This window is not only the finest example of early thirteenth-century French stained glass in America, it also occupies a pivotal position in the history of early Gothic painting. It was made for Soissons cathedral, the earliest of the great High Gothic cathedrals, located some sixty miles northeast of Paris. The window at the Gardner Museum is now about 40 percent of its original height; the remainder of the window was bought by the Louvre, Paris, at the same time Mrs. Gardner acquired her pieces. The upper three registers are in their original positions, while the two lower right sections come from other parts of the window. The two sections at the lower left are made up from various fragments.
The window narrates the story of Nicasius, archbishop of Reims, and his sister Eutropia, who were martyred by the Vandals in 403. The two saints had great local significance in Soissons. One of the most imposing scenes, in the center of the Gardner window, shows the entombment of Saint Nicasius, who is surrounded by mourners gracefully bending over his body. The classicizing style of the window may well have been produced under Nivelon de Chérizy, the bishop of Soissons (from 1176 to 1205), or commissioned in his memory.
The stained glass of Soissons suffered greatly over the years. In the 1800s, many of the windows were taken to Paris for restoration and were later sold to collectors.
Source: Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 27.