The Wise and Foolish Virgins

Artist Violet Oakley (1874-1961)
Currently on view
Title The Wise and Foolish Virgins
Date 1908-09
Medium Stained glass lancet windows
Dimensions each window: 100 x 23 1/4 in. (254 x 59.055 cm.)
Credits John S. Phillips Fund
Accession Number 2009.2.1a&b
Additional Information The subject of Violet Oakley’s windows is the biblical parable of The Wise and Foolish Virgins (Mathew 25:1-13). In this passage, ten virgins arrive at a wedding feast and only five of them have brought oil for their lamps. The five foolish virgins are unable to attend the feast because they must go and secure oil. The last line of the parable reveals the story to be a lesson about being prepared for judgment day: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” This was a popular subject of religious decoration from the medieval period through the first part of the twentieth century. For instance Henry O. Tanner’s painting The Wise and Foolish Virgins hung nearby at Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia. Oakley studied at PAFA and taught mural painting here from 1912 to 1917. Although she is best known as an illustrator, she was also a prominent mural painter and designer of stained glass. PAFA is fortunate to own the original full-scale oil studies by Oakley for these windows. With its vivid colors and blending of medieval and modern traditions, the windows are one of Oakley’s finest creations. The windows and cartoons complement more than 2,000 of the artist’s paintings and drawings already in PAFA’s collection. The windows were made for St. Peter’s Church in nearby Germantown, which, like PAFA’s 1876 building, was designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt. These windows are among only three Oakley window projects that survive.

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