Detail from Presentation of the Virgin (after Titian) by John La Farge, 1888
At Trinity Church in the City of Boston, there is the stained glass window, Faith, by Burlison & Grylls of London, installed in 1877-1878. It was given in memory of Charles Hook Appleton and Isabella Mason by their teenaged daughters Julia and Marian Alice, known as The Appleton Sisters. The two sisters were extremely close. They lived together on Beacon Street and purchased adjoining property in Lenox, MA.
Julia and Marian Alice Appleton
Eventually, the oldest daughter Julia would meet and marry noted architect Charles McKim, a colleague and friend of the artist John La Farge. Sister Alice would marry George Von Lengerke Meyer. As did many families of their social circle the McKims traveled extensively and often throughout Europe. In Venice they visited the galleries and in that city one of Julia’s favorite paintings was Titian’s Presentation of the Virgin, 1534-1538.
In 1887, Julia would unexpectedly die during childbirth. The grieving McKim, along with sister Alice, would commission John La Farge to create a window in Julia’s memory. La Farge would select as focus a small portion of Titian’s large canvas. The window would be designed and completed within five months.
The window depicts a young girl climbing steps and symbolizes Julia’s climb toward heaven. Below this image and considered separate from the story is the image of an angel playing a musical instrument. It is a spectacular window at any time of day but especially when the sun is shining just right through the opalescent and painted glass. For this series of images, that perfect time was approximately 1pm on a sunny day.
La Farge’s early sketch can be found at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the actual window is located on the south wall of Trinity Church located in Boston’s Copley Square.
Sources & Additional Reading
Trinity Church Tours
Presentation of the Virgin
early sketch by La Farge
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