Two important Tiffany Studios leaded glass bullseye rondel and chipped glass windows
Designed for St. Mark's Church, Islip, Long Island, 1887 height of each 34 1/2in (87.6cm); width 11 1/2in (29.2cm)
By the mid 1870s New York's elite had discovered the charm of the Long Island town of Islip 70 miles east of New York City. In 1878, not content with the small existing church that could not accommodate its burgeoning congregation of affluent New Yorkers, William Kissam Vanderbilt Sr. and his wife Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt volunteered to replace the church with a structure more suitable to its wealthy parishioners. Vanderbilt hired Richard Morris Hunt, the preeminent architect of America's Gilded Age and a favorite of the Vanderbilt families, to design the new structure. Hunt designed St. Mark's wooden church in the medieval Norwegian stave style with shingled sides and steep sloping roofs. That year (1878) Richard Morris Hunt approached Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany & Co., and asked him to design a cycle of windows for the new church in Islip. That year young Tiffany had founded a new company, Louis C. Tiffany & Company (a decorating and furniture manufacturing firm based out of his Bella apartment) and set up his first glasshouse (in Brooklyn) for the manufacture of glass for windows. In short order the glasshouse burned down. He rebuilt it and his second burned in 1880. It is not known how Hunt and Tiffany met. It is possible that Charles Tiffany knew the Vanderbilts and suggested that his son design and manufacture the windows of their new Church. Charles Tiffany not only provided his son with working capital but also guided his wealthy friends and business associates to his doorstep. St. Mark's Church was Louis C. Tiffany's first commercial window commission. He provided a unified cycle of about 30 windows for the apse, vestry and nave and installed a magnificent interior trefoil window between the porch and the nave. The cost of the work was $2,500 that did not include the trefoil window that was Tiffany's gift to the church. All were fabricated of pressed opalescent glass roundels of varying colors and hand chipped chunk glass "jewels," some plated (layered) to change their color. Louis's first figural window "Saint Mark" was made in 1878 and installed in the apse of the Church in 1879 (see illustration). The window depicts the Saint holding a book with his evangelistic symbol, the winged lion, at his side. It combines opalescent, pressed-glass glass roundels with painted elements in the "antique" manner. Contemporaneously with the production of windows for St. Mark's, Tiffany created three iconic windows. The first was the abstract window for his Bella apartment (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) The others were the squash and eggplant windows for the Fifth Avenue home of George Kemp, a close friend of Charles Tiffany (now in The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida.) Over the years, sadly compromising Hunt and Tiffany's artistic intent, memorial German, English and even a few later Tiffany windows replaced all the original windows in the nave. Most of the originals (including the two being offered here) were dispersed. In about 1900 Louis reclaimed the St. Mark window and replaced it with a more elaborate version. Obviously proud of his first figural window, Louis had Charles De Kay publish it in The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany. Its present location, if it survives, is not known. On December 5, 1989 a suspicious fire destroyed a large part of the Church. All the newer windows that had replaced the originals in the nave were shattered. Jack Cushen and Art Femenella were charged with their restoration. Eight of the original nave windows were stored in the Church's basement and survived the fire. They were offered to George Douglas, the architect of the restoration, in partial recompense for his work on the Church. Mr. Douglas took them to Venturella Studio for conservation. Their present location is not known.
Please note the date listed for this lot should read 1878, not 1887.
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