The stained glass windows of J.M.Bonet and the designer Rafael Caseres in the Bishopric of Lérida

The discovery of documentation in the company’s archives uncovered two works of which we had no news, the rose window of the parish of Madre de Dios del Carmen and, according to the documentation, a triptych with angels in the chapel of the Sacred Heart School. As part of our work we dedicate part of our time to documenting the work we have done and we often find surprises that were not in the archive and others that are attributed to us but that predate the activity of the workshop and therefore cannot be attributed to us.

The principles of Vitralls Bonet

The founder of the Bonet workshop was Josep Maria Bonet(La Seu d’Urgell, 1903 – Barcelona, 1988) was a master glassmaker of the first half of the twentieth century. He was co-founder of the workshop that bears his name together with his brother, Javier Bonet (1897-1985), which is still in full activity. The family has ancient roots in the village of Arsèguel, in Alt Urgell. When he was very young, Bonet studied in Barcelona at the Llotja Schoolwhere he established friendships with artists with whom he would later collaborate in the field of stained glass (such as Montsardà, Labarta y Comaleran) and later learned the trade in the workshop of the glassmaker Oriach, where his brother already worked.

They established the workshop at number 6 of Asturias street in the Grácia neighborhood, where it is still located today. His first works were with the artist Darius Vilàs and the architect Josep Maria Pericas, the stained glass windows of the parish of Carme in Barcelona, the Parish of Sant Joan de Reus and the stained glass windows of the Crypt of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The workshop worked on the production of leaded stained glass, its restoration and engraved glass. The workshop was collectivized during the civil war and both J.M. Bonet and Javier Bonet dedicated themselves to other professional activities.

Post-War Stained Glass

At the end of the war, the workshop concentrated on the reconstruction of the temples destroyed during the war. J.M.Bonet worked on the stained glass windows in the chapter house of the monastery of Pobletin the stained glass windows of the monastery of Vallbona de las Monjas, in the stained glass windows of Santes Creus, in the stained glass windows of Santa María de las Avellanas, in Sant Joan de Lleida, in the Cathedral of Sant Feliu de Llobregat according to drawings of Francesc Labarta and in the parishes of Jesús and Sant Joan de Grácia. I also work with the architects Josep Maria Jujol in the parishes of Santa Maria de Vilanova i la Geltrú and Sant Joan Despí. Javier Bonet began new business ventures and finally left his positions in the stained glass company, which was left in the hands of José María.

Towards the 1960s, a period began in which stained glass was a new artistic field with its own discourse and worked with artists. Will Faber in the stained glass windows of the transept of the church of the Mundet homes, with the artist Ramón Rogent in the stained glass windows of the chapel of the Hospital of Granollers, the parish of Rubí and in the stained glass windows of the church of the Mundet homes. Domenech Fita for the Girona Cathedral. With Carles Madiroles at the Carmelites of Vic. José María Bonet received the letter of master glassmaker in 1986. He died in Barcelona in 1988.

Collaborations with Rafael Caseres

The stained glass windows to which we referred have in common having been designed by the artist Rafael Caseres. In the Bonet workshop in the 1950s, work was carried out with a scrupulous division of labor between each artisan in the construction process. There were designers who made the initial drawings following the client’s indications, the stained glass painter, who was responsible for adapting the drawing to natural size and deciding where each of the pieces would be cut, the technician who made the templates for each piece, the one who cut the pieces to be painted, the one who leaded the lead strips and two more specialized glaziers in the two final stages.

For many years one of the designers was this artist, who in addition to his extensive work in stained glass is preserved news of his work as a set designer and costume designer in the Documentation Center of the Performing Arts. There you can find scenographic projects, costume designs and even posters. Some other news within the artistic circuit is collected in the magazine “Arts i Bells Oficis” as a result of the group exhibition at the Laietanes galleries in 1931. Rafael Caseres is presented here as an illustrator as rich in fantasy as in detail. The coloring of his very modern drawings and the purity of his clean lines derive from the English illustration”.

Rafael Caseres' stained glass windowThere is also a review by M. Rodriguez Codolà in 1931 citing the author as a prominent illustrator of the artistic group “Uns Quants” to which the painter Gimeno also belonged.

The artist died in the summer of 1989 at the age of 85. Many projects have been preserved in the workshop, such as Sant Joan de Reus, Santa Maria de les Avellanes, the Parish of the Angels in Barcelona. He is also remembered as a hard-working professional, dedicated body and soul to his art.

Of the stained glass windows made by J.M.Bonet in Lérida we find the following references. In 1955 those of the Sagrat Cor school, a triptych with angels designed by Caseres and painted by Gavaldà. This was a self-employed stained glass painter who worked from one workshop to another. He was recognized within the world of glassmakers as a very technical and detailed painter, although very few documents or only oral memory are preserved about him. A reproduction of an engraving by Dürer, painted and signed by him, is kept in the J.M. Bonet workshop.

The church of the Sacred Heart College is currently deconsecrated and on our visit to the city we visited the space of the old church, of which the floor plan is preserved, but not the stained glass window. In the archive we find several projects of Caseres with angels that could be similar to the lost stained glass although perhaps we will never know how the stained glass painter Gavaldà would have painted it.

The second building we visited was the Parroquia del Carme on Rambla de Ferran. The current building was built after the civil war by architect Gabino Lagarriga in 1959. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the church, a book on the history of the church was published and we were contacted in search of more documents about the stained glass windows, which are signed at the bottom right. The workshop documentation states that it was commissioned in 1961.

The stained glass window has a diameter of almost 4 meters, is mounted on a T-iron frame that divides the surface into 12 panels, is profusely painted and all the pieces without exception are worked with grisaille. This is common in the stained glass windows designed during these years. Rafael Caseres is characteristic of the perimeter outlining of almost all the pieces. This gives an air of modernity to the stained glass windows and moves them away from realistic representations, bringing them closer to the world of illustration. The scene depicted is the apparition of the Virgin to Simon Stock, in which this monk received the scapulars of the order.

The stained glass is in a good state of preservation with some small alterations very common in the works of this period: small accidental fractures in the glass pieces and the cracking of some grisaille. The original project has not been preserved.

Stained glass windows are, at times, a somewhat forgotten and mistreated part of our heritage. Both by heritage managers and historians. They are full of unique details that make them very special and that we hope to spread little by little, explaining more details of how they were and are made, who makes them and how they are made in order to get the appreciation that we believe they should have. The stained glass windows of the Catalan bishoprics have an almost millenary history and our current works are their heirs.

Part of the article published in the magazine Taüll nº 44

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