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The stained glass of Henry Holiday

Photograph of Holiday's stained glass windowThe artist Henry Holiday (1839 - 1927) deserves to be better known. Eschewing the sentimentality and archaism of his peers, his stained glass designs are strong and dramatic, and reveal a brilliant understanding of the use of colour. However, his reputation has been overshadowed by that of Burne-Jones, whom he succeeded as designer at the firm of Powell & Sons.

The window he provided for St Salvator's is in the Pre-Raphaelite style popularised by the firm of Morris & Co. Though only twenty years separate Holiday's window from the neighbouring design by Hardman & Co., the difference in style is quite remarkable. Whereas Hardman's produced windows in a distinctively Medieval vein, Holiday's compositions are wonderfully naturalistic.

His window for the Chapel occupies the first bay to the east of the south door of the building. His colour palette, so different to that of Hardman's, is full of golden yellows and olive greens. Raised as a memorial to Principal Shairp, the window bears the figures of Virtue, Faith and Knowledge. Beneath these Rossetti-like women are rectangular panels depicting Biblical scenes. From left to right, we have the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ Preaching in the Temple and Paul Preaching to the Athenian Philosophers. Each of the trefoil heads of the window's three lights contains a seated angel, each in a different languid pose. The tracery above these wistful figures is full of dark green foliage and roses. Set amidst the verdure is a delightful quatrefoil featuring a mother surrounded by her young family. The style and colouring of the piece is a wonderful foil to the bold Gothic of Hardman's windows. The window is a fine example of the work of an artist who deserves greater recognition.


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