Lot 437
  • 437

Tiffany Studios

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Tiffany Studios
  • "The Stream of Life" Window from the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, Pennsylvania
  • signed and dated TIFFANY STUDIOS N.Y. 1914 in enamel
  • leaded and plated favrile glass
attributed to Agnes Northrup
with upper tracery elements (illustrated) and three lower inscription panels (not illustrated)


Commissioned directly from Tiffany Studios by Mrs. Benjamin Whitman on behalf of Park Presbyterian Church (now First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant) in memory of her late husband and church parishioners, Mr. and Mrs. Teele, Erie, Pennsylvania, 1914


Alastair Duncan, Martin Eidelberg and Neil Harris, Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany, London, 1989, pp. 131 (for a related window for the Central Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island), 139 (for a related window commissioned by Andrew Carnegie)
Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1998, pp. 42-43 (for a related window in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection)

Proceeds from the sale of the present lot will benefit the outreach missions of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, PA

Catalogue Note

The Stream of Life

Tiffany Studios is known today for having introduced the landscape as a suitable subject for religious or devotional windows. In 1881, Louis Comfort Tiffany's first landscape, for an unknown church in Newark, New Jersey, appeared as a sketch in “American Stained Glass,” a pivotal three-part article by Roger Riordan in American Art Review. The Studio started making landscape windows in earnest in 1895, when Agnes F. Northrop (1857-1953), Tiffany’s principal floral-window designer, created one for the Church of the Savior (now First Unitarian Church) in Brooklyn, New York. Landscapes would become a hallmark of the Tiffany style, and leave an enduring mark the history of this art form.

The present window personifies Northrop’s mature style, drawn with confidence and mastery of her subject. A deeply contemplative scene, the composition is a quiet glade in the woods enclosed in trees. Distant mountains are visible only on the far left through a break in the foliage. A small waterfall in the center foreground focuses our attention, the sound of trickling water almost audible. The landscape is still, with huge boulders in the foreground signifying an eternity of time. Low blooming shrubs in the background replace Tiffany’s usual riot of flowers, giving the scene solemnity and peace. There is a feeling of specificity here, as though we are visiting a particular place that was known to the donors or dedicatees.

The magnificent selection of glass enhances this sense of peace. The flowing colors of the foreground boulders lend them weight, mass, and form. Selected to suggest soft, rounded glacier-tumbled rock, splotches of gold, green, and blue in each piece of glass hint at moss and lichen colonies on damp surfaces. Confetti or fractured glass forms foliage and shrubs, the shards of colored glass embedded in it emulating individual branches and leaves. Mottled or cat’s-paw glass creates dappled sunlight on the forest floor. The small meandering stream that culminates as a small cascade in the foreground is realistically depicted using plating (layering) of striated and etched glass.

In his development of the landscape for religious windows, Tiffany answered a desire from liberal American congregations to illustrate the glory of God’s creation of this beautiful country, instead of Popish saints and rote Biblical stories. A central tenet of many of the newer Protestant sects, as well as a popular theme in American painting, was the sublime presence of the divine in nature.

In his long-time employee Agnes Northrop, Tiffany found an able interpreter of the American landscape. Both Tiffany and Northrop were avid floral painters and garden aficionados. Northrop was raised in Flushing, Queens, amid lush gardens and nurseries. She spent her free time drawing or photographing flowers, shrubs, and vines. From the time of her hiring in 1884, Northrop’s role was to design floral windows, or parts of windows. This evolved into designing landscape windows in the mid-1890s, which became her life’s work. Northrop was one of Tiffany’s most important and longest employees, staying with the Studio until its close in 1936 and continuing its work with its successor firm, Westminster Studios, almost until her death at the age of 96. She had her own room within the Women’s Department at Tiffany, and traveled with Tiffany on sketching vacations. His fame as a landscape window designer is due almost solely to Northrop’s talent.

—Julie L. Sloan, Stained-Glass Consultant, North Adams, MA