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Finding aid for the Jan van der Meulen photographs of Chartres Cathedral, Circa 1950-1990
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Jan van der Meulen photographs of Chartres Cathedral
    Date (inclusive): circa 1950-1990
    Number: 90.P.6
    Creator/Collector: Meulen, Jan van der
    Physical Description: 36.0 linear feet (66 boxes)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The archive consists of photographs and slides documenting Chartres Cathedral and related buildings of the 12th and 13th centuries taken by architect and art historian Jan van der Meulen and an assistant over the course of many campaigns, mostly between 1959 and 1983.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Jan van der Meulen (1929-2011) was a medieval art historian and a leading authority on Chartres Cathedral. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, van der Meulen initially trained as an architect before deciding to study art history, specifically architectural history. After earning a doctorate from Marburg in 1962, van der Meulen devoted himself to research, but he soon found the academic climate in Europe too confining and left for the United states where the interdisciplinary approach he favored found greater acceptance. Van der Meulen taught art history at Pennsylvania State University from 1968 to 1974. He next joined the faculty at Cleveland State University where he taught until his retirement in 1989.
    The author of numerous articles and several books, including Chartres: Biographie der Kathedrale (1984) and Chartres, sources and literary interpretation : a critical bibliography (1989), van der Meulen devoted his career to the study of Chartres. His methodological approach to the cathedral entailed exhaustive re-measurement and photographic documentation of the structure and its elaboration.
    The key role of photography in van der Meulen's research methodology tied in directly with his background. From 1953 to 1955 van der Meulen had worked as a professional photographer for Het Lichtbeelden Instituut in Amsterdam. The Chartres Cathedral photographic archive is the product of van der Meulen's combining of his training as an architect, an art historian, and a photographer.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of the original slides and negatives. For further information, consult the Guide to the Photo Archive and Database .

    Publication Rights

    Photographs and permission to publish must be obtained from copyright holder(s). For further information, contact Library Reproductions and Permissions .

    Preferred Citation

    Jan van der Meulen photographs of Chartres Cathedral, circa 1950-1990, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 90.P.6

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1990.

    Processing History

    Jan Bender created the collection inventory in 2013 and Ann Harrison completed the finding aid.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The archive consists of photographs and slides documenting Chartres Cathedral and related buildings of the 12th and 13th centuries taken by architect and art historian Jan van der Meulen and an assistant over the course of many campaigns, mostly between 1959 and 1983.
    Over 21,000 black-and-white catalogue prints and their negatives recording Chartres Cathedral form the bulk of the collection. These photographs provide systematic and detailed documentation of the architecture and sculptural decoration of the cathedral, especially the three sculptured portals, as well as comparative photographs of motifs from other French and German churches related to Chartres. A further 11,500 catalogue prints with negatives document rural churches in the Aisne and Oise regions, sources for the stylistic developments seen at Chartres.
    Van der Meulen recorded the stained glass windows of Chartres, as well as the architecture and sculpture. Over 2300 35 mm. slides taken by van der Meulen document the entire clerestory and lower panels with the exception of the northern side aisle. Each panel of the clerestory was photographed twice with a 400 mm. lens from the opposite triforium, one darker exposure to reproduce the true color value and one additional, slightly overexposed slide to assure that all the inner details and fold-lines would be clearly visible.
    In addition to the photographs taken by van der Meulen, the collection contains supplementary research material in the form of copy photographs. There are almost 500 nineteenth-century photographs of Chartres Cathedral (modern prints from original glass plate negatives) taken by photographers such as Eugène Lefèvre-Pontalis, Henri Le Secq, Photographie Giraudon, and Neurdein Frères. Further copy photographs, as well as drawings and photocopies, reproduce archival materials on Chartres housed in various repositories, including written documents, ground plans and other architectural drawings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


    Jan van der Meulen's original organization of his photographs with groups of materials designated by Roman numerals has been generally maintained: I (pt.1). Chartres Cathedral; I (pt.2). Churches related to Chartres Cathedral; II. Chartres Cathedral portal details; III. Stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral; IV. Rural churches of Aisne and Oise. The copy photographs of supplemental material follow van der Meulen's original work and retain his organization into "notebooks."

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Meulen, Jan van der -- Photograph collections

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Cathédrale de Chartres

    Subjects - Topics

    Architecture, Gothic--France
    Church architecture--France--Aisne
    Church architecture--France--Oise
    Glass painting and staining--France--Chartres

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Black-and-white prints (photographs)
    Negatives (photographic)


    Le Secq, Henri
    Lefèvre-Pontalis, Eugène-Amédée, 1862-1923
    Neurdein frères
    Photographie Giraudon