2023 ULB Seminar \ Yvette Vanden Bemden & Isabelle Lecocq

Yvette Vanden Bemden & Isabelle Lecocq: Stained glass, an age-old technique in the service of a major art

The lectures of the Périer-D’Ieteren Foundation, organised as part of the painting and heritage conservation seminar (HAAR-B5270) of the ULB’s art history and archaeology master’s degree, will be held from 7 to 10 March 2023 on the Foundation’s premises (41 rue de Livourne, 1050 Ixelles).

Registration required before 1 March : sacha . zdanov @ ulb . be


Yvette Vanden Bemden, doctor in art history and archaeology at the Catholic University of Louvain and professor emeritus at the University of Namur, has been interested in stained glass since her dissertation. Her numerous research projects have enabled her to gain a better understanding of the art of stained glass in the Southern Netherlands, especially during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. She is the author of several publications on the subject, notably in the international Corpus Vitrearum collection. Attached to the Royal Institute for Artistic Heritage, she then joined the Facultés universitaires de Namur in 1983. She is also president of the Walloon Committee for Stained Glass, a member of the Royal Academy of Archaeology of Belgium and of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters of Belgium. Her field research, her participation in meetings concerning the conservation/restoration of stained glass windows, the realization of preliminary studies and numerous international meetings on the subject have made her a recognized specialist in the stained glass windows of the former Netherlands.

Isabelle Lecocq holds a doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Namur. Since 1997, she has been in charge of the “Research in Art History and Inventory” unit of the Royal Institute for Artistic Heritage. Her research focuses in particular on Belgian monumental heritage and mainly on ancient and modern stained glass windows, restored in their artistic and patrimonial contexts. She follows many restoration projects, participates in their expertise and scientific study. Isabelle Lecocq is the scientific secretary of the International Committee of the Corpus Vitrearum, an expert member of the International Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Stained Glass and a member of the board of the Royal Academy of Archaeology of Belgium.


Stained glass is less known to the public and less studied in scientific and academic circles than other artistic productions. Present in civil and religious buildings, stained glass is considered more as an architectural ornament than as a work of art in its own right. Often large in size, it is rarely exhibited in museums and is virtually absent from private collections. The spirit of this seminar is therefore to give students a first global approach to the art of stained glass as it developed in the Southern Netherlands, particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries. The definition of the terms specific to the discipline is an essential prerequisite for the analysis of the works (architectural context, closure of openings, materials, construction, effects, colour and light, etc.). In the field of conservation-restoration of stained glass windows, the critique of authenticity and the knowledge of the material history of these works are essential to consider their conservation-restoration.

Knowledge of the technique and style of stained glass as “markers” will be considered as different milestones that will allow us to retrace the history of stained glass from the first Romanesque examples to the 17th century, ending with its progressive disappearance. In the course of these presentations, the great stained glass windows representative of the art of stained glass as it developed in the Southern Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries will be discussed. The examples chosen will all come from the research carried out by Yvette Vanden Bemden and Isabelle Lecocq and from the work sites they have followed.



From 7 to 10 March 2023, the Foundation welcomed two experts in stained glass, Isabelle Lecocq (IRPA) and Yvette van den Bemden (UNamur), who discussed diverse aspects related to the production and conservation of stained glass (historical evolution, commissions, techniques etc.). New avenues of research were presented, in particular with regard to the connections between stained glass and the paintings of Hugo van der Goes and Pieter Coecke van Aelst, the study of preparatory drawings (small-scale drawings, cartoons, etc.), and the iconographic study of small medallion panels and rondels. A particularly difficult question addressed during the seminar concerned the authenticity of the attribution of stained glass, which is complicated, since no stained glass window has been transmitted without alteration.   



Seminar 1 / Tuesday 7 March 2023 / 4pm-7pm
General introduction: Stained glass, a major art form dating back over a thousand years.

Topics covered: Definition and technique of stained glass; Essential milestones in the history of stained glass and more specifically on stained glass in the Southern Netherlands; Principles of conservation and restoration of stained glass.

Seminar 2 / Wednesday 8 March 2023 / 4pm-7pm
Commissioning, designing and producing a stained glass window: the art of sharing invention.

Topics covered: The commissioning of stained glass windows; their design and execution.

Seminar 3 / Thursday 9 March 2023 / 4pm-7pm
In-depth questions and case studies (I).

Topics covered: Missing stained glass windows; Displaced stained glass windows, including those preserved in Lichfield.

Seminar 4 / Friday 10 March 2023 / 4pm-7pm
In-depth questions and case studies (II).

Topics covered: Small panels called “rondels”, rectangles and ovals; The right place of stained glass in heritage; Stained glass and the dynamics of interdisciplinarity.




Illustration : Tournai, Cathedral, south apse of the transept, Law on beer, around 1500. (© Isabelle Lecocq)