Lot 437
  • 437

Tiffany Studios

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • 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


This window was professionally de-installed from the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Erie, Pennsylvania and safely removed from its original stone lancet tracery. Directly following the de-installation, the panels were stabilized and cleaned. The de-installation and restoration was executed by Mezalick Design Studio, a professional stained glass restoration studio in Philadelphia. They also provided a full-scale diagram drawing of the three lancet panels, upper tracery glass, and original stone tracery. This diagram documents the original proportions of the glass panels and surrounding stone tracery, and was created to serve as a useful guide in the fabrication of a replacement frame. Please contact Sotheby's 20th Century Design Department for a condition and restoration report prepared by Mezalick Studio. We will gladly provide the diagram drawing to the successful purchaser of the window. The window is comprised of 3 scenic lancet panels, each containing a lower inscription (or nameplate) section, and 2 upper tracery sections (each composed of 2 individual panels). The total number of individual glass panels is 18. The window panels are selectively plated (layered) on the reverse side up to 3 layers of glass and on the front side with 1 layer of glass to heighten the visual depth of the landscape composition. Please note that the 6 tiny pieces of glass visible in catalogue illustration in the uppermost regions of the original tracery are no longer extant and not included in this offering. These pieces were too small in size to be salvaged in the de-installation. The window is in very good condition and stable. The window appears to retain all of its original glass. No glass replacement was required in its recent restoration, and there is no evidence that any glass was previously replaced. During its recent restoration most of the accessible hairline cracks on the front and reserve sides of the window were sensitively stabilized with Hxtal epoxy. The front side of the three scenic panels have scattered hairline cracks, more prevalent below the upper cusps. All of these hairline cracks appear stable, and are expected considering the vast number of individual pieces of glass required to execute a window of this scale and complexity. On the reverse side of the central panel, there were two complex series of hairline cracks to the outermost piece of plated glass. Both of these areas were stabilized with Hxtal epoxy. The lower of these two areas was further stabilized with one added vertical lead line. The window has three lower inscription (or nameplate) panels not shown in the catalogue illustration. The panels contain 3 layers of glass and are inscribed by an acid etching process (from left to right): Teel / "He Leadeth me beside the still waters." / Whiteman. The right facing panel is signed and dated by an acid etching process, TIFFANY STUDIOS NY 1914. Each panel with 1 to 2 hairline cracks to the outer perimeter border registers. The upper tracery panels with 3 layers and in some cases 4 layers of glass, the central layer in confetti glass to enhance the visual depth when seen with remitted light. Some of these small panels with occasional hairline cracks to the internal and outer layers, the latter stabilized with Hxtal epoxy. One small panel with traces of a clear roughly textured residue on the front glass surface (possibly remnants of glue). The perimeter caming of the upper tracery panels was in compromised condition and therefore replaced with new matching lead of similar profile. The 3 scenic lancet panels with some occasional areas of separation to the interior leading and outer perimeter caming. (These areas could be easily stabilized if desired.) During recent restoration, separations to the leading were stabilized throughout with re-soldering to aid to the integrity of each panel. With evidence of older repairs/stabilization to the leading in a few isolated areas, including the upper right cusp on the central panel (just above the right side border, approximately 6 x 5 inch area) and the upper left cusp on the right facing panel (just above the left side border, approximately 6 x 5 inch area). As expected, the perimeter borders of the caming on the lancet panels show wear and fatigue when exposed out of a framing system. Each of the 3 lancet panels retain 4 horizontal iron support bars on the front of the panel. The lower inscription panels retains 2 support bars. As this window was moved to its former location from another church in 1929, it is unknown if these support bars are original. The copper ties stabilizing the support bars to the panels have been replaced. The ends of the support bars are irregular and show expected wear. The 3 lancet panels and accompanying inscription and upper tracery panels are presently installed in a custom designed light box. This light box faithfully follows the proportions of the original stone tracery. This light box is constructed of panted wood and is designed to conceal the 3 frames, providing a seamless presentation of the window. Sotheby's will be happy to provide the light box to the successful purchaser of the window. A stunning window displaying a highly artistic composition and desirable landscape subject matter. The glass selection is outstanding, displaying a magnificent range of color and thoughtful use of a wide variety of decorative glass techniques, including confetti glass to articulate the changing autumn leaves in the trees, vigorously mottled glass to capture the sun dappled effect of light on the rocky landscape, and rippled glass to enhance the aquatic effects of the waterfall in the foreground. The window epitomizes Tiffany's mastery in rendering a complex landscape scene entirely in glass. Dimensions of outer light box: Overall Height: 86 inches Overall Width: 96 inches Overall Depth: 12 inches
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

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