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LANDSCAPE WINDOW WITH MAGNOLIAS, HYDRANGEAS AND AZALEAS, CIRCA 1915

Details
TIFFANY STUDIOS
Landscape Window with Magnolias, Hydrangeas and Azaleas, circa 1915
leaded and plated Favrile glass
etched to lower right corner Louis C. Tiffany NY
27 x 48 in. (68.5 x 121.9 cm)
Provenance
Samuel Bowne Parsons, Jr., Flushing, New York, commissioned from Tiffany Studios, by repute
Private Collection, New York
Thence by descent
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1978
Post Lot Text

From the impressionistic, near abstract foliage, to the naturalistic, trompe-l'oeil trees and river rocks reflected in the stream, this window ranks among the most spectacular and artistic of the windows created by Tiffany Studios at the beginning of the 20th century. During that most fertile period, Tiffany and his stained glass studios executed commissions of breathtaking beauty and technical complexity.
The depth and realism of the composition is achieved by a masterful layering of the most elaborate glass available to Tiffany Studios at the time. In the upper foreground, delicate branches support pink and white magnolia flowers fabricated of softly undulating drapery glass. Beneath them, a cluster of hydrangeas are in bloom, their mottled white glass accentuated with multi-colored fractured flakes and surrounded by dark green variegated glass. On the opposite side of the window, red and yellow mottled glass fruits are scattered in a poetic arrangement on arching branches. In the distance, a lake rendered in multiple layers of shimmering “flashed” glass reflects the setting sun.
A spectacular array of Tiffany’s innovative opalescent Favrile glass is employed throughout: mottled and fractured glass; multi-dimensional drapery glass, and rippled and granite-surfaced glass as well as several plated layers made up of various textures, shades and colors, demonstrate the highest level of artistry.
Called “the Kissena Window” by the family of the previous owner, this landscape is thought to be a depiction of Kissena brook and its surrounding woodlands and is believed to have been commissioned by American landscape Architect Samuel Bowne Parsons, Jr. The Parsons’ family Nursery in Kissena, Flushing was founded by his father in 1838. There, was introduced the first pink-flowering dogwoods, in addition they were the sole growers of hardy rhododendrons and azaleas in New York at the time.
Agnes Fairchild Northrop, one of Tiffany Studios most important designers, was born in Flushing in 1857 and spent a great deal of her time at the Kissena nurseries. Known for her “natural talent for floral designs,” (Art Interchange, 1894), she joined Tiffany’s studio in 1884 and eventually became responsible for designing many of his most important window commissions. Northrop worked at the Studios until it closed in the late 1930s. Tiffany granted her a privileged status, including her own separate private studio. In her memoirs, Northrop describes her position at the studios: “I managed to make a place for myself in flowers and landscape (I did not do Figures).”
At the time, Tiffany Glass furnaces in Corona were only a short distance from the town of Flushing and Parson’s Nursery. Because of the prominence of the Nursery, this area was considered a horticultural center and “the nursery capital of New York” (Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Glass Gardens, Agnes Northrops designs for Louis C. Tiffany, lecture at the Smithsonian American Museum, Washington, September 2016). Like Tiffany, Northrop was fascinated by all aspects of nature, documenting her favorite flowers through her photographs and drawings and using them for inspiration. Lot 128, a selection of reference photographs from her collection, includes several images of Magnolias and Hydrangeas, some of them inscribed in pencil “Kissena nurseries, Flushing”. Northrop was an avid floral painter, sketching in watercolor from nature to creatively capture the subtle color gradations of the petals and leaves that would appear in her windows. Among Northrop’s most important designs would be the DeForest Autumn window in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Yok.
“A landscape’s appearance is constantly changing” Monet said in 1891, “it lives by virtue of its surroundings–the air and light– which vary continually.”
The luminosity of the Favrile glass and the virtuosity of its selection makes this window an ever-changing landscape. Light animates an allegorical view of Kissena, making it a never-ending exploration of the wonders of nature and a “delight to the eye.” As painter and critic Roger Riordan, states in “American Stained Glass,” American Arts Review, 1881, Tiffany’s work “speaks, as nature does, through the eye to the mind and the feelings.”

Vision in Nature
Agnes Northrop and Tiffany Studios
A lush and beautiful landscape of a babbling brook with a lake beyond, it is the composition and the glass selection of this window that distinguish it from other Tiffany landscapes. Depicting spring and the early growing season in the woods, the four corners of the window celebrate individual blooms: magnolias, hydrangeas, azaleas with the upper right quadrant dominated by a fruiting tree. An outstanding selection of Favrile glass includes white drapery glass highlighted with pink for the magnolia flowers and some of the most luminous mottled glass for the hydrangeas. Interspersed amongst the flowers are dark green leaves of confetti glass. The azaleas are represented by brilliant fuchsia glass set between leaves of confetti glass, the overhanging branches with their fruits by carefully selected yellow and orange glass. An exceptionally realistic group of white birches stands at the center of the window. Tones of green, blue, and teal mottled glass comprise the undergrowth. The dramatic sky is highlighted in cobalt over deep gold which shades to an orange sunset reflected in the distant lake.
The window is thought to depict Kissena Brook in Flushing, Queens, with Kissena Lake beyond, and is believed to have been commissioned from Tiffany Studios by landscape architect Samuel Bowne Parsons, Jr. (1844-1923) The Parsons and Bowne families owned large tracts of land in Flushing, Queens. Parsons’ father, Samuel Bowne Parsons, Sr. (1819-1906), started a large nursery there in the late 1830s that was reputed to have introduced several exotic species to the U.S., including varieties of magnolia, Japanese maples, white mulberry, Japanese privet, and the weeping beech tree.
Parsons, Jr., worked at the nursery after graduating from Yale University in 1862 when the business was supplying plants to Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. He apprenticed as a landscape architect under Vaux, becoming his partner from 1887 to 1895. Vaux was the head landscape architect for New York’s Central Park, and Parsons became its superintendent of planting. Together they designed a number of parks for New York, including the Ladies’ Pond in Central Park and the siting of Grant’s Tomb in Riverside Park. After Vaux’s death, Parsons became landscape architect for New York City until 1911. Additionally, he designed Balboa Park in San Diego, part of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and a redesign of Union Square Park in Manhattan. As a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1899, Parsons authored six books on landscape architecture, including Landscape Gardening (1895), Landscape Gardening Studies (1910), and How to Plan the Home Grounds (1907). He is known for his love of the beauty of the natural landscape enhanced by abundant plantings.
The nursery closed in the early 1900s, and after the death of Parsons, Sr. in 1906, some of the nursery’s land was acquired by the City to become part of Kissena Park, including Kissena Lake. Remnants of the nursery still grow in the area known as Kissena Grove. When the present owner of the window acquired it in the late 1970s, they were told that the view was of Kissena Park. This cannot be verified today, possibly because the landscape of the park has been altered since the nursery existed.
Parts of the nursery were only blocks from the Fairchild Institute, where Agnes Fairchild Northrop (1857-1953), landscape window designer for Tiffany Studios, lived her whole life. Northrop is known for the precision and accuracy of the flowers and plants in her window designs, which she learned by long study in drawing and photography at the various nurseries in Flushing, including Parsons’, and at Kissena Lake. She created a window in memory of Robert Baker, manager of the Parsons Nursery, in 1899 for the Reformed Church of Flushing (now Bowne Street Community Church). The specificity of the flora in this window could suggest her involvement.
- Julie L. Sloan, consultant in stained glass, writes about windows from her home in Lake Placid, NY. She works on stained-glass conservation projects as well, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, and The Riverside Church in New York.

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