Lot 83
  • 83

Greene & Greene

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Greene & Greene
  • An Important and Rare Lantern from the Stairwell of the Robert R. Blacker House, Pasadena, California
  • copper-foiled iridized and opalescent glass, mahogany, ebony, silver and bronze inlay, brass and leather straps
designed by Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene
mahogany frame executed in the workshop of Peter Hall, Pasadena, California
copper-foiled glass panels executed by the Sturdy Lange Company, Los Angeles, California


Robert Roe and Nellie Celeste Canfield Blacker, Pasadena, California, 1908-1944
Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Otto Bockelman, by acquisition of the house and contents, late 1940s
Max and Marjorie Hill, by acquisition of the Blacker House and its contents, circa 1950
Michael Carey Gallery, New York, 1985
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1991


A "New and Native" Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene and Greene, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, October 18, 2008-January 26, 2009, Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C., March 13-June 7, 2009, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, July 14-October 18, 2009


William R. Current and Karen Current, Greene & Greene: Architects in the Residential Style, Dobbs Ferry, 1977, p. 54 (for the present lot illustrated in situ)
Randell L. Makinson, Greene & Greene: Architecture as a Fine Art, Salt Lake City, 1977, p. 155 (for period photographs of the present lot illustrated in situ)
Brian A. Spencer, ed., The Prairie School Tradition, New York, 1979, p. 195 (for the model)
Randell L. Makinson, Greene & Greene: The Passion and the Legacy, Layton, 1998, pp. 90 and 93 (for the model)
Bruce Smith and Alexander Vertikoff, Greene & Greene Masterworks, Washington, D.C., 1998, pp. 13, 131 and 133 (for the model)
Edward R. Bosley, Greene & Greene, London, 2000, pp. 108 and 110 (for the model)
Randell L. Makinson, Thomas A. Heinz and Brad Pitt, Greene & Greene: The Blacker House, Layton, 2000, pp. 26, 46-47 and 60 (for the model) and pp. 67 and 73 (for period photographs of the present lot illustrated in situ)
Marvin Rand, Greene & Greene, Layton, 2005, p. 150 (for the model)
Edward R. Bosley and Anne E. Mallek, eds., A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene, London, 2008, frontis and p. 154 (for the model)


Overall very good condition. The mahogany hood, frames and half-tsuba brackets appear to retain their original finish throughout, displaying an exceptionally deep rich color which beautifully accentuates the leaded glass panels. The mahogany surfaces show very minimal gentle wear, with occasional very minor and light surface scratches and abrasions consistent with age and gentle handling. One of the bottom horizontal rails (adjacent to one of the inlaid seagulls) with a small area measuring approximately 1 x 1 inch of concentrated old surface scratches, visible in the catalogue illustration and not visually detractive. One of the upper horizontal frames with cut-out bird motif (facing the wall in the catalogue illustration and not visible) with a small area measuring approximately 1 x 1 inch with minor surface residue. The upper horizontal frames and underside of the hood with some expected wear around the holes that are threaded with the hanging straps. The same threaded holes with similar wear on the upper surface of the hood. The mahogany frames surrounding the leaded glass panels all appear to retain their original ebony pegs, which are all in good stable condition. The inner edges of the half-tsuba brackets with scattered minor surface scratches, abrasions and minor edge losses consistent with age and use, which are not visible when the lantern is installed. Three of the four peg holes on the tsuba brackets with very small edge chips, each measuring approximately 1/2 x 1/4 inch, which have been professionally restored. Each tsuba bracket with two replacement wood screw hole cover pegs and replaced leather straps. The lantern is fitted with four glass panels featuring two designs: one depicting a flock of seagulls, the other depicting an abstract floral motif. Under reflected light the panels present with strong, luminous jewel tone iridescence. Under remitted light they panels give off a warm, soft light. The glass panels are all in very good condition with some light surface soiling to the contours adjacent to the leadlines. One seagull panel bows very slightly inward, stable. The panels are held in place on the lantern interior with pins, some of which are replaced. With two reproduction mounting beams of different sizes. The larger (6 1/2 x 24 7/8 x 4 5/8 in., shown in the catalogue illustration), was commissioned to the specifications of the original mounting beam integral to the staircase at the Blacker House. This beam is slightly lighter in color compared to the lantern and presents with scattered minor surface scratches, abrasions, a few small discolorations and some scattered very minor losses to the edge that is flush with the wall. The smaller mounting beam (2 x 17 5/8 x 4 3/8 in.) is designed to be affixed to the ceiling and is in very good condition. This beam presents with a slightly darker stain and is mounted with what appears to be the original brass plate. The lantern presents beautifully in person with great sculptural presence and scale, and is equally attractive when seen with and without illumination. A superb example of one of the Greenes' most artistic and elegant lighting designs.
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

Birds in flight were a favorite subject of the Pasadena architect Charles Sumner Greene (1868-1957), the designing brother in the partnership of Greene & Greene. He and his brother Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954) are known for their Japanesque California bungalows of fantastic woodwork and sprawling design.  Birds appear in Charles’s earliest colored-glass designs: the front door to the James Culbertson House (1902) in Pasadena and the window of the Jennie Reeve House in Long Beach (1903).  In both panels, the birds are executed as lead-sheet silhouettes against sublime yellow, green, and aqua skies.  By 1906, the birds had become more realistic in the dining room and bedroom windows of the Adelaide Tichenor House in Long Beach (1904-1905).  These were the first windows made for Greene & Greene by the stained-glass firm Sturdy Lange, whose superior craftsmanship was responsible for the production of the finest windows and lamps in Greene & Greene’s repertoire: those of the Robert R. Blacker and David B. Gamble Houses in Pasadena (both 1907-1909).

The Blacker House was built for retired lumber baron Robert Roe Blacker (1845-1931) and his wife, Nellie Canfield (d. 1946) on over five acres in Pasadena, the Edenic suburb of Los Angeles.  It was the architects’ largest and most complex house to date, complete with furniture, light fixtures, gardens, and outbuildings. Codifying their iconic style, it featured magnificently carved woodwork in mahogany, teak, Douglas fir, and Port Orford cedar bound with wrought iron straps; clinker brick foundations; green-stained exterior shingles; deeply overhanging roofs with projecting rafters; and lustrous glass sparkling from windows and lamps throughout the house.  The light fixtures in particular took on a unique prominence with their elegant proportions, distinguished by dramatic, wide canopies above scintillating iridescent glass panes.  Suspended with delicate leather straps, these house-shaped fixtures echo the profile of the residence throughout the building, tying the interior to the exterior in a subtle, graceful way.

This lantern is one of six of similar design from the main hall of the house. Four small lanterns, including the present lot, marked the corners of the room, and two larger lanterns illuminated the center of the room and the stairwell.  The lantern offered here was located at the base of the stairs and is identifiable by the unique configuration of its hanging system and the lack of a bottom panel to better light the stairs.

Here for the first time, Charles’ birds, which appear on two sides of the lantern, are cut from white glass, not lead sheet. They glow from the soft light transmitted by the interior light source, surrounded by radiant amber glass that is brilliantly iridized to display a wide range of jewel-tone hues. The birds fly amidst stylized clouds outlined in copper foil. Another bird is delicately outlined in inlaid silver below the leaded panels in the mahogany frame, and three others are cut out from the wood above. They have become icons of light instead of black shadows. Japanesque floral designs on a trellis meander across the leaded glass of the other two sides of the lantern, recalling the lotus flowers that decorate other rooms of the house, notably the living room with its gilded bas-relief frieze and magnificent basket-shaped chandeliers. 

Japanese design inspired much of the brothers’ work following their visit to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 where they experienced Japanese buildings, gardens, and decorative arts (they had also visited the Ho-o-den at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 as young men).  The experience matured their architectural style, culminating in the Blacker and Gamble Houses.  At the Blacker House, the inspiration was first visible in the gardens, then in the expansive, pagoda-like roofs of the house, its wings, and the angled porte-cochere.  The interior woodwork, with multiple complex joints held together with complicated iron straps, recalls the joinery of Japanese buildings and furniture.  The woodworker Peter Hall (1867-1939) fashioned the mahogany frames of this lantern in the design of a Japanese temple lantern, suspended from the beams from leather cords threaded through partial tsuba (“sword guard”) shapes in wood.

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