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  • image SG126

The Prodigal departs, stained glass panel, after Pieter Coecke van Aelst Netherlandish, 1550

Clear glass with brown paint and delicate use of yellow stains

Height: 320mm
Width: 190mm, approximate

Museum number: SG126

Curatorial note

In a rocky gorge Balaam sits astride the ass, a stick raised in his right hand while the ass turns his head to speak to Balaam. A winged angel stands before them grasping his sword upright. At the centre a young man holding a stick turns to Balaam in surprise. Above a cliff on the right three men tend six tubs of smoking incense; more men can be seen in the distance with a collection of large tents.

Popham attributed the panel to Jan Swart von Groeningen, but the fine drawing of the figures and faces, the comparatively large areas of clear glass and the pale yellow stain suggest a mature work from the workshop of Dirck Pietersz. Crabeth of Gouda, a view supported by Berserik. The shape of the panel, with the design spilling over into a separate arched top, is a format frequently adopted by Crabeth’s school. However, this representation of the subject is not within the conventional visual tradition of this story.

The design, probably a working drawing used in the glass workshop, is in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, where it has been attributed to a contemporary Swiss glass painter, Ludwig Ringler. I am indebted to Dr Berserik for the following comments: ‘The drawing can be stylistically matched to quite a number of drawings and glass panels from the Crabeth workshop. K. G. Boon in his catalogue The Netherlandish and German Drawings of the XVth and XVIth Centuries of the Frits Lugt Collection (1992) also attributes this drawing to the workshop of Crabeth (Cat. no. 65, note 5). On the verso of several drawings in the Rijksmuseum (see Boon's catalogue of the Rijksmuseum drawings from 1978) and the Balaam drawing are Dutch texts written in the same contemporary hand’. The drawing has been closely followed by the glass painter.


A. E. Popham’s comments are MS notes in pencil held at Sir John Soane’s Museum, c.1930
Franklin W. Robinson, ‘A Note on the Visual Tradition of Balaam and his Ass’, Oud Holland 84 (1969): 238 et seq.
Timothy B. Husband, The Luminous Image, Painted Glass Roundels in the Lowlands, 1480-1560. New York: Metropolitan Museum, 1995, pp.198-212
Dr C. J. Berserik, Personal correspondence. Sir John Soane's Museum Archive (1998-2002)
Catalogue of the Stained Glass in Sir John Soane's Museum, Special Issue of the Journal of Stained Glass 2004, pp 268-269

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk