Surprising Tiffany Decorations at St. Ignatius Loyola
Views of Baptistery Chapel, St. Ignatius Loyola. Photos: Bestbudbrian (Wikimedia)Upon entering the Baptistery Chapel at St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City, one might notice an element of decoration that diverges from the interior’s Baroque Revival style. Amidst a symphony of swirling Pavonazzo marble, glittering gold tesserae, and ornate ironwork glows an opalescent glass semi-dome of pastel blues and yellows arranged in a fish scale design. Three cartouches with Christian symbolism beneath a soaring dove complete this leaded creation, made by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in 1897.
Recent Glass Gift Provides Window into Tiffany’s History in Queens
FIGURE 1: View of Tiffany Furnaces, Corona, Queens, New York. From Tiffany Favrile Glass, Tiffany Furnaces, 1905.Less than 2 miles from The Neustadt Gallery at the Queens Museum once stood the epicenter of Louis C. Tiffany’s glass production. Dissatisfied with the quantity and types of glass available from commercial manufactories, Tiffany opened his own glasshouse with business partner Arthur J. Nash (1849-1934) on the corner of Main Street and Irving Place (now 43rd Avenue and 97th Place) in Corona, Queens (Fig. 1).1
At the time, Corona’s rural setting offered the privacy necessary to keep Tiffany’s fiercely-guarded glass formulas secret. While visitors were welcome in Tiffany’s Manhattan showrooms, his glass works in Corona were “where no profane eye [was] allowed to penetrate.”2 When the glasshouse was ravaged by fire in late 1893, only a few short months after it opened, Tiffany decided to rebuild on the exact same site — a testament to its ideal location.3
A Passion for Peacocks
A peacock fanning and displaying his tail. Photo by Jatin Sindhu.Peacock feathers were a favorite design motif of Louis C. Tiffany, who revisited this theme countless times in both his personal life and professional career. Tiffany was so captivated by these exotic creatures that he kept peacocks at Laurelton Hall, his country estate on Long Island, and showcased their colorful plumage at many of his lavish parties. At his legendary Egyptian Fete, Tiffany’s daughter Julia wore a vibrant peacock headdress (now in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York) as part of her ornate costume. Tiffany even hosted a Peacock Feast at Laurelton Hall to honor 150 “men of genius,” where his daughters and their friends theatrically paraded around carrying stuffed peacocks on silver platters.1
The peacock’s beauty has both religious and secular appeal. As the Christian symbol of eternal life, the peacock was particularly well-suited for Tiffany’s ecclesiastical commissions, such as this glass mosaic reredos in Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore.2 Tiffany’s artisans translated the motif into virtually all of the firm’s decorative mediums – including leaded glass windows and lampshades, glass mosaic, blown glass vessels, enamelware, metalwork, and jewelry.