Henry Thomas Bosdet (1856 - 1934), who was born and died in Jersey, the son of a sea captain, made his career in London as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Arts and as a successful stained glass artist. There are over 40 of his windows in Jersey and more in England, the Netherlands, Barbados, and even in St Helena — we are still finding them. For details of his life and work, continue to browse our website and see the exhibition details below.
Welcome to the Exhibition
This exhibition displays cartoons (templates) of his three beautiful stained glass windows in St Martin’s Church. Part of a collection of items gifted to La Société Jersiaise by his widow in 1934, the cartoons have never been on public display before.
1. The Annunciation Window
On entering the church and walking up the nave, the two hanging banners facing you depict facsimiles of original studies of the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, created for the stained glass window next to the pulpit. The facsimiles are full size, the original drawing of the Virgin Mary is on display in the Lady Chapel. Executed in 1907 at his studio in Chiswick, the figure of the Virgin Mary is particularly striking. A close comparison between the cartoon and the window will reveal subtle differences. Above the two windows, a smaller central light shows Sarah, Abraham’s wife, holding a scroll with the promise which God made to Abraham: “She shall be the Mother of Nations” (Genesis 17, v.16), the cartoon for which is also on display in the Lady Chapel.
2. The Video Display
Take the opportunity to sit for 10 minutes to view a short video taken from a documentary ‘Bosdet: the Man behind the Stained Glass Window’ made in 2007 by Maya Hammarsal & Mark Jones, about Bosdet’s life & work, and from images taken recently by drone by the local ITV news team. The documentary can be viewed in full by a link on the Home page of our website.
3. The Nativity Window
The oldest of the three windows at St Martin, this was dedicated on 30 April 1899 by the then Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev’d G.O.Balleine. The original cartoon depicting Mary and Joseph is on display below the window. Unfortunately the cartoon showing the Christ child in the manger is missing from the collection gifted by Bosdet’s widow. Mary, looking down at her baby, her hands clasped in wonderment, is itself a wonderful image. Both depictions of the Magi and the Shepherds are beautifully observed and draw one’s eye towards mother and child.
Located behind the altar, the Nativity Window as the East window is the focal point of the Lady Chapel and engendered much interest and publicity. Take a few minutes to read a letter written to Bosdet by local architect Adolphus Curry, who designed the tracery of the window, on the evening following the window’s dedication. The report of the proceedings which appeared on the 1st May, the following day, in the Jersey Express also makes fascinating reading.
4. The two cartoons displayed horizontally
Unfortunately the larger cartoons were considered by Jersey Heritage too problematical to store if they were to be framed, so these two have been selected to be displayed horizontally to give the observer a close and true appreciation of Bosdet’s artistry.
The original cartoon of the Shepherds is of particular interest. Drawn primarily in charcoal, the medium produces a bold appearance and effect. Lisa Oxenden-Wray, who has expertly conserved all the cartoons on display, was struck by this and by the drawing’s perspective. The medium chosen however makes the cartoon vulnerable and damage caused by rolling the drawing in the past has resulted in several horizontal lines appearing near the foot of the cartoon. It is to be hoped that further damage can be avoided in future.
The second cartoon of the Virgin Mary from the Annunciation window demonstrates Bosdet’s mastery as a draughtsman. Curator (principal) of the life school at the Royal Academy of Arts for some 16 years, Bosdet’s studies of figure drawing are outstanding. Aidan Smith writing in his seminal guide The Glass Rainbow states …”his work has a rare spiritual quality which reveals the artist’s deep reverence for sacred stories and characters he depicted. His sensitive portrayals…never descend into sentimentality. The beauty of his figures is neither effeminate nor flamboyant. Facial expression is controlled yet eloquent, benign yet powerful.”
5. Abraham’s Sacrifice
This is the second window commissioned by Jane, widow of George Aubin, the first being the Annunciation in memory of her late husband the previous year. The facsimiles are slightly reduced in size to fit the stand alone banners.
Abraham’s faith was tested by God when commanded to offer his son as a sacrifice, only to be restrained by an angel when he was about to do the deed — for a fuller account see the interpretation plaque. An Old Testament story, foreshadowing God’s sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ is reflected in the image of a ram caught in a thicket at Abraham’s feet which was sacrificed instead of Isaac.
6. The smaller lights
Three small cartoons are on display, The first is the top light of the Annunciation window referred to above depicting Sarah, Abraham’s wife, holding a scroll. The other two are from Abraham’s Sacrifice, one of an angel from a top panel, and the other, part of the memorial at the base of the window.
These original cartoons illustrate the consummate care taken by Bosdet in designing each window. Unlike the Nativity window for which the stone tracery was specially designed, church windows would usually have pre-existing stone tracery containing small lights, each of which needed to be included in the overall design. One of the defining aspects of Bosdet’s artistry was his ability to incorporate pre-existing lights of various sizes and numbers into one harmonious composition — one window in St Nicholas’ Church, Child Okeford in Dorset has 20 lights.
7. The Vidimus
Finally, the smallest of the exhibits is a watercolour painting of the overall design for the Annunciation window. A Latin term (literally ‘we have seen’) a vidimus was produced as a proposed initial design not only for approval by the commissioning client, in this case Jane Aubin, but also for the church authority, in Jersey by the Ecclesiastical Court. Jersey Heritage is fortunate in having several in its collection formerly in the possession of the Court signed and dated by the Greffier and by Bosdet.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this the first public exhibition of Bosdet’s cartoons. We hope to present two more exhibitions for the windows in St Aubin’s-on-the-Hill and St Mary’s Church next year.
Please sign your name in the Attendance Book at the entrance as you leave.
The exhibition will close following the service of Nine Lessons & Carols on Sunday 10 December, which commences with a short organ recital at 5.45pm. Mulled wine and mince pies will be provided by the choir after the service.