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Property of a Private European Collector

Important ‘Grapevine and Trellis’ Window for a Private American Commission, circa 1910

Important ‘Grapevine and Trellis’ Window for a Private American Commission, circa 1910
leaded and plated Favrile glass
89 ¼ in. (226.7 cm) high, 52 ¼ in. (132.7 cm) wide (sight)
96 5⁄8 in. (245.4 cm) high, 58 in. (147.3 cm) wide (framed)
Lillian Nassau, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1987
A. Duncan, Tiffany Windows, New York, 1980, p. 118, no. 92 (present lot illustrated)
H. F. McKean, The “Lost” Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 1980, pp. 78, 86 (for related examples)
A. Duncan, Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 1992, p. 66 (for an example with a related balustrade)
C. de la Bédoyère, Louis Comfort Tiffany Masterworks, London, 2020, p. 189 (for a related example)

Brought to you by

Daphné Riou
Daphné Riou SVP, Senior Specialist, Head of Americas

Lot Essay

“Years ago, I came to see these wondrous woods that I might live with the trees. I wanted to bring them into my house––the very fireside.” Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1917

Louis Tiffany’s primary artistic tenet, that all “true” art was founded on Nature, has been well documented. Practically every object of his prodigious decorative output, in an astounding variety of mediums, expresses his devotion to that overriding aesthetic philosophy. Tiffany additionally firmly believed that an appreciation of Nature was critical to a person’s mental, spiritual and physical well-being:
…the most beautiful thing I can think of is to show people that beauty
is everywhere, wherever we go, that it is uplifting, that it is health giving,
universal in its appeal and, while we may not be able to select any one
class of scenes or objects that completely satisfy, the search for beauty
is in itself the most wholesome of all quests
He endeavored to create designs and items that would bring Nature indoors so that it could be enjoyed and appreciated throughout the year, regardless of the climate. Perhaps the most successful of those efforts were some of his firm’s leaded glass windows, beautifully exemplified by the one offered here.
The vast majority of Tiffany’s leaded glass windows were commissioned for ecclesiastical purposes and consisted entirely of opalescent or translucent Favrile glass. There were, however, a very limited number of windows created for private residences where the motif was set within a background of transparent glass. In this way, an actual garden could be viewed and appreciated from indoors during temperate seasons, but the botanical arrangements in glass could be enjoyed the entire year, even in the depths of winter.
Louis Tiffany was so enamored by the concept that he had sets of this type of window made for two of his own residences. A group of five panels depicting blossoming magnolias were installed in the living room of his 72nd Street mansion in New York City, while a set of seven windows showing cascading wisteria in full bloom were situated in Laurelton Hall’s dining room. A stunning leaded glass window of “autumn vines” was also fabricated for the real estate mogul August Hekscher around 1905. All three of these commissions are now in the permanent collection of the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Another significant example that employed blooming wisteria entwined on a trellis against a transparent background was made in 1912 for Edgar P. Sawyer’s mansion in Oshkosh, WI, forming an arched glass wall between his office and the Sun Room.
The gorgeous window offered here can be favorably compared with those mentioned above. Grapes were a common theme in many of Tiffany’s ecclesiastical windows, the fruit representing the words from Scriptures: “I am the true vine, you are the branches.” It was an equally appropriate theme for domestic windows, as grapes symbolize abundance and prosperity. They were significant components of the aforementioned Hekscher commission, as well as windows made for the mansions of Mary Garrett in 1885, George Kemp in 1891 and Mrs. Russell Sage in 1909. In this example, however, grapes are the only fruit featured.
The lower half of the window illustrates thin vines in the early stages of growth, formed by meandering horizontal lead lines, on a lightly frosted transparent ground. The foliage in this portion is brilliantly created through the use of foliage, or “confetti,” glass, with large shards of green, olive and plum representing the developing plant. These vines wind gently upwards until reaching a trellis supporting mature growth featuring clusters of blue, cobalt and purple Concord grapes and large mottled and streaked leaves in various shades of green.
One of the window’s most fascinating elements is the architectural feature represented in addition to the trellis. Tiffany Studios occasionally introduced marble columns and balustrades into their designs; this is perhaps the only representation of wrought iron fencing in one of their windows. The company established its own wrought iron shop in 1884. It was, however, a relatively minor aspect of their business until 1910 when the company began actively promoting and advertising their “ornamental bronze and wrought iron of all kinds.” The slender, graceful balusters in this instance are finely crafted with heavy leading that enclose sections of marbleized glass in shades of olive, forest green, blue, teal, gray and plum. These support and supplement the trellis, as additional vines and leaves are entwined upon it.
Louis Tiffany wrote during the time when this window was likely created: “‘Dame Nature,’ who will freely give to those who seek lessons in all the wonders of color combination that can exist on the earth, for it is from her that every real artist has drawn his inspiration and taught the eye to feed the soul.” Just as it inspired and fulfilled him, Tiffany wanted Nature to nourish the souls of his patrons through all manner of the decorative arts. This magnificent window was one of his finest efforts in achieving that mission.

-- Paul Doros, former curator of glass at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA and author of The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York, 2013)

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