On the 2nd of October, 1888, the first rector of the Catholic University of America signed a contract to purchase seventeen stained glass windows from the Benzinger Brothers, acting as agents of the Royal Bavarian Art Institute, F.X. Zettler of Munich, for $4,950, payable at installation. The agreement signed by the Rt. Rev. John J. Keane explicitly requested “the drawing of the figures to show in every line boldness of design and beauty and majesty of feature and form,” with the central Pentecost window to be “especially a masterpiece.” Before signing the agreement, Keane added—in his own slightly messy hand—the stipulation that the Royal Bavarian Art Institute would continually revise their cartoons, or large format drawings of the proposed windows, until he found the results satisfactory.
This purchase was one common to many Christian communities at the time, as the art of stained glass was experiencing a revival in mid to late 19th century Munich under the patronage of both King Ludwig I and King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Franz Xavier Zettler, the creator of the Caldwell stained glass windows, established his company in the 1870s. F.X. Zettler’s “Munich Style” windows became popular across the United States and can be found in St. Martin of Tours Church of Louisville, Kentucky and the Cathedral of Saint Andrew of Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as at Catholic University. Windows like these would have been seen by the most well-known of American stained glass artisans, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and could have encouraged his own experiments in the medium. The Royal Bavarian Art Institute of F.X. Zettler still exists today in Germany as Franz Mayer of Munich, Inc. Check out Gail Tierney’s 1999 article “Franz Mayer and Company and Zettler Studios” for more information on the company’s history. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Historic Stained Glass of Caldwell Chapel”