Tiffany Is Known For Lamps And Stained Glass, But He Made Magical Mosaics, Too Louis Comfort Tiffany — son of the luxury jeweler — took a trip to Italy in the late 1800s and returned inspired. A museum in Western New York has devoted an exhibition to these lesser known works.
NPR logo

Tiffany Is Known For Lamps And Stained Glass, But He Made Magical Mosaics, Too

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/540891752/541432547" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Tiffany Is Known For Lamps And Stained Glass, But He Made Magical Mosaics, Too

Tiffany Is Known For Lamps And Stained Glass, But He Made Magical Mosaics, Too

Tiffany Is Known For Lamps And Stained Glass, But He Made Magical Mosaics, Too

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/540891752/541432547" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Dream Garden mural is a glass mosaic made by Tiffany Studios in 1916. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts/The Corning Museum of Glass hide caption

toggle caption
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts/The Corning Museum of Glass

When you think of stained glass, the name Tiffany probably comes to mind — those luminescent lamp shades or a stained glass window in a church or cathedral. But Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studio of artisans did much more than that, and some of their lesser known works — glass mosaics — are now on display at the Corning Museum of Glass in Western New York.

Co-curators Kelly Conway and Lindsy Parrott did some serious detective work to assemble the exhibition. They scoured archives and eBay, trying to track down Tiffany's glass mosaics, some of them hidden in plain sight all over the country.

The Prayer of the Christian Soldier is a 1919 mosaic designed by Frederick Wilson and commissioned by the First Presbyterian Church (now United Presbyterian Church) in Binghamton, N.Y. The Corning Museum of Glass hide caption

toggle caption
The Corning Museum of Glass

The Prayer of the Christian Soldier is a 1919 mosaic designed by Frederick Wilson and commissioned by the First Presbyterian Church (now United Presbyterian Church) in Binghamton, N.Y.

The Corning Museum of Glass

A couple of clues brought them to the Redeemed Christian Fellowship Church of God of Prophecy in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where they had an "Indiana Jones" moment: They found 12 columns, painted over in green faux marble. Under a thin coat, they could feel, but not quite see, embedded glass stones — hidden Tiffany mosaics. The pastor of the church had known about the Tiffany stained glass window overhead, but not the mosaics below.

"It's an enormously unstudied aspect of Tiffany's career," says Parrott, who is director of The Neustadt collection of Tiffany glass. "He is such a well-known name, but this is one facet of his artistry that's been under-explored and the stuff is ravishing."

Tiffany, the son of the luxury jeweler, had gone on a grand tour of Europe, as befitted respectable gentry of the late 1800s. He'd seen the magnificent mosaics in Italy and come back with ideas for his own colorful, iridescent creations, says Conway.

"They were in homes, they were in libraries, they were in banks and churches and all kinds of public spaces," Conway explains. "Tiffany really did outfit the architecture of so many spaces in American buildings."

One wall of the exhibition is filled with a black and white photograph of the Tiffany studio. There are quite a few women among the workers.

A mosaicist selects glass for Heroes and Heroines of the Homeric Story, designed by Jacob Adolphus Holzer. Princeton University/Corning Museum of Glass hide caption

toggle caption
Princeton University/Corning Museum of Glass

"Women were certainly working as artisans... ," Parrott says. "There were certain aspects of the decorative arts or applied arts that were considered kind of genteel and appropriate for these young women to be employed in and pursuing. But this was pretty muscular work — selecting and cutting glass."

At the exhibition, visitors can learn firsthand how that work was done. "It takes an extremely skilled, experienced and really gifted team of glass workers ... and that's just to make the raw material," explains Eric Meek, manager of hot glass programs at the museum. A glass working team could include anywhere from three to 10 people.

Tiffany's teams created paintings with colored glass blocks. Meek, who is a glass artist himself, says, "The more you learn about Tiffany's studios and these mosaics the more you're amazed."

The Tiffany mosaics will be on display at The Corning Museum of Glass until January 2018.

This mosaic panel of peonies, made of inlaid iridized glass and bronze, was made circa 1900–1910. The Corning Museum of Glass hide caption

toggle caption
The Corning Museum of Glass

This mosaic panel of peonies, made of inlaid iridized glass and bronze, was made circa 1900–1910.

The Corning Museum of Glass