It started with … “I’m not sure what you’re gonna say about this but…..I’d like Lady Godiva in my front door!”
Tell me more, I said.
(I mean, we’ve all heard about her riding naked through the streets on a horse… some of us may even know it was Coventry… some have heard about the peeping Tom. But I, had not remembered the why, of the why she did it).
My customer regaled me with the fabulous tale of her doing it as an act of rebellion against her husband raising the taxes against the poor of the city.
Wow. A heroine. My interest was piqued.
This story was true. Godiva’s husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia was imposing large taxes on his poor tenants and she did not think this fair. He said he would waiver the tax if she were to ride naked through the streets. The Lady Godiva agreed but ordered everyone to be off the streets and be behind shuttered windows. This was so, apart from the one person who peeped!.
And here also starteth the legend of the original peeping Tom!
What a story.
What a woman.
But why want it in stained glass?
Well, I’m from Coventry.
And of course, I was so tickled by all of this that I said I would have a go.
So, I doodled all kinds of compositions. I wanted to capture this bold woman, naked but covered, proud and upright. Standing up for peoples rights. But also, include other details such as shuttered street… peeping tom…city skyline… three spires.
You’re trying too hard Deb, said a friend, after umpteen attempts.
And so I returned to the famous Lady Godiva painting by John Collier.
Do this, he said.
I looked afresh. It was a striking painting. Beautifully composed…. The limbs.. and the red cloth…. But the proportions did not work for my window.
In the end I invented my own backdrop and included a few other geographical features.
I took the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and using a lot of draughtsman’s licence, planted the three spires of Coventry beyond.
I did think of using tracery on top of tracery on top of tracing(!) as a solution to the lead lines, but in the end decided that the strong red cloth was too important and went with a pictorial technique.
Oh what fun I had trying to replicate that wonderful painting.