Returning the glow to Villa Pepita's glass

2016-04-10 08:00:00

The house in Avenida Pintor Sorolla isn’t there any more; a modern block of apartments stands in its place, but something still remains of Villa Pepita and its heyday. The Glass and Crystal Museum has rescued a group of stained glass windows that once decorated the chapel in this mansion in Malaga, which was owned by the Varea Marinetto family. Dating back to the 1940s, the four pieces were produced by the workshops of the French firm Mauméjean during its final years of production; the same firm made the stained glass for Malaga City Hall. After a process of restoration carried out by the Viarca company in Malaga, the light is once again shining through the stained glass windows from Villa Pepita, the only Spanish ones on display at the museum in the San Felipe Neri district.
“They are very much in Spanish style” says historian and restorer Gonzalo Fernández-Prieto, the owner of the Glass Museum. The windows show San José, San Ramón, La Inmaculada and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “all of which are very much loved in Malaga,” he explains.
The colours are vivid and intense, in contrast to the gentler tones of stained glass from northern Europe. This is because of the Malaga sunshine. The artisans needed to control and filter the intensity of the light that entered the rooms. In England and France, it was the opposite: they needed to let as much light in as possible.
These pieces bear the stamp of the prestigious Maison Mauméjean, a family firm that closed down in the middle of the last century. This was a French firm, but it had set up in Spain because of the demand for stained glass windows in this country at the end of the 19th century, for restored and new buildings.“It was a splendid era,” says master stained glass artist Alberto Cascón, whose company, Viarca, has restored these pieces.
The house was demolished years ago and the family put the windows into storage. The time they spent there in the dark has left its mark. Some parts were broken or worn, and the general glow had been lost beneath layers of dust and dirt.
Cascón cleaned the glass with great care, bit by bit, and only reconstructed what was strictly necessary. “The objective was to preserve as much of the original as possible,” he stresses.
True to the original
The window showing San José and La Inmaculada was the one that had suffered most damage with the passage of time and the conditions under which it had been stored. After considerable research to ensure that it was as true to the original as possible, Cascón recreated part of San José’s face. One piece that has been incorporated by this craftsman is obviously an addition.
“A specialist who looks at it closely will know that it has been restored, and that’s what I want; but from a distance nobody would realise,” says collector Fernández-Prieto. He is delighted that it was not necessary to send the windows abroad for restoration. “We have some wonderful craftsmen here,” he emphasises.
Originally, the glass was sent to Malaga from San Sebastian in sections, to be assembled here. This was done by somebody who was not an expert, says Alberto Cascón, and that led to mistakes that have now been corrected.
The stained glass, now with its glow restored, hangs on one of the walls at the Glass Museum, specially lit to give the sensation of it being in a window. These pieces are an addition to others from England and France that were already on display. Among them is the jewel in the crown: a window designed by artist Edward Burne-Jones and made by craftsman William Morris that is exhibited on the first floor. “Some people come here just to see this,” says Fernández-Prieto.
It is a true work of art, created by an artist and a craftsman, and this is something Fernández-Prieto wants to achieve in Malaga. “It would be my dream. Stained glass windows don’t have to be religious or represent something from the past. They are still a decorative part of many buildings. Why not make some more here?” he asks. In fact, he has already spoken to artist Jorge Rando, to ask him to work alongside Alberto Cascón.
He stresses that the philosophy of his museum is to “show the past, in order to inspire the future.” When it comes to stained glass, the future could be looking bright.source surinenglish