I have a penchant for underdog glass, the type of glass that is often written off by the so-called cognoscenti who have decided - and stick to their belief - that the best stained glass can only ever be medieval or Morris. I exaggerate, I know, because Arts & Crafts and John Piper also qualify as tasteful, but that still leaves a lot of windows that are overlooked and underrated. I particularly love a good bit of painted glass from the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, preferably as lurid and as shocking as possible to the eyes of the commentators such as Pevsner who decided that it was all a bit strident and unsubtle.
But how can you possibly not be fascinated by windows with wonderful stories, action, interiors, landscapes and animals? Like those made by Abraham van Linge in the 1630s for the chapel of University College, Oxford (1639) which are full of life and huge eyes. I got to see them recently (it's not one of the Oxford chapels that are usually open to the public, and I was lucky on the day I asked to see them) and was thrilled by the beautiful 1639 chapel - I'm beginning to realise I'm quite a sucker for Jacobean black/white/gold/dark wood interiors and their wild windows.
I was also particularly delighted to find a Breughel-eqsue kitchen scene with aprons, plates, gridirons, ducks about to be cooked, a dog picking up scraps, and women brandishing ladles and very much in charge. This pleased me because I'm still looking hard for women in windows (and finding quite a few) and, although I know these two are Martha and Mary at home, they could be fine examples of 'Everywoman': ordinary cooks, sisters, mothers, daughters catering for a special guest and a crowd.
The scene bustles with female energy, presence and character (these two are not overly meek and mild), and is as timeless and as fascinating as any period genre oil painting.
There are eight of these wonderful windows in the chapel and each one is crammed with incident. It doesn't matter if you don't know the stories beforehand, because they are told clearly and vigorously through the pictures, like enormous stills from a Technicolor Hollywood epic. Utterly brilliant, and the aesthetes don't know what they are missing.