M.J. Rose possesses a rare ability to weave fact and fiction in her page-turning novels. Known for her nuanced characters and vivid descriptions of past eras, The New York Times best-selling author is a voracious researcher and passionate historian. Given her penchant for mystery, romance, beauty and art, the subject of her latest book Tiffany Blues essentially wrote itself. Completed in 1905, Laurelton Hall was Louis Comfort Tiffany’s magnificent estate overlooking Cold Spring Harbor on the north shore of Long Island. Treating the home like his personal museum, Tiffany oversaw its every last detail. “It’s fascinating to read about a person with a vision who fully accomplishes it,” Rose told Sotheby’s of Tiffany. But in 1957, the mansion was completely destroyed in a fire that's origin is still unknown. Following protagonist Jenny Bell who studies at Laurelton Hall under the guidance of Tiffany in the 1920s, the book fictionalizes what caused the devastating fire. Though Bell is fictional, all descriptions of Laurelton Hall and its artist colony were taken directly from source material of people who were there. Ahead, Rose, who was recently profiled for her jewelry collection by The Adventurine, discusses where her love of Tiffany began, the intrigue of Laurelton Hall and why the jewels and decorative pieces in Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels (4 December | New York) and Dreaming in Glass: Masterworks by Tiffany and LaFarge (12 December | New York) auctions are particularly significant.
How did you first fall in love with Tiffany?
My great grandparents had a house in Brooklyn, and in their dining room they had a Tiffany window of roses – Rose was their last name. Even when I was as little as three years old, I was mesmerized by how the sun’s reflections shone through the window and onto the floor. Sadly when they sold the house in the late 1960s, they didn’t take the window. But I do have two brass Tiffany door knobs from their home, as well as two Favrile glass wall sconces.
My grandmother was an artist, and my mother was a photographer. I grew up across the street from The Met, so we’d visit often. My mother was very encouraging, and she’d make lists of all the places in New York where there were Tiffany windows, and we’d go on excursions to see them. So I’ve been in love with Tiffany my whole life.
"He was one of the truest pictures of an artist that I’ve ever read about. He connected to the world through beauty."
How did you learn of Laurelton Hall?
In the 1970s, my mother and I visited the first Laurelton Hall exhibit at The Met. I was so taken with it, and I bought the book. Years later when I was reading it, I learned that Laurelton Hall had been an art colony, and I became fascinated. Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the truest pictures of an artist that I’ve ever read about. He connected to the world through beauty. He was an insatiable collector. He possessed amazing control over his environment. For example, the way he had Laurelton Hall planted so that the flowers flow into each other in terms of color reminds me a lot of Monet.