TillbakaThe Light Shining in the Darkness

Johan Way’s stained glass

Johan Way

The newly awakened interest in the Middle Ages at the start of the 19th century meant a growth of interest in stained glass. That interest gave Uppsala Cathedral the first stained glass windows to have been made in Sweden since medieval times. They were designed by Johan Way, Uppsala University Drawing Master between 1831 and 1872.

Johan Way (1792–1873) started off as a regular soldier and took part in the Napoleonic wars of 1813–14 before resigning his commission and training as an artist instead. He studied in Brussels among other places and became a skilful miniaturist. Probably his best-known work apart from the Vasa Chapel stained glass windows is his oil painting “Karl XIV Johan’s visit to the Uppsala Mounds”, which is now in Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

Before starting work on the Vasa Chapel windows in his newly established Marieberg (Stockholm) workshop, Way undertook field trips to England, Germany and France to learn the craft. The Vasa Chapel windows attracted widespread attention and garnered both press coverage and literary mention.

Way’s windows remained in the Vasa Chapel for 50 years until, during the sweeping restoration of the Cathedral by Helgo Zettervall, they were condemned as hopelessly out of date and new ones substituted. These in turn were replaced as part of the next major restoration (1971–76), because they were damaged beyond repair. Visitors to the Vasa Chapel today can see copies of Johan Way’s windows by the stained glass studio N. P. Ringström.

Winged cherub

One of few winged cherubs by Johan Way to have survived intact; they were added to the Vasa Chapel windows in 1840–41. The motif is a winged angel head inscribed in a circle surrounded by three foliage ornaments in grisaille on a yellow ground. The triangular shape of the panel suggest that it comes from the upper part of the window.


Two winged cherubs

Roundel with two winged cherubs surrounded by grey clouds. Both in the faces and in the wings one can clearly see how Way used contrasts of light and shade and highlights to achieve volume and plasticity in his painting. The cherubs seem to be quietly chatting together, an amusing detail here being that one of them has a hairstyle which was the height of fashion at the time of the window being made.