Who Pays for Piper wins the 'Toon

28th March 2023
Who Pays for Piper wins the 'Toon

Adam Partridge Auctioneers and Valuers is pleased to bring to auction a beautiful John Piper cartoon for a stained glass panel in the Baptistry Window of Coventry Cathedral. The artwork is to be offered at the forthcoming one day auction at Bainbridge Adam Partridge London Saleroom in West Ruislip on 4 April 2023, with an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000. The mixed media cartoon is signed with John Piper’s initials and numbered B101. It measures approximately 126 x 52cm.


After the old Coventry Cathedral was bombed in World War II, John Piper recorded the destruction in prints and in tapestry designs. So he was an appropriate choice for the Baptistry Window commission. Piper first created the overall window design and then devised individual full size cartoons which were translated into glass by craftsman Patrick Reyntiens, who created the stained glass and leaded panels in the full window. Piper and Reyntiens subsequently collaborated on other commissions including windows for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

The stone mullion framework or tracery of the Baptistry Window is about 22 metres high and 18 metres wide and was the design of the architect of the cathedral, Sir Basil Spence. The design of the complete window, ‘The Light of the Holy Spirit’, is a sunburst of graduating colours, in individual abstract panels. Each of the nearly 200 panels is a work of art in its own right, which together form an awe-inspiring whole and are enhanced by the passage of the sun across the sky behind the window. The panel translated from Cartoon B101 can be seen below and to the right of the vibrant yellow starburst centre.


After a traditional design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was rejected in 1944, in 1950 the competition to design the new Coventry Cathedral was won by Sir Basil Spence. Work began in 1954, with the structure being completed in 1962. Not only was the architecture of the new cathedral cutting edge, the artwork and interior were commissioned from the most exciting artists and designers of the time. Among the commissions was Sir Jacob Epstein’s eponymous sculpture of St Michael and the Devil high on the building wall outside. John Hutton’s floor to ceiling entrance screen of Saints and Angels is etched white on clear glass to enable the new building to be united with the ruins of the old cathedral which can be seen beyond. The Graham Sutherland tapestry of Christ in Majesty rises to dominate the space behind the altar and even the altar candlesticks were designed and made by the renowned ceramicist Hans Coper.

Coventry Cathedral is the product of contemporary design, of which John Piper was a leading proponent. Brave decisions were made which faced some opposition and criticism, but Coventry Cathedral is now lauded as an example of the work of the finest mid-20th century artists and designers.

The catalogue will be going live online.

Auction takes place at the London saleroom in Ruislip, just a short walk from West Ruislip station, on Tuesday 4th April from 10am.

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