Maiden and Scholar

Women in the Field of Stained Glass:

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Maiden and Scholar

MARY ELIZABETH TILLINGHAST

  • Types of glass: 1. Opalescent 2. Cathedral 3. Nodular 4. Striated 5. Mottled 6. Drapery 7. Herringbone

  • 8. Granite 9. Rippled

  • Painting only on faces and hands

  • 2 Layers

  • 1905

 

Vivid colors, which are characteristic of the work of Mary Tillinghast, animate these windows, as well as her dramatic St. John the Evangelist window in the lobby staircase. Notice the small angels that appear at the feet of the figures. Angels such as these appear in some of Mary Tillinghast’s unsigned windows and are used in identifying her work.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • A mixture of herringbone and drapery glass give the robes their folds and texture.

  • Tillinghast commissioned her glass rather than producing it herself.

  • The painting on the faces and other flesh is in an impressionistic style.

  • The signature is “written” in glass.

  • The Museum has intentionally reversed the inscription panel on the Maiden to show the intricate work in lead and glass that is required to produce an inscription panel as seen in the Scholar.

BIBLICAL STORY OF THE WINDOW

The Maiden window depicts the story of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Her husband demanded to see what she was carrying to quell suspicions she was stealing treasure from the castle. At that moment, the food for the poor she carried in her apron miraculously became roses. The Scholar window depicts St. Simeon. He carries a scroll possibly indicating he is Simeon the Translator, a magistrate known for his tact and diplomacy.

Maiden (left) and Scholar (right)

Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast

Detail of Maiden

Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast

Detail of Scholar

Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast

Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast (1845–1912)

The multi-talented artist Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast was one of the first woman stained glass artists in America. She was also well-known for interior decoration, architectural designs, needlework, portrait painting, mosaics, and mural painting. The press highly praised her stained glass, often focusing on her use of color. They described her work as “daring with rich, striking, and pure colors.”  She used opalescent glass, limited painting to faces and limbs, and employed the same layering techniques as Louis C. Tiffany and John La Farge.

 

Born in Manhattan on Washington Square to an upper-class family, Tillinghast grew up on an estate in East Orange, New Jersey. She studied and traveled in Europe in the 1870s. In Paris, she studied with painting instructors Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran and Jean-Jacques Henner. Carolus-Duran also taught John Singer Sargent. She returned from Europe in 1876 to be the main support of her large family, which had fallen on hard times. Her jobs included teaching music and painting, translating French novels for a publisher, and working as a governess.

After briefly working for the decorating partnership of Louis C. Tiffany and Candace Wheeler, Tillinghast joined La Farge’s design firm in 1881 as head of embroidery. She became involved in the management of the business, eventually serving as a trustee and stockholder. She also apparently observed and absorbed the entire window design and production process. In 1884, Tillinghast established her own business providing interior design services and work in glass. The Decorative Stained Glass Company fabricated her windows.

In 1887, she created her first major stained glass window for Grace Episcopal Church in New York City. The Jacob’s Dream window is a fantastic vision of angels ascending a ladder within billowing clouds of opalescent glass. It is based on a 17th century painting of the same name by Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo. The window was the first in the church by an American stained glass artist, the first in the church made entirely of American glass, and perhaps most important, the first in the church by a woman.

Tillinghast created windows for churches, residences, institutions, and mausoleums. She is best known for her windows showing saints and literary figures against backdrops of Mediterranean hills, fluted pilasters, and Gothic tracery. Her stained glass work won gold medals at several world expositions. She worked out of a studio at 3 Washington Square North, a building where many artists of the day had studios. She also lived in the same building.

Tillinghast successfully managed her business up until the end of her life. She also found time to hold parties at her opulent apartment. She died suddenly of a heart attack. At the time, she was in the middle of installing a series of windows she had designed for Trinity Episcopal Church in Asheville, North Carolina.