The Writing Of: Bringing Stained Glass Up Close (Magazine Antiques July/August 2024)

We had been looking for a way into Tiffany, and especially Tiffany glass, for a while. We didn't want to go the lamp route, as neither of us is particular taken by the lamps that were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studios, but we knew we were past due for a Tiffany piece. It was during a visit to Wilderstein, a historic home on the Hudson River about 30 minutes south of us, that we saw a path. 
The library at Wilderstein in the Hudson Valley, photo by Quittner

Wilderstein is atmospheric. The house was built in 1852 and that's all well and good, but it was the 1888 facelift by Thomas Holy Suckley's son Robert that pushed it over the top. What had been classic, beautiful, and...well...sort of boring, became singular. Robert Suckley hired Louis Comfort Tiffany's cousin, Joseph Burr Tiffany, to reimagine the home and the transformation remains astounding. One of the strongest forces, too, is stained glass.

So it wasn't a direct train of thought, obviously, because the stained glass at Wilderstein wasn't done by Louis Comfort Tiffany bit it was specified by his cousin and that's a strong enough connection to build a piece on, right? We decided it was. 

In the July/August 2024 issue of the magazine Antiques, we explore stained glass through three members of the Tiffany family across more than a century, and even find room for a Notre Dame reference. 

Butterfly Window by Louis Comfort Tiffany, image from the Morse Museum which holds it in their collection.

You can read a teaser below, and the full piece here. We also strongly encourage subscribing to the magazine. Each issue brings inspiring and thought-provoking stories on history, the decorative arts, collecting, and characters.

A teaser: 

Hank Silver, an American carpenter helping to repair Notre Dame after the devastating fire it suffered in 2019, told the New York Times in March that he cherishes the opportunity to view up close what will soon be inaccessible on the cathedral’s soaring walls: stained glass. Most people engage with stained glass at a distance—the distance between a pew and a window high above, or the distance between a museum barrier and a display. From such distances stained glass appears flat. What is in fact a mosaic of colored shards pieced together with beads of lead, brass, zinc, or copper becomes a smooth, unified surface. The window may be clear and beautiful, but the hand of the maker is obscured, along with the ingenuity and careful technique by which the window came to be.
But stained glass can be studied closely, showing off its multi-dimensionality, in the intimacy of residential interiors. Our adventure in that world begins with a bit of heterodoxy. We found ourselves in a basement in the Hudson River valley, passing through a warren of meticulously sorted archives before ascending a nar- row staff stairway. Hunching to negotiate a cramped doorframe, we emerged at last into the glowing, colored light that filters through the entry hall of Wilderstein, a nineteenth-century house museum in the village of Rhinebeck. This wasn’t the way the build- ers had intended the room to be entered, but Duane Watson, Wilderstein’s curator for the past thirty-six years, had taken us the long way more
The front page of the July/August 2024 Object Lesson for the Magazine Antiques

Benjamin Q. Davidson and Pippa Biddle have co-written the Object Lesson column for the Magazine Antiques since 2019. In each issue, they focus in on a form, a style, a material, or a maker to bring greater understanding and awareness to the world of antiques. You can explore articles from their archive here.



Image 1: The library at Wilderstein in the Hudson Valley, photo by Quittner

Image 2: Butterfly Window by Louis Comfort Tiffany, image from the Morse Museum which holds it in their collection.

Image 3: Front page of the Object Lesson for the Magazine Antiques July/August 2024 issue 


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