Stories in Art: The Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Texas

Peering into the past can revive the best stories in art. Stained glass has been an art form for hundreds of years. Many times, it falls to our company to bring past stories in glass back to life… to (very literally) resurrect a window that glimpses into history.

The Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Texas came to us in 2009 with a request: to put a beloved stained glass window back together in a restored condition for the new French Family Science, Math, and Technology Center, made possible in part by a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Inc.

Zettler Hand-Painted Window (1899)

The academy opened in 1874 after six nuns from the Galveston community of Ursuline Sisters started the school and has carried the traditions of the original school since that time. The resurrection of the window would be paying a tribute to the graduates of the academy.

The original window, “The Five Wise Virgins,” has a beautiful narrative in history. Forged in 1899 in Munich, Germany by F. X. Zettler, the hand-painted stained glass window illuminated the original Ursuline Chapel in Dallas for many years.

What we didn’t know was that the window now lay broken in thousands of pieces in crates that had been in storage for decades. We didn’t even know how the original window was supposed to look. It seemed like an impossible task.

When Stanton Glass Studio received the broken glass shards, the task before us became clear. To truthfully depict the story that the window had to share, we would need to arrange and create a massive, two-story jigsaw puzzle from the pieces left intact and recreate other pieces of glass to replace shards that could not be salvaged. This became a company-wide project for some months, involving our artist, Joe Barbieri, and all of our glassmakers.

Stanton Woodworks designed and built the massive wooden frame to house the window. Nathan Stanton personally pieced all the different boards and panels together during the installation.

The window would be housed in an illuminated light box to bring the painted pieces to life. The 110-year-old window would once again be displayed and admired by those who attended the Ursuline Academy.

Painted glass is seen less often in present-day buildings, but when one does come across a masterful work of art like “The Five Wise Virgins,” it is truly inspiring as it is so rare to behold. Something unique and transformational happens when we encounter an artwork from another era that almost transports the beholder to a story in the past. At Stanton Glass Studio, part of what we do is the act of bringing that past back into focus and recreating a timeless art piece that can be admired in a modern day.

The team put together a two-story jigsaw puzzle of glass pieces.
Master artist, Joe Barbieri, restores and paints lost glass pieces.

The building where the window resides is a state-of-the-art, LEED Gold certified “green” structure that serves as a science and math department for the students of the Academy. Every student now walks by the stained glass window in the lobby of the building as they go to the classrooms.

The video below tells the story of the window in greater detail:

To see more photos of “The Five Wise Virgins,” please go to our Restoration page in our Portfolio.

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