The Charles Hosmer - Morse Museum of American Art



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Collection Highlights

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Window, c. 1885
Ballroom, Tiffany house, Seventy-Second Street, New York City, 1882–1939; art gallery, Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
Butterfly
Leaded glass, glass mosaic
Tiffany Glass Company, New York City, 1885–92
63 x 61 5/8 in.
(60-006)

This c. 1885 window by Tiffany Glass Company was originally installed in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Seventy-Second Street house in New York City. Hugh F. McKean (1908–95), the Morse Museum’s Director from its founding in 1942 until his death, explained what made the leaded-glass work distinctive and eye-catching in one of his beloved labels. According to Laurence J. Ruggiero, the current Director of the Morse, “while few of these labels really attempted to factually inform the visitor, they aimed very directly at capturing the visitor’s imagination and directing it toward a work of art.”
Enjoy Hugh F. McKean’s label for the window:

“What is special about the Butterfly window? Well, it was in Mr. Tiffany’s Seventy-Second Street mansion in New York and is, therefore, one of the few surviving parts of that great residence. The marbleized fragment at the very top (center) is fourth–sixth century Middle Eastern glass. Near it are pieces of abalone shell. And much of the glass is backed with gold-leaf thin enough to transmit light. The images are leaves at first. Then one changes to a butterfly. Then another! And another! Look at it yourself. Let it change for you. The sets of discs are true mosaics (glass set in plaster). The rest of the window (well over two thousand pieces of glass and other materials) is held together by cames (strips of lead shaped like an “H”), not by solder and copper foil. Cames and chipped jewels indicate the window probably was made before 1900. The word ‘unique’ may be used rather freely in some places, but not in the Morse Museum. Here it means ‘sole, without an equal.’ A work is not ‘very unique.’ It is either unique or it isn’t. The Butterfly window is unique.”

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