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The Rose Window by Painton Cowen

The Rose Window (2005)

by Painton Cowen

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Link to my 'Mostly NF' blog review to read and comment OR read the text right here:

I'll try to keep this blog post short because The Rose Window is what my coworker calls a "look book" -- a feast for the eyes. Words are secondary.

With large, full-page color photos, Painton Cowen offers a gallery of beautiful artwork made with glass and sunlight. Overcoming all the engineering difficulties inherent in stone cathedral construction, medieval craftsmen managed to arrange brilliant, colored glass in remarkably complex circular patterns. They practiced graphic design before anyone knew the term. The images are breath-taking even for those of us in the over-stimulated twenty-first century.

Standing within the monumental cathedrals of Europe, worshippers in the middle ages were treated to vibrant displays of color. The 45-foot circular windows at Chartres, or those at Notre Dame are truly dazzling instruments of light. The two-page spread of the north transept at St Denis is my favorite. There is so much glass in the walls I can't help but wonder what supports the roof.

The author presents an interesting contrast with many of the windows. He shows a cathedral's stony facade from the outside where the muted glass goes unnoticed against bright masony. Then you see the darkened interior where the only light able to penetrate the walls shines through that same window in bright colors. You know the walls exist only because, in places, there's an absence of light and color.

If you venture into the text -- there are words, too -- Cowen tells the evolution of rose windows from the primitive sixth century oculus and small wheel windows to the magnificent circular windows with complex patterns. He explains their meaning and expounds on the rose window's form, style, and geometry. But, again, the text plays second fiddle. The spectacular display of color will hold your attention.

If you have ever seen a rose window -- medieval or modern, in person or in this book -- please click "Add comment" below. I'd be interested to read your impressions.

Find more of my reviews at Mostly NF.
  benjfrank | Feb 21, 2007 |
Ravishing pictures of a forgotten and wonderful corner of ecclesiastical art. ( )
  jontseng | Jan 31, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0500511748, Hardcover)

A visually sensational study of the rose window both in its own right and as a central feature of Gothic architecture.

Painton Cowen has dedicated his life to the study of rose windows. Here he presents the world's best-known rose windows in over 300 new photographs and line drawings—Paris (Notre Dame), Chartres, Reims, Strasbourg, Cologne, Florence, Siena, Palma de Mallorca, Santa Maria del Mar, and New York's St. John the Divine, as well as many lesser-known, but no less astonishing, examples.

Every aspect of the rose window is covered, including its possible origins in the south of Europe, its flowering in thirteenth-century France, the diffusion of styles across Europe, and modern reinterpretations, as well as the powerful geometry behind the designs and the meanings specific to individual examples. Perennial favorites such as the windows at Chartres are dissected and discussed in detail.

This book provides unique insights into the development and organization of the rose window and its central position in Gothic architecture through a lucid, illuminating text and carefully selected comparative material that covers the wealth of Gothic creative activity. It also explores the greater meaning of the rose window through numerology, scholasticism, and the concept of heavenly order. 350 illustrations, 300 in color.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:05 -0400)

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