Freeman’s Offers Tiffany Stained Glass Windows Formerly Lost to Time

Liz Catalano
Published on

This November, Freeman’s will bring a long-lost set of seven Tiffany Studios church windows to auction. Crafted in 1902, the set of eight-foot-tall stained glass windows was commissioned by the New Church Society of Glendale, Ohio. After a lifetime of use, the windows survived demolition for an interstate highway, subsequent transport between garages and barns, and a traveling exhibition before reaching the market. 

The complete set will now be offered in a single-lot auction on November 10th, 2020, with an estimate of USD 150,000 to $250,000. Bidding starts at 10:00 AM EST.

Tiffany Studios, Angels Representing Seven Churches, 1902. Image from Freeman’s.
Tiffany Studios, Angels Representing Seven Churches, 1902. Image from Freeman’s.

The New Church Society of Glendale commissioned these windows for its sister church in Cincinnati. Based on the writings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the New Church Society had roots in some of the earliest Christian settlements of North America. Congregants followed principles of individual responsibility for salvation through faith and good works. Many early Christian church windows told biblical stories and reinforced the messages being preached. 

Around the time that the New Church Society was looking to support its growing community, Louis Comfort Tiffany realized that the market for religious glasswork was almost entirely untapped. In 1889, he established the Tiffany Studios Ecclesiastical Department to fulfill the growing demand for stained glass windows. He advertised the new endeavor extensively around the turn of the 20th century, branding the department as “well equipped to undertake both the design and execution of all forms of church work in glass, fresco, metal, stone or wood.”

Angels Representing Seven Churches in the Church of the New Jerusalem in Cincinnati. Image from Freeman’s.
Angels Representing Seven Churches in the Church of the New Jerusalem in Cincinnati. Image from Freeman’s.

The seven windows now coming to auction depict the seven churches described in the Christian Book of Revelation. Each takes the form of an angel with red-orange wings. Though they form a set, the windows contain their own characters and distinct motifs. Laodicea, for example, depicts a blond ruler clad in a suit of armor while Sardis is draped in white cloths and holds a book. Six of the figures level their gaze at Thyatira, who is the only figure to meet the eyes of the viewer. The windows were originally positioned in a half-circle behind the church’s altar.

The original church was demolished in 1964 for the construction of a highway. Local parishioners rescued the windows, together known as Angels Representing Seven Churches, and kept them for years until they could be sold to a Pennsylvania congregation. They remained in disuse until 2001, when they were rediscovered and stabilized by glass restorer Arthur Femenella.

Tiffany Studios ecclesiastical windows. Image from UrbanGlass.
Tiffany Studios ecclesiastical windows. Image from UrbanGlass.

On a historical level, these windows represent some of the most skilled glasswork that emerged from Tiffany Studios. Many ecclesiastical works were life-size, including Angels Representing Seven Churches. They depended on a blend of realism and spiritual symbolism that was lacking in most other American glass producers of the time. These Tiffany windows also reflect the vivid colors and styling favored in the Gilded Age. “They are not only beautiful objects but have stories behind them. The windows are not only religious, but also personal,” Catherine Shotick, the curator of a Tiffany ecclesiastical windows exhibition, said about the company’s spiritual pieces last year.

The available set of Tiffany stained glass windows will come to auction after over ten years of exhibitions across the United States. They were most recently shown at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts. Online bidding will start at 10:00 AM EST on November 10th, 2020. Find further information on Freeman’s website.