In 1892, Tiffany Studios created the monumental mosaic, Fathers of the Church, as part of the Tiffany Chapel display, designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, as a way to market the Studio’s Ecclesiastical Department to an international audience. The chapel’s dramatic marble and glass mosaic interior was inspired by Byzantine and Romanesque models, fully furnished with an altar, reredos, lectern, baptismal font, a cruciform-shaped electrolier, and several stained glass windows. This display was so evocative that many men reportedly removed their hats when entering this seemingly hallowed space.
The Church Fathers were writers of early Christian doctrine who lived before the eight century. This mosaic depicts, from left to right, Saints John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose. Though all three were bishops, only St. Augustine (who became bishop of Hippo, in northern Africa, in 396) and St. Ambrose (who became bishop of Milan in 374) are portrayed with the traditional miter (bishop’s hat) and crosier (bishop’s staff). St. John Chrysostom, though he became the bishop of Constantinople in 398, is shown holding a Bible, a reference to his renown as a preacher. Each saint is identified by the name inscribed in the halo. These three figures are often portrayed together in liturgical art in acknowledgment of the foundation they laid for Christianity.
Tiffany had a deep appreciation for traditional ecclesiastical vestments, which were also produced at Tiffany Studios. As depicted in this mosaic, the resplendent robes of the Church Fathers are rich in detail.
The Tiffany Chapel earned 54 awards, more than any other exhibitor, at the 1893 World’s Fair. It also won Tiffany Studios international fame for its religious work. After the fair, Tiffany displayed Fathers of the Church in his showroom and featured it in the marketing booklet printed by the Studios in 1896, Glass Mosaic, to illustrate the Studios’ work as continuing in the grand tradition of European mosaic-making. Fathers of the Church is part of The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, in Long Island City, New York, and on-view at MOBIA until January 20, 2013. The Tiffany Chapel is on permanent display at the Charles Hosmer Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida.
–B.B. for MOBIA
“Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion” will be closing in two days! Come see this great work and all the other beautiful works of art behind the exhibition’s end on January 20.