By Tanya Pohrt
(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Fall 2021
An expanding national economy in the decades after the Civil War led to a boom in church building and ornamentation. In 1889 artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany formed an Ecclesiastical Department within his Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company (later Tiffany Studios) to handle a growing number of orders from churches. Wealthy families commissioned leaded-glass windows to commemorate loved ones and beautify their places of worship. Parishioners generally selected window designs featuring saints, biblical figures, and other sacred subjects. Three outstanding examples of Tiffany windows, originally installed in churches in New Haven, Hartford, and New London, are shown here. They are just 3 of the 50 or so examples in Connecticut.
The Tiffany family has deep roots in Eastern Connecticut. Both of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s parents were born and raised in Connecticut. After moving to New York City where Louis was born, the family often visited and had strong community ties in the state. [See “Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London,” Winter 2018-2019.]
Tiffany Studios, of course, is also known for innovative leaded-glass lamps and blown-glass vessels, and while most of the windows produced by the firm were ecclesiastical commissions made for churches, synagogues, and mausoleums, some decorated domestic and civic buildings. Visit Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London, on view at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, and listen to Episode 67 of Grating the Nutmeg to learn more.
Tanya Pohrt is special project curator, American art, at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. She last wrote “Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London,” Winter 2018-2019.
Hector Window (top of page)
This window, dedicated to Thomas Rutherford Trowbridge, has an unusual subject for a church window: the ship that brought English settlers to the New Haven Colony in April 1638. The window celebrates the church’s and the Trowbridge family’s connection to the founding of the colony. The church’s four meeting houses throughout history are shown in each corner of the window, including the current 1814 structure (lower right). In 1960 the church removed most of its Tiffany windows in a renovation project to restore the church to its original 1814 appearance. This window, now in the Hilton C. Buley Library, and two others found a new home at Southern Connecticut State University, facilitated by SCSU professor Dr. Robert Koch, an important early Tiffany scholar.
Holy Family Window
Commissioned in memory of Captain Lyman Allyn (1797 – 1884), a prominent New London whaling captain whose family also founded the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, this is one of six Tiffany windows in the church executed between 1910 and 1911. The commissions were coordinated, with most windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Here Mary and Joseph gaze lovingly upon the young Jesus, who holds a lamb, symbolizing his role as the shepherd and the church as his flock. The figures are separated by lancet windows, but a strong composition unites them, as does the beautiful landscape in the background.
Angel of the Resurrection Window
First Church of Christ (also known as Center Church), founded in 1636, is the oldest congregation in Hartford. The sanctuary features five Tiffany windows. The angel in a field of lilies was a popular design exhibited by Tiffany at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This window was dedicated to John Caldwell (d. 1838), first president of Hartford National Bank. It illustrates Tiffany innovations of utilizing new types of glass and a technique of layering multiple plates of glass to enhance the illusionism of the figures and scenes. To create the look of the angel’s feathered wings, sheets of partially cooled glass were shaken side-to-side to create furrows.
Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London
An exhibition of 100 fine- and decorative-arts objects by Tiffany Studios.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street, New London
Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London,” Winter 2018-2019
Grating the Nutmeg Episode 67: “Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London”
38 minutes. An interview with Tanya Pohrt and museum director Sam Quigley.
For a database of Tiffany window locations visit http://www.cambridge2000.com/tiffany/index.html.