Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 21

The building at 508 Warren Street deserves attention for the beautifully preserved squares of colored glass along the base of its display windows. 

The colored panes were not merely decorative. In the 19th century, artists' supplies were sold in this shop. Some of the Hudson River School painters bought their supplies here. The story goes that the panes of colored glass were used to judge the purity of paint colors. Since the colors in the stained glass remained constant, a level of consistency in the colors of hand-mixed and hand-prepared oils could be achieved by comparing them with the colors of the stained glass.   


  1. Fascinating! I'm loving all I'm learning in Jane's Walk.

  2. I wasn’t going to comment on this, but lest the above (charming) bit of lore pass unchallenged into accepted history, let me just offer the contrary opinion that if one has ever ground pigment, mixed paint, studied color theory, or had to do accurate color-matching, this stained glass theory seems most implausible.

    If nothing else, the awkward positioning of the panes (at knee-height, in a crowded storefront window) argues against them being used for comparison purposes — let alone the vast differences between translucent colors and opaque ones. The color of the glass might remain constant, but the intensity and hue of the light streaming through them would not.

    More likely these were indeed decorative, announcing and enhancing the presence of an arts supply store. This would make them no less historically important, though perhaps somewhat less intriguing on a walking tour.