Recently, David Voorhees shared with me a discovery made by Joseph Keating, who is studying Tiffany artwork, which confirms the mosaic's attribution to Tiffany & Company. The following article, from the Columbia Republican for January 20, 1901, reports that Tiffany himself supervised the construction of the mosaic. It also provides evidence that the mosaic was once flanked by Tiffany stained glass windows.
The boarded up openings at the back of the church hint that there were once windows there, and this article confirms that in 1901 "new Tiffany glass windows" were installed in the window openings. What happened to them is a mystery.
The window openings predated the Tiffany glass, however. In this photograph, taken in 1890, tall, narrow, round arched windows can be seen on either side of the chancel.
The mosaic and the new stained glass windows were not the only Tiffany elements added to the church in 1901. In September of that year, the Hudson Evening Register reported the gift of memorial chairs for the chancel, "designed and executed by the Tiffany Company of New York city, after an ancient and churchly pattern."
On the walls on either side of the chancel, there were medallions, also the work of Tiffany & Company, and stenciling around the arch, all of which can be seen in this photograph.
The redecoration of the church, in the Byzantine style, which took place at the turn of the 20th century, involved the work not only of the Tiffany Studio but also of Frederic Church, who had input into the design of the project. Church and his family worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church.
Going into the church today, one wonders what happened to the spectacular interior created by Church and Tiffany. According to Voorhees, in 1938, the Session, the governing body of the congregation, decided to redecorate "in a more austere manner" because the Byzantine design inspired by Frederic Church "was not considered appropriately 'Presbyterian.'" It was a this time, too, that the pews were rearranged to create a center aisle, for the benefit of weddings.
Fortunately, the Tiffany mosaic of Christ with open arms--"this magnificent specimen of modern art in glass"--survived the 1938 redecoration, although some then and since then have questioned whether it is appropriately "Calvinist."
COPYRIGHT 2019 CAROLE OSTERINK