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Lucky Find: Opulent Oculi

Late last year, antiques collector Paul Brown heard about two large stained glass windows covered in grime inside a west Philadelphia church. Built in 1901, the church had been purchased by the Emmanuel Christian Center, which was converting the old building into a youth center.

 Tiffany Studios Rose Windows for St. Paul's Presbyterian, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1904
Pair of Tiffany Windows | Credit: Freeman's

According to the New York Times, Brown learned about the windows on Facebook Marketplace. A salvager at the church asked if he wanted the windows before workers “sledgehammer them out.”

He paid $6,000 to purchase the pair and workers spent weeks meticulously removing the glass from the stone walls. Once successfully removed, Brown took the windows to Freeman’s, a Philadelphia auction house, for appraisal. There, Brown learned that they were worth significantly more than he had originally paid: up to $250,000 each.

“To find another Tiffany rose, let alone two - it’s almost unheard of,” says Tim Andreadis, head of design at Freeman’s, adding that he doubts another piece like it will come on the market “in our lifetime.”

Freeman’s estimated that the windows were made around 1904 by Tiffany Studios. Founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the firm was known for its beautiful glass windows and lamps, which “became some of the most recognizable symbols of decorative arts during the American Gilded Age,” said Smithsonian magazine.

According to Freeman's, the windows feature leaded mottled, streaky, acid-etched, and ripple glass in vibrant hues, with each type of glass employed to magnify the effect of the whole. The symbolic imagery present is minimal yet powerful: one rose is centered by a crown (representing Christ), and the other a dove (representing the Holy Spirit). When hit by the light, the layered glass reveals a cross at the center of the dove - an example of Tiffany’s ability to employ his distinct processes to heighten the emotional sensation and deepen the meaning of his designs.

OGN will let you know how much that actually sell for at the forthcoming auction.


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