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04-03-04 Century-old Glass Beauty

By Janie Southard

ST. MARYS — When the sun shines through the colored glass windows at Zion Lutheran Church, the sanctuary is bathed in the jewel colors developed a century ago by Louis C. Tiffany.
   An early 20th century glass artist, Tiffany is reported to have said that his famous lamps, now the object of collectors worldwide, were just an offshoot of his real passion — windows.
   During the peak years of 1900-1910, his New York company shipped hundreds of windows to churches around the world including nine panels (three triptychs) to the Zion Lutheran Church in St. Marys.
   Now flanking the altar in the main sanctuary are six panels of Tiffany’s glass art depicting the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. In the small chapel adjacent to the sanctuary is the triptych showing Jesus as a boy teaching in the temple.
   One of Tiffany’s signature techniques, that of folded glass, is easily seen in the chapel windows, which are at eye level.
   This folded effect, called drapery glass, is created by a roller moving over the molten glass. It was used to achieve texture and dimension such as in the garments worn by religious figures in the Zion church windows.
   The color variance in the robes of the figures also is achieved through the drapery glass technique. Other distinctive Tiffany techniques used in the Zion windows include mottled glass and fractured glass.
   The windows were removed from the former church building and installed in the present building, which was dedicated in 1974.
   Former Zion paster, the Rev. Ted Stellhorn, said Lester Trier of Elkhart, Ind., designer of the new building, declared the windows were Tiffany.
   A representative of City Glass in Fort Wayne, Ind., who refurbished the windows in the early 1970s, also declared the windows were made by the famous Tiffany company, based on the techniques used.
   Much of Tiffany’s work was not signed nor was it numbered, although it is recognizable through technique and style. Tiffany expert Robert Koch states in his book “Louis C. Tiffany’s Art Glass” that Tiffany employed many designers over the years who used many decorations. “In spite of this great variety, there is an amazing consistency in style,” Koch wrote.
   Tiffany, who died in 1933, outlived the popularity of his work. However, a revived interest for Art Nouveau pieces in the 1950s put his work — lamps, in particular — in great demand again.
   Tiffany was the son of jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany whose Tiffany and Company in New York was a centerpiece in Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”


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