Friday, August 27, 2010

Wayward Wisteria

In the course of researching an old issue of The Frank Lloyd Wright Newsletter (vol. 1 no. 5, September-October 1978), I happened upon a curious piece of Martin House art glass, not previously "on our radar."  

This piece - clearly of the "wisteria" family from the unit room - was, at the time, in the collection of the Department of Architecture and Design of the Museum of Modern Art, NY.  Unfortunately, the newsletter's listing does not give the dimensions of the panel, identifying it only as a first floor window. This obfuscates the process of pinpointing its original location in the house, but by scrutinizing the pattern and historic photos, I can say with some certainty that it must be one of the windows that flanked the five French doors leading from the living room to the veranda.  These windows were the same width as the doors, but about half the height.  The dimensions of this piece (by eye) would seem to fit the bill, along with its characteristic series of eleven abstracted "blossoms" across the center of the composition.

The caption indicates that this window was acquired by the MoMA in 1970 - most likely from the show and sale of Martin House art glass at the Richard Feigen Gallery, New York.  Today, however, a search of the MoMA collection online does not list any such piece among its impressive array of Wright-designed decorative objects.  Here - for the moment - the trail of this fugitive piece of art glass goes cold. What became of it between 1978 and today?  It could well have migrated to another museum collection or private collection; further research may pick up its trail once again.  

One important clarification for art glass connoisseurs:  the caption in the newsletter indicates that "the came in this instance is zinc."  Anyone familiar with the art glass from the Martin House knows that this is in error - it must be brass (versus the caming of the Barton House art glass, which is zinc). 

If anyone reading this has any clues as to the whereabouts of this rare piece, our phone lines are always open! 

No comments: