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Element from a mosaic frieze, entrance hall of the H.O. Havemeyer House, New York

Accession Number
1986.146.8B

Title
Element from a mosaic frieze, entrance hall of the H.O. Havemeyer House, New York

Artist(s)
Louis Comfort Tiffany

Object Creation Date
1890-1891

Medium & Support
iridescent glass on plaster

Dimensions
34 in x 22 in (86.36 cm x 55.88 cm)

Credit Line
University purchase 1930, transferred to the Museum of Art, 1986.146.8B

Label copy
In 1888, the sugar refinery magnate and art collector Henry O. Havemeyer (1847–1907) commissioned the architect Charles Haight and the interior design team of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) and Samuel Colman (1832–1920) to design a new residence at 1 East 66th Street in New York in order to accommodate his burgeoning collection. Many of the nearly 2,000 works of art he and his wife, Louisine Waldron Havemeyer (1855–1929), amassed were bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art upon her death. Modeled after the Tiffany family’s home at the corner of Madison Avenue and 72nd Street, the interior of the Havemeyer mansion deftly juxtaposed a range of disparate materials such as opalescent glass, mosaic tiles, custom-carved wood moldings, curved cast iron, and Chinese embroideries. In one striking example, the house’s air return grilles—usually mundane—and utilitarian objects, were transformed into the most fragile and decorative of features, comprised of delicate glass rods and sturdy gilt metal plaits. Every component of the eclectic interior décor pushed the limits of decorative design by merging principles of jewelry design, mosaic art, sculpture, metalwork, and textile and furniture design. Not one square inch was neglected; no surface was left untouched. The entrance hall in which the Peacock Mosaic stood—along with the firescreen and stone-encrusted front doors also in the University of Michigan collection—was reputed to have been lined with at least a million and a half stones.
While Colman supervised the decorative schemas, Tiffany saw to the fabrication of opulent decorative elements that resembled giant pieces of jewelry. Although he was trained as a painter, Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the foremost practitioners of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American decorative arts. His spectacular lamps, Favrile glass vases, artistic jewelry, and boldly innovative stained glass windows were sold in the family firm, Tiffany & Company. Favrile (a term derived from the Old English word "fabrile," meaning "handmade") glass is a Louis Comfort Tiffany trademark: he obtained a patent for the richly colored and iridescent glass in 1894.
When Louisine Havemeyer died in 1929, the sumptuous interiors at 1 East 66th Street were broken up and sold and the house itself demolished. The then Dean of the College of Architecture at the University of Michigan, Emil Lorch (1870–1963), was present at the Havemeyer sale in April, 1930. Seizing this extraordinary opportunity to provide art and architectural students at the University of Michigan with splendid examples of original furniture, ceramics and decorative arts, he purchased twenty-five lots of Tiffany interior furnishings, including twenty-seven pieces of exquisite Favrile glass—all at a purchase price of $1,325.
(C. McNamara, 18th-19th Century Gallery installation, early 1999)

Subject matter
This panel is one of several panels of the same design that formed a frieze in the foyer of the H.O. Havemeyer House in New York City. The geometric patterning recalls Roman and Near Eastern examples, but the serpentine patterning also roots the mosaic in the Art Nouveau style of the time.

Physical Description
This mosaic panel depicts flowers and tendrils against a background with both a chevron pattern and a round flower-like patten. Along either side is a tapering beige element that is half of a blade of a plant; when joined with another panel, they create a full plant blade.

Primary Object Classification
Decorative Arts

Primary Object Type
architectural element

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
mosaics (visual works)

4 Related Resources

The Havemeyer Tiffany Collection
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Handout: I Used to Think, But Now I Think 
(Part of: Post-Visit Materials)
Essay: Havemeyer House
(Part of: Essays)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display