Conservator Sophie Gwynn has recently given a talk on the Ringer Windows at the Church of St Mary, Lastingham. Lastingham's apse contains five exceptionally rare nineteenth-century windows by Italian artist Ulisse de Matteis (1827-1910), who founded his stained glass business together with his brother Sergio and business partners Guiseppe Francini and Natale Bruschi in 1859 at 97 Via Guelfa in central Florence. These windows, executed in a distinctive Renaissance style, are prime examples of only a handful of works by the de Matteis workshop executed for clients in Britain. The only other de Matteis windows known to be in existence in the UK are those at All Hallows' Church, Harthill, in South Yorkshire, and at the Church of St Mary, Credenhill, in Herefordshire.
Sophie's lecture coincided with the church's Annual General Meeting (AGM), and was followed by refreshments. She explained the various brilliant and sophisticated techniques involved in making the windows, and their significance, as well as outlining the recent conservation. The conservation project has revealed many interesting technical and art historical details, helping us to better understand these rare and remarkable windows. With the aid of colleague Carlotta Cammelli, for the first time conservators were able to decipher the minute wording found on the hems of the figure of Anne Ringer's garments, which reads as follows:
Ritrat(to) di Anna Ringer da una Fotogra(fia) ['Portrait of Anne Ringer from a photograph']
A mata e compianta de tutt(i) ['Loved and mourned by all']
Speranza di ['Hope of']
Remarkably, the photograph mentioned in the inscription survives, as reproduced here. Annie Ringer tragically died after choking on a plum on her 7th birthday. Her father Sydney Ringer (1836-1910) was a physician and professor of pharmacology. The family had a weekend retreat in Lastingham. Annie's grandfather, Henry Darley (d.1810), was the local lord of the manor, residing at Aldby Park in Buttercrambe, 25 miles from Lastingham. The Ringers funded Lastingham Church's extensive 1879 restoration, which included a new stone roof and newly commissioned schemes of stained glass.
The conservation of the windows was partially funded by the Glaziers Trust, a grant-giving charitable arm of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painter of Glass. Generous donations were also received from the Friends of Lastingham, a dedicated charitable group chaired by Penelope Dawson-Brown, who work in collaboration with the vicar and parochial church council to maintain the building.
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