Tucked away in an industrial block in the New York City borough of Queens is an ordinary-looking warehouse containing an extraordinary treasure: a quarter-million sheets, shards and pieces of multicolored and iridescent glass that together make up the largest collection of Tiffany glass, The Neustadt Tiffany Glass Archive.
While stained glass has been produced since ancient times, the colorful cathedral windows created during the 15th century of the Renaissance period are perhaps the best known. But the art was transformed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American artist and designer who used his unique talent to essentially create paintings out of glass.
Lindsy Parrott, executive director and curator of the collection, holds up a medium-sized piece of glass as she explains its uniqueness.
“This is called dichroic, rippled glass and so it’s one color — this greenish color — in reflected light. But then look at this,” she says, as she holds it up to the window. “When you illuminate it, it becomes a wonderful reddish-yellow glass.”
And that’s what is significant about The Neustadt Tiffany Glass Archive, she says. “It documents this unbelievable chapter in the history of stained glass, by introducing all of these incredible colors and textures, various patterns, different opacities of glass.”
Distinctive style of glass
Tiffany glass derives its name from the distinctive style of glass produced by Tiffany and his team of designers from 1878 to 1933. Working out of the Tiffany Studios in New York, Tiffany became famous for the color-infused, leaded glass lampshades and stained glass windows that have come to define his name.
The Neustadt Collection was founded in 1969 by collector Egon Neustadt and his wife, Hildegard, who discovered their first Tiffany lamp in 1935. That $12.50 purchase inspired a lifelong passion.
“This one wonderful daffodil lamp kicked off an entire collection,” Parrott says. The Neustadts became deeply passionate about Tiffany lamps after that initial purchase, transfixed by their beauty, and spent the rest of their life building a massive collection.
A passion for Tiffany glass
The couple would eventually amass more than 200 Tiffany lamps, each one unique, including the purchase in 1967 of a huge cache of Tiffany glass left when the company’s furnaces finally closed in 1937.
“Tiffany’s furnaces were originally located in Corona, Queens, and so much of the glass that you see here was made here in New York City,” Parrott says.
The collection represents a variety of forms of glass, from drapery glass meant to mimic a flowing robe, rippled glass meant to represent water, and pressed glass jewels and 3D glass jewels to adorn lamps, mosaics and windows, all carefully sorted and ordered by color, size, texture and type.
The warehouse containing the Tiffany Glass Archive will open to the public for exclusive monthly tours later this year. And The Neustadt will provide a sneak preview of some of these glass treasures in a new exhibition in their dedicated gallery at the Queens Museum, opening October 7.