GLASS HOUSES
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine|January 2021
In a six-story building in the centre of Munich, Michael and Petra Mayer run — and reside in — one of the world’s oldest and most celebrated architectural glass and mosaic ateliers.
Gisela Williams

THE EXTRAVAGANT LUDWIG II, the so-called mad king of Bavaria, was said to love nothing more than a room aglow with painted glass. Indeed, his obsession with the art form galvanised the revival of stained-glass making in Germany, initiated by his grandfather Ludwig I in the early 19th century. During that era, elaborately designed windows — in churches but also secular buildings — became fashionable, with many

German artists and artisans adopting the craft, including Joseph Gabriel Mayer, who in 1847 founded Munich’s Mayer Institute of Christian Art, a workshop that produced religious sculptures and altars. By the 1880s, Mayer, who had by then been joined by his son Franz Borgias, had offices in Paris, London and New York City. (The company still has an office on Manhattan’s Madison Square Park.)

Over the years, Mayer created the windows for Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein castle chapel in Bavaria, as well as the Königshaus am Schachen, his legendary folly of a hunting lodge near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In 1892, Pope Leo XIII awarded the company the church’s prestigious Pontifical Institute of Christian Art title and, soon after, one of the most important commissions of that era, now perhaps the most recognised stained-glass window in the world: the Holy Spirit window above the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, an abstract design of deep orange and yellow splinter shaped glass surrounding a dove. Mayer’s work, distinguished by its saturated colours, painterly but naturalistic images and allusions to late Gothic artists like Hans Holbein the Elder, came to define the era’s Catholic churches.

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