Luminous Figures

In the sixteenth century, small-format glass paintings are a popular art form in southern Germany and even more so in the Old Swiss Confederacy. These are works of art of outstanding quality that graced town and guild halls, universities, monasteries, and hospitals. The panels were executed by glass painters, based on designs commissioned from renowned artists of the time. Donating such a work was a common and widely recognized act of social communication, lending representative expression to alliances, friendships, and honors. That is why virtually every glass painting prominently features the donor’s coat of arms. The motifs surrounding this central element vary widely and include depictions of religious themes, but also personifications and allegories, representations of professions, and scenes from Swiss history. Showcasing around ninety works from its golden age in the sixteenth century, the presentation offers a survey of glass paintings and design drawings from Basel, with forays into the art scenes of other cities like Berne, Nuremberg, and Schaffhausen. Juxtapositions of drawings and stained glass paintings illuminate the close interrelation between the two art forms.