Thursday, January 14, 2010


Being an ongoing series of postings on missing artifacts from Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House complex [not the hapless passengers of Oceanic Flight 815].

This week:  buffet doors:

Below:  detail of Martin House buffet, Fuermann and Sons, 1907

During the Martin House "period of abandonment" (c. 1937 - 1954), roughly three quarters of the original compliment of art glass (394 pieces) was removed from the complex.  Much of it was spirited away by Darwin R. Martin in his attempt to liquidate components of the Jewett Parkway property.  Most of this art glass made its way to a few collectors and dealers and, from there, to public and private collections around the world.  The eighty-nine pieces of glass from the carriage house and conservatory were not as fortunate and may have been destroyed in the demolition of these buildings; most of them remain unaccounted for.  Only the Barton House was unscathed; it retains its original array of forty-five pieces of art glass.  

Among the pieces of Martin House 
diaspora that found a good institutional home were a pair of art glass doors from the dining room buffet.  They are held in the collection of the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida, an outstanding collection of American decorative arts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a concentration on the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  The Museum has been graciously cooperative in sharing images and information on these rare doors, but is not able to deaccession them to make them available to the Martin House.  The mystery that remains is:  what became of the other identical pair of doors from the buffet?
The remaining two doors are conspicuously absent because, as interior panels, they were likely well-preserved over the decades and protected from the elements, increasing the possibility that they survived...somewhere.  Having examined the Morse Museum doors first-hand, I can attest that they are in excellent condition.  So, where are their counterparts?  Given that at least one piece of Martin House art glass (a conservatory door) is known to reside in a private collection in Japan, we may never locate the two remaining buffet doors.
The good news:  with one pair carefully preserved by the Morse Museum, the craftsmen at Oakbrook Esser Studios can produce perfect reproductions from the extant example.  Thus, a fully-restored buffet is in the offing - minus the Swedish meatballs.  

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