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    In 1956, Madeleine Novarina was commissioned to produce sixteen stained glass windows for the church of Vieugy (Haute-Savoie), which was being restored. She decided to use the modern material of glass slab with a reinforced concrete frame which had previously been used by four artists, including Fernand Léger in 1951 and Manessier in 1952. Madeleine Novarina began to learn the composition technique of glass slabs in the workshop of stained-glass maker Jean Barillet. For the church of Saint-Martin Vieugy, she chose semi-figurative, semi-abstract program. She thus became, aged 32, the first woman in the history of art to make all of the windows of a church and in an absolutely modern style. From 1957 to 1959, she produced stained glass windows for the churches of Marignier Villeparisis, Annecy and Thonon-les-bains.

Models of the semi-figurative, semi-abstract stained glass windows of the church of Vieugy (Haute-Savoie), 1956

Basilica of Thonon-les-Bains: a stained glass window made by Madeleine Novarina in 1959

(Photo: Ray-Delvert)

Marignier’s Church (Haute-Savoie)

Church of Vieugy (Haute-Savoie)

16 stained glass windows made by Madeleine Novarina in 1956

St. Maurice’s Church in Annecy (Haute-Savoie)

Notre-Dame de la Paix’s Church (Our Lady of Peace) in Villeparisis (Seine-et-Marne), stained glass windows by Madeleine Novarina, 1958

Architect: Maurice Novarina

    In 1958, her brother, Maurice Novarina, built a church in Villeparisis and asked her to make the stained glass windows. She created models  inspired by heraldric art to shape light shields and mystical coats of arms with slabs of glass.

St. Francis of Sales fisher of men. Model and stained glass window "as a playing card"

Basilica of Thonon, 1959



    After four years of working on stained glass, the painting of Madeleine Novarina evolved. She stop painting with gouache and started painting with oil. She embarked on a series of paintings she named "Patchworks" similar to her semi-abstract,  semi-figurative models. These are oil paintings whose background consists in geometric spots of various colours, gathered together like pieces of glass in an abstract stain glass window. The patchwork is always supplemented by a calligraphy: Here, a black line, with full and loose, outlines a woman's head, a maternity, a utensil, an intimate scene or an animal.


The "Madelonnettes" series refers to a term whose meaning she learnt from Sarane by Alexandrian: Madeleine was the saint patron of repented prostitutes, later called Madelonnettes (Little Madeleines). From the fifteenth century onwards the term both applied to the sinful women whose lives ended in a convent and the nuns who welcomed them. Some kept on their made-up faces traces of their life of debauchery (Madelonnette with green hair, Madelonnette with a blue cheek, Madelonnette in tears, etc.). Others are novices, looking innocent (Madelonnette with her finger in the mouth, pensive Madelonnette, glancing Madelonnette, etc.).. Madeleine Novarina was all the more ready to paint Madelonnettes that around this time there was a love hotel at the end of the rue du Débarcadère, where she lived with  Sarane Alexandrian. Every day, a dozen of streetwalkers roamed the street waiting for clients and they greeted her when she was coming out of her building. She entertained herself by watching them and giving them all sorts of nicknames.

Madeleine Novarina, text by Sarane Alexandrian, Les éditions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1992, p. 117

"Some of her paintings (le Colloque des ustensiles, l'Union du flacon et de la planche à pain – utensils symposium, union of the bottle and the breadboard, etc..) Referred to household utensils ⎯ pitchers, coffee makers, glasses, candle holder, chopper, etc.. ⎯ and she claimed that they expressed her "utentialism". I objected that she should say "utensilism" but she maintained her neologism  and explained to me: "No, I am saying untentialism as an analogy with existentialism. Existence subordinates women to household utensils and in these paintings I express my rebellion against this condition. "

    In 1958, Madeleine Novarina and Sarane Alexandrian attended the performance of a travelling circus whose entire show was performed by the boss, his wife, their two children, his sister-in-law and three animals. For the following two years, probably under the initial impression, Madeleine Novarina drew circus pictures: jugglers, contortionists, clowns, musicians, animal trainers, etc.

Mr. Sun and Mrs. Moon, oil on canvas, 1964

Christophe Dauphin’s Collection


St. Maurice’s  Church  in  Annecy

Marignier’s  Church

Notre-Dame de la Paix’s Church (Our Lady of Peace) in Villeparisis

Basilica  of  Thonon-les-Bains

Churches of Vieugy, Saint-Maurice d'Annecy, Marignier Villeparisis Basilica of Thonon-les-Bains,

Patchworks, Madelonnettes, Ustentialisme, Circus

Church  of  Vieugy

Model of the stained glass window of the baptismal font in Marignier’s Church

(Haute-Savoie), 1957. IMEC/Fonds Alexandrian

Femme à la tête ovoïde

La plus sage des vierges folles,

collection Anne et André Mérola

La Charité de Saint Martin

One of the two totem-like stained glass windows in Marignier’s Church (Haute-Savoie)

and its model, 1957

IMEC/Fonds Alexandrian

Models of the stained glass windows "in light shield" for Notre-Dame de la Paix in Villeparisis, 1958

The two stained glass windows of the funeral chapel

of the St. Maurice’s Church in Annecy

Pschtt ! ou la mystérieuse, 1962

La joueuse de mandoline, 1962

La buveuse d’oubli, 1962

Union of the bottle and the breadboard, 1963

Maternité cannibale, 1964

The Utensils Symposium, 1966

Resurrecting still life


Madelonnette dreaming of the future, 1964

Little Madeleine in tears, 1965

Little Madeleine with a blue cheek, 1966

The Cat departs (Le Chat part), 1966

Le Guitariste, 1967

La Reine mère, 1970

La Boudeuse nue, 1970

La Féministe en action, 1971

Le Papillon des jours heureux


Tope-là, ou la femme résolue, 1960

Collection Christophe Dauphin

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La Première des Madelonnettes


Souvenir d’un village de

montagne, 1961

La pensive, 1963

Femme se couvrant la bouche


Le Coq glorieux

Good friends, (Les Bons amis) 1967

Mère dorlotant son enfant

Les retrouvailles, 1964

Une amie de la nature


Salut à tous

Nu serpentin

Nature morte à la pomme


Le Rouge à la joue

Le Poisson bien-aimé

Museum of Chablais, Thonon-les-Bains (Haute-Savoie)

Period IPeriod_I.html
Period IIhttp://www.madeleine-novarina-eng.com/MN_Eng/Period_II.html#
Period IIIPeriod_III.html

Autour du lieu (around the place), Librairie Galerie Editions Racine

Paris, 2008, preface Sarane Alexandrian