1887: Hawthorn Vic, Christ Church Anglican

Charity of Dorcas Christ Blessing the Children Her Children Shall Arise Up and Call Her Blessed

Three-light, West

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Fig. 1: Charles Vickers (1853-4) Frederick Wyatt (1872), Christ Church Anglican, Hawthorn Vic.  William Montgomery’s three-light memorial to Marian Wallen can be seen above the west end porch.  Photographs: Bronwyn Hughes c1997.

Robert Elias Wallen commissioned the west window at Christ Church Hawthorn to commemorate his late wife, Marian May Wallen, née Pitman, who died at the Wallen family home, ‘Harlech’, on 29 January 1887.  Only in her 41st year, she left a grieving husband, three sons and seven daughters.[1]    The subjects selected for the three lights represented Marian Wallen’s life and Christian commitment and was described in the Church of England Messenger.

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Fig. 1: William Montgomery, Charity of Dorcas, Christ Blessing the Children, Her Children Shall Arise and call her Blessed, 1887, Christ Church Anglican, Hawthorn Vic.    Note: the base panels are part obscured when viewed from the floor of the nave.

This window in the upper west end wall, consists of three lights, and is the largest in the church.  The subject of the two side lights are taken from the description of a good woman contained in Prov. xxxi.  The centre light represents “Christ blessing the child;” the left-hand side light illustrates the text, “She stretched out her hand to the poor;” and the right-hand light, “Her children shall arise and call her blessed.” The groups are of large size; the ornament in canopies and bases is in the Early English style.  The memorial inscription is, “In loving remembrance of Marian May Wallen; died 29th January, 1887.”[2]

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Fig. 2 and 3: Details of the decorative canopies.  Typical of Montgomery’s preferred ‘Early English’ style of architectural decorative work.  Note the use of a variety of grey/blue glass in his ‘flat’ backgrounds.

The item emphasised ‘an important branch of ecclesiastical art – that of painting on glass – is making rapid progress  in the colony…The whole of the work of this window… was designed, drawn and executed in Victoria, the artist being Mr. W. Montgomery, of Melbourne, late of Clayton & Bell, London, and Meyer(sic) and Co., Munich’.[3]  It seems likely that the item was submitted to the Messenger by Montgomery himself to encourage clients to connect his work with that of the celebrated English firm supplying windows to the new Cathedral, and to advertise his ability to Anglican other churches, as it mentioned recent installations at St Stephen’s, Richmond and St Columb’s, Glenferrie (part of the district of Hawthorn) and the window, ‘almost finished’, for St Paul’s Church, Sale.

The commission allowed Montgomery to fully utilise his design skills (unlike the Wallen window at St Columb’s that was based on an image from The Pictorial Catechism) and to make good use of quality hand-blown ‘antique’ glasses in a range of carefully selected colours and tones.  Montgomery preferred the medieval tradition of leaving his backgrounds ‘flat’, that is, without suggesting a scene or depth.  In this way he kept the emphasis firmly on the subject in the foreground of the composition.  The overall tonal effect is lighter than the Glenferrie window and the subjects and designs intentionally reflect the Christian virtues and values of Mrs Wallen and her caring role as a mother.

[1] Australasian, 7 October 1893, p. 24.

[2] Church of England Messenger, 9 January 1888, p. 4.

[3] ibid.

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