Visiting Asheville at Biltmore Estate, just across town from our Asheville bed and breakfast, until October 23rd is a wonderful collection of Tiffany glass. Louis Comfort Tiffany started a glass making factory in Corona, New York in 1892. He had traveled in Europe years earlier, had seen examples and was familiar with ancient glass making traditions in Rome, from the ruins of Pompeii and, of course, the traditions of Venetian glassmakers.
In 1894, Tiffany received a patent for what was called "Favrile glass". This was a process where color and pattern was added to glass so that patterns remained clear but were in the glass rather than painted on the surface of the glass. In 1896, the first Favrile glass was produced. So when George Vanderbilt acquired some Tiffany pieces, in the "art nouveau" style, this was brand-new, contemporary, modern stuff!
Most familiar to us these days are lamp shades, usually hanging pendant glass lamps or floor lamps, with leading between the individual pieces of glass that create a mosaic-like effect. But the art of Louis Comfort Tiffany was much broader. His company received many commissions for elaborate stained glass windows in private houses and in churches which depicted both natural floral and botanical subjects as well as human figures and full landscapes. Vases, bowls dishes were also produced. The peacock feather was also a familiar motif.
In New York City today, where most of George Vanderbilt's family lived, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a number of wonderful examples of Tiffany's art including the "Autumn Landscape" stained glass window. And if you travel just up the Hudson River just north of New York City to a property called Lyndhurst that belonged to a wealthy New Yorker before the end of the 19th century and is now managed by the National Trust, you can see a particularly fabulous table lamp whose shade looks exactly like folded linen fabric, but is layers of white-on-white glass. Or you can travel over to Brooklyn and see a Presbyterian Church whose stained glass windows were all created by Tiffany and Company.
But we are fortunate now, while you're in Asheville visiting Biltmore, until October 23rd, you can see many examples of Tiffany's factory and pieces signed by Tiffany himself. I hope you have the opportunity to look carefully at the glass pieces. You will likely be rewarded and amazed at the craftsmanship, exquisite designs and detail. Hope you have the chance to come see!