for Glencairn Museum is slated for the Christmas 2023 season.

Jack Hinton, Henry P. McIlhenny Curator of European Decorative Arts & Sculpture

Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum is generously supported by Mark and Robin Rubenstein.

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