A Church Record—Photographs from the Tiffany Studios Ecclesiastical Department
July 23, 2010 through January 15, 2012
In 1889, church demand for decorative art was so great that Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) designated an entire department to create “all forms of church decoration and instrumenta ecclesiastica.” This department boldly advertised its “large and practical knowledge of religious art…” and the claim that it was “well equipped to undertake both the design and execution of all forms of church work in glass, fresco, metal, stone or wood.”
The offerings included “metal work altars, candlesticks, crosses, desks, railings, etc. [and]…in wood or stone, altars, panels, symbols, figures of saints, mural decorations, medieval needlework, medieval tiles, liturgical books from the press of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and all manner of ecclesiastical supplies.”
Tiffany kept a photographic record of completed ecclesiastical commissions. These records—which include photographs of interior schemes, window designs, and such varied objects as memorial stones and baptismal fonts—constitute an important part of the Morse Museum’s Tiffany Studios Study Photograph Collection. The images from both surviving and lost churches provide a behind-the-scenes look at the creative efforts at Tiffany Studios during the height of religious construction in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Museum recently completed an extensive multi-year conservation effort to stabilize the glass-plate negatives in this study photograph collection and to produce exhibit-quality images from those negatives. Work is ongoing for the prints in the collection, which represents one of the Museum’s most important archival resources. This exhibition features more than 30 archival photographs, providing a glimpse into the creative range of the department at the height of religious construction in America. Tiffany departmental ledgers, trade catalogs, and other archival material supplement the exhibit and enhance understanding of these important images.