Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Tiffany Chapel


In 1893 Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and exhibited this Byzantine inspired chapel at the Chicago World's Columbian Exhibition. Men would take off there top hats in respect. The chapel was hailed as a virtuoso performance of the arts of mosaic and glass. Hanging from the ceiling is a large cross shaped electrolier which made use of the latest technology of the time, the electric light bulb.
After the Chicago Exhibition the chapel was bought by Mrs Celia Whipple for The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York. It was installed in a dark crypt and used as an actual chapel for about 10 years but was then abandoned and left to deteriorate. Tiffany, upset about the condition of the chapel arranged to reacquire the remaining parts and bring them to his Long Island Estate, Laurelton Hall. Tiffany then lovingly restored the chapel and replaced the lost and stolen parts. When Tiffany died in 1933 his estate was scattered to the winds. In 1957 the Laurelton Hall estate burned to the ground. Luckily the chapel was in a separate building but it once again fell into disrepair.
After the fire Jeanette McKean the Morse Museum founder, and her husband Hugh McKean visited the hall and bought all they could to Winter Park Florida. Some callous moving men threw furniture and a used tire on top of the chapel parts assuming they were hauling junk. Once in the Museum the chapel was once again lovingly restored over a three year period. Tiffany viewed the chapel as "a temple of art, not of worship."
While I sketched the chapel, a woman tried to take a picture with her cell phone. A guard quickly appeared and shouted that no pictures were allowed. As he walked past me he said "Sketches are fine buddy, you have the right idea".

2 comments:

Joseph Hayes said...

Even while in St. John's nobody saw the chapel as Tiffany desired, since it was in a leaky basement crypt where the ceiling was too low for the installation, so the pillars had to be shortened to fit. And the room Tiffany put it in at Laurelton was too narrow and long, so the installation at the Morse is the first time it's been seen as intended since 1885.

Alice said...

This is the most fascinating history of the ups and downs of a work of art I have ever read! You do have the right idea.