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Glass and Stained Glass: Ferdinand II’s Passion
Palácio Nacional da Pena




This online exhibition aims at presenting the most significant objects from the collection of historical glass and stained glass of King Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1816-1885). The largest part of this collection - today kept at Pena National Palace, in Sintra - comes from the two mais residences of King Ferdinand: the Necessidades Palace, in Lisbon, and Pena National Palace.


In the collection of works of art assembled by King Ferdinand throughout his life, glass occupied pride of place. In the Glass Room of the Palace of Necessidades in Lisbon, pieces such as Roman funerary urns, Venetian plates and Germanic beer beakers were brought together. In the dining room, the openings were decorated with various antique stained-glass panels mounted in frames. Pena Palace also benefited from this passion. Stained-glass panels dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries were placed in the window sashes of the Great Hall, commissions were undertaken in Nuremberg for the nave and choir of the chapel, and the use of heraldic panels even came to be considered for the openings in the Stag Room. Ferdinand II’s interest in the art of the stained-glass window was an important factor behind the decision to initiate the restoration of Batalha Monastery, and must also have inspired the introduction of stained-glass windows in the chapel of the National Palace of Sintra.


The stained-glass panels on display in the Stag Room of Pena Palace correspond to the set that survived from the Necessidades Palace in Lisbon. This set is made of panes initially produced between the 14th and the 18th century for religious buildings, public buildings (town halls or guild houses) and private palaces. The panel “Domina Agnes, Dvcissa Bawarie” is the oldest surviving panel in Portugal. The history of these objects after its installation at Necessidades Palace in the 1860s is complex and should be mentioned. In fact, after the establishment of the Republic in 1910, the stained-glass panels were taken down and transferred to the storerooms of Ajuda Palace, where they remained until 1949. In that year, they were brought to Pena Palace to decorate its windows. However, they would end up remaining in storage, practically forgotten, for the next six decades. In taking over the management of the palace in 2007, Parques de Sintra - Monte da Lua sought to restore, exhibit and study these stained-glass panels. In November 2010, an agreement was signed with the Department of Conservation and Restoration of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the Nova Unviersity of Lisbon (DCR-UNL), which has acquired vast experience in the fields of glassware and stained glass. This agreement has already resulted in the cleaning, restoration and reconstitution of the panels and it is already supporting not only their historical-artistic study but also the gathering, processing and analysis of data concerning the materials and techniques used to produce them.


The stained-glass panels displayed on the Great Hall of Pena Palace, mainly produced between the 17th and the 19th century, show strong links with the group from the Necessidades Palace. The North-western window deserves a special reference. It is a unique 19th century patchwork of revival panels framed by a large architectonical structure made of coloured glass.

Apart from the Great Hall, stained-glass can also be found at the Chapel of Pena Palace. The most important window is the one in the nave, showing eight panels produced in 1840-1841 by the Kellner family of Nuremberg. All figures are linked to the history of the Palace: Our Lady of Pena (worshiped in Sintra since the Middle Ages), Saint George (patron saint of Portugal, the second homeland of King Ferdinand), King Manuel I (builder of the original Pena Convent) and Vasco da Gama (who gave the reason for the construction of the original convent). The group is crowned by the coats of arms of Saxony and Portugal.


This exhibition also comprises a group of historical glass objects which were part of the collection of King Ferdinand: beakers, tankards, tazze and goblets produced between the 16th and the 19th century in Venice, in Central Europe or the Iberian Peninsula. There were many more, but today they are part of the collection of the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon.

By including other glass objects from Pena Palace’s storerooms, this exhibition aims to make a hitherto neglected collection available for the public's enjoyment. It also aims to offer the scientific community, both in the field of the history of art and in the areas of conservation and restoration, a new subject to study, research and divulge.

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