Over eight hundred years later (see previous post), wheat and bread, sowing and reaping, baking and sharing, are still subjects for large-scale stained glass windows. Even without the connotations of Biblical symbolism and religious ritual, these can be read as a celebration of the land, farmers, labourers, and of daily bread itself.
Max Ingrand (1908-1969) is my French Harry Stammers (1902-1969): together they are my two post-war stained glass heroes. They are almost exact contemporaries and, while I have no idea if they ever knew or saw each other's work, they have a great deal in common in terms of distinctive designs, themes, and palettes. They are both wonderful illustrators whose windows are enormous storybooks, both treat ordinary people with great affection and humanity, both fill their glass with beautiful details, and both display a gentle sense of humour (always a huge plus when there is so much humourless stained glass).
Max Ingrand was a star stained glass designer whose name is far better known in France than Harry Stammers' is here. Yet despite the important and ground-breaking post-war stained glass project effected by the French government and church (bringing in famous artists such as Braque, Chagall, Léger, and Matisse to collaborate with stained glass ateliers) there is very little in print about this exciting period - and virtually nothing about Max Ingrand. So we just had to go and see some of his windows for ourselves.
This very large window was installed in the Sainte-Colombe chapel in Rouen Cathedral in 1956 and is just as good as I'd hoped it would be. The little angel carrying a loaf of bread (top) is just a footnote in a huge scene showing the timeless activities of ploughing, sowing, reaping and threshing. I'm very fond of depictions of sowers, as I think many who enjoy growing things from seed might be (and there are plenty to compare in stained glass) and always examine sheaves of wheat and field scenes with great enjoyment.
But just look at the way MI has included field and wild flowers which look like a woodcut or linocut.
Even so, there's no doubting this is no pastoral idyll, but jolly hard work,
with a basket of bread and a jug of wine for the much-needed break (it makes me think of Thomas Hardy novels, when I know I should in fact be thinking of the Eucharist).
There are more several more exceptional Max Ingrand windows in Rouen and, opposite the cathedral, is Brasserie Paul where you can get a 'Simone de Beauvoir salad' (she worked in Rouen for four years), a glass of wine, and basket of bread.