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Cornelius and the Angel

The Techniques of John La Farge:

Cornelius and the Angel

Cornelius and the Angel

Attributed to John La Farge

Cornelius and the Angel


  • Types of glass: 1. Opalescent 2. Granite 3. Striated 4. Nodular

  • Painting on faces, hands, and feet

  • Multiple Layers


The encounter between Cornelius and the angel has been depicted in paintings and stained glass windows by various artists, including Tiffany and Mary Tillinghast. Tiffany Studios created at least four design variations on the theme, and there are at least seven Cornelius and the Angel windows in New York alone.


  • John La Farge created windows rich in detail like this one. Although the figures fill most of the space, the setting is made complete by the multitude of other features, including the column, the table, the gold oil lamp, the basket, the scrolls, the sky, and the stone wall.

  • As in this window, La Farge did not typically use drapery glass. Instead, he used many small pieces of multi-colored glass to depict the folds and draping of the clothing. He did so as skillfully as other artists who used drapery glass or paint for this purpose.

  • Notice how the artist created another point of interest by bringing to the forefront of the scene the smoke coming from the oil lamp.


This window depicts the biblical story in which an angel visits Cornelius and tells him to seek out Peter. Cornelius was a centurion, a Roman mercenary who commanded a century or group of at least one hundred men. According to scriptures:

3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. (Acts 10: 3–5)

Peter came to the home of Cornelius and spoke to a group of people about Jesus. They became the first Gentile converts to Christianity.

John La Farge (1835-1910)

John Frederick Lewis Joseph La Farge showed incredible range as an artist: He was a painter, decorator, author, poet, art critic, inventor of opalescent stained glass windows, and founder of American mural painting. He was born in New York City in 1835. And he was probably the most talented artist of those who eventually became part of the American School of Stained Glass. During his career, La Farge created some 300 documented stained glass windows, about 1,200 watercolors, 250 oil paintings, and a dozen mural projects.

In 1876, he began creating murals for Trinity Church in Boston. His work there cemented his reputation as a major decorative artist. His murals were stunning. La Farge also created five stained glass windows for the church between 1883 and 1902, some of which are considered masterpieces. During this period, he also received other prestigious stained glass commissions, including the houses of William H. Vanderbilt and Cornelius Vanderbilt II and the Darius Ogden Mills house all in New York and Memorial Hall at Harvard University.

The greatest innovator in the medium of stained glass, La Farge was the first to develop opalescent glass for windows, receiving a patent in 1880, and he pioneered the use of thin copper wire or foil to replace heavy lead lines. He also successfully used a layering technique called plating. Additionally, La Farge expanded the subject matter of stained glass windows. For example, he was the first to incorporate elaborate, large-scale flowers in glass. La Farge was also the first to incorporate molded glass jewels in his windows. He was influenced by Japanese art as well as the brilliant colors and realism of the Pre-Raphaelites.

La Farge won a first-class medal and the French Legion of Honor at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris for his The Sealing of the Twelve Tribes window. It was later installed at Trinity Church in Buffalo, New York, where it is still located. Our collection includes another version of this window by La Farge.

La Farge and Tiffany were the two major stained glass artists of the American School. Both used opalescent glass and layering techniques, but their work had key differences. La Farge closely supervised his artists, while Tiffany had a larger, more independent staff. Tiffany approved the initial designs and the final products. But neither artist personally fabricated his windows. Tiffany and La Farge also differed in their use of painting on windows. La Farge had superior painting skills. He used painting on glass if it improved the pictorial effect of a window. Tiffany did not personally paint on his windows. But he hired extremely talented artists, such as Frederick Wilson, to complete this task.

La Farge continued his creative endeavors until his death. During his career, he had revolutionized the art of murals and stained glass.

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