Too often, the stories behind antiques are lost to time. Ezra Roberg is one of the lucky ones to know some of the fascinating history behind a pair of stained-glass windows he recently brought in to DuMouchelles for appraisal.
“I recently inherited these two stained glass panels from my parents,” he wrote in an email asking for an appraisal. “These two panels hung in my maternal grandparents’ home in Linnich, Germany. My grandmother told me that these windows were in her home as early as 1899. She remembered that her grandfather, born in 1808, had told her that these panels hung in his father’s home.”
Roberg said they hung in his parents’ house for years and that his mother remembers them hanging in her grandparents’ house, he told appraiser Mallory Jamett at DuMouchelles recently.
The story of how they arrived in the U.S., however, makes them valuable in much more than monetary ways. “Some of the worst hand-to-hand combat in WWII between the Nazis and Allies was in the Linnich area,” Roberg explained, adding that the Nazis used his grandparents’ home as a field headquarters for the German army at one point. The windows had long been one of his grandparents’ prized possessions. “Knowing how brutal these soldiers could be, my mother’s neighbor, who was just 15 or 16 at the time, snuck in at the peril of his life and rescued them from where they were hanging in my grandfather’s smoking room.”
His family had immigrated to the United States. “After the war, the neighbor had no idea where my parents were but knew it was somewhere in Detroit because my maternal grandmother had a brother living in Detroit and he was the one who sponsored my parents to come over at the time,” because German emigres couldn’t come unless they were sponsored, Roberg explained. “He eventually traced my parents through the one clue he had — that they were in Detroit somewhere — and brought the two panels from Germany himself. It must have been quite a reunion.”
Each panel is 20 inches high and 14 inches wide and depicts classical scenes, including a man with a bow and arrow and a dog. “I would have thought these could almost be Greek or Roman scenes if I didn’t know they were German,” Jamett told Robert. She told him that she believes the panels date to the 18th century, and explained that stained glass was used mainly in churches but shifted to homes and non-religious subjects such as heraldry and hunting after the Reformation.
“Dogs could signify loyalty and the scholar the pursuit of knowledge,” she explains. “Some windows would have depicted the virtues that were important to the family.”
Vintage German glass does very well at auction, she added, noting that she found similar works selling for up to $4,000, depending on condition and detail. She found a similar piece that sold for $3,000, but was a little earlier and more ornate. Because of that, she valued Roberg’s pair at approximately $1,000-$2,000 at auction.
“They’re really beautiful but could benefit from a cleaning,” she said. “Just be sure to be very careful when you do clean them.” She recommended a special stained glass cleaner, adding “or try some Dawn dish soap, which I think is just as good.”
Roberg isn’t interested in getting rid of them. “I will hang them again,” he says.
About this item
Item: German stained glass windows
Owned by: Ezra Roberg
Appraised by: Mallory Jamett, DuMouchelles
Estimated value: $1,000-$2,000 at auction