My Parents’ Collecting Journey
This blog comes courtesy of Neustadt trustee Paul Doros.
A collector’s journey tends to be a circuitous one, with several sidetracks, detours and missteps along the way. My parents, Micki and Jay Doros, were no different. They began collecting all types of antique glass beginning in the early 1960s, but it took them almost fifteen years before deciding to focus on the works of Louis C. Tiffany and his affiliated firms. Over the course of the following 45 years, they managed to assemble one of the world’s finest collections of its type and four of their objects are now part of The Neustadt’s exhibition, Tiffany’s Iridescence: Glass in Rainbow Hues, currently on display at the Queens Museum. How my parents, neither of whom had any artistic training or background, managed this accomplishment is fairly remarkable.
My father, a certified public accountant, dramatically switched careers in 1957 when he bought a wholesale business. Micki, his wife, also changed professions, switching from being a trained hematologist to the mother of four young children. A vacation was a necessity, especially for my mother, and the last two weeks of every August were spent on Cape Cod. We went to the beach, caught crabs in the Bass River, gathered bushels of beach plums and played miniature golf in Hyannis. The problem was what to do on rainy days and my parents’ solution was to visit antique shops and attend auctions. And that is when Micki and Jay became addicted to collecting glass.
Like most addictions, it started small, with purchases of cut glass knife rests for 50¢; any example over $3 involved a lengthy discussion between my parents and a protracted negotiation with the dealer. From that humble beginning, a collection of over 400 pieces of American brilliant cut glass emerged. Jay’s analytical mind was perfect for the challenge of determining how each piece was made, while Micki was able to memorize and recognize an extraordinary number of patterns and their manufacturer.
They purchased their first piece of Tiffany Favrile blown glass, an iridescent gold pitcher, in 1972 for $400, not because it was Tiffany or a great value, but because my dad like the deeply engraved ornate pattern. Jay became fascinated with the iridescence and the glass itself and dove into learning everything he could about American art glass. In short time, the cut glass collection was sold so more resources, and space, could be devoted to this new passion. Every type of glass was thoroughly studied, examined and, usually, purchased. Libbey Amberina, Mt. Washington Crown Milano, New England Peachblow, Steuben, Quezal, Durand and Tiffany, no glasshouse was ignored. At the time I was Curator of Glass at the Chrysler Museum and we liked to tease Jay that he was attempting to be “Chrysler North.”
My father’s buying habits would have continued unabated except for one simple problem: lack of room. We grew up in a remarkably small house for 6 people and the collection was beginning to infringe on the limited living space. Also, my parents were in the midst of sending four children to college and Jay’s unfocused spending habits had to change. So, my mom and I sat down with Jay one day and implored him to concentrate on one single facet of American art glass. It’s a sign of his brilliance, taste and foresight that he decided upon the works of Tiffany Studios.
One of his absolute favorite pieces in the collection was the Favrile “Window” vase, which is currently part of The Neustadt’s current exhibition. It is one of only 7 known examples, all of which were made by Tiffany Furnaces around 1920. These vases were perhaps the most technically difficult type of object produced by the glasshouse. They were also among the least likely to survive the annealing, or cooling, process due to the multiple layers of diverse glass, as well as the exceptional implementation of foliage, or “confetti,” glass as the inner lining. Each of the vases feature a dark brown-black exterior decorated with iridescent gold chains and manipulated so that the oval sections of the inner lining are exposed. This particular vase is unique in that clear glass cabochons were applied over the openings. The effect was then enhanced by the addition of an engraved design encircling each cabochon.
The vase does have imperfections: two of the windows have minor annealing cracks and a bit of the inner lining has flaked off. However, when the piece appeared at a Sotheby’s auction in 1990, Jay quickly concluded that he could not live without it, and Micki gave her all-important permission. The competition was stiff and it became the second-most expensive piece in the collection. But the cost was irrelevant, as the vase brought my parents considerable joy and pleasure for the next three decades and the family hopes it does the same for those who have the opportunity to admire it in The Neustadt’s exhibition.