John La Farge (American, 1835–1910)
Peacocks and Peonies II, 1882
John La Farge’s stained glass windows reflect the Gilded Age fascination with medieval art and craftsmanship. The industrial revolution had made inexpensive, mass-produced glass available to anyone, but art glass remained an emblem of wealth and good taste. This window and a companion piece were commissioned by Frederick Lothrop Ames, a railroad magnate who had them installed in the vast, baronial hall of his Boston house.
The peacock’s tail feathers are made of bits of glass in the “broken jewel” technique; each peony blossom is a single piece of glass molded to catch the light differently through the day. La Farge (American, 1835–1910) layered his colored glass as a painter would build glazes of colors to achieve the right shade. For the composition, he borrowed from many cultures: the central panel with the bird-and-flower motif evokes Chinese and Japanese screens; the lower panel emulates Pompeian architecture; and the transom above recalls the tympanum above the door to a Romanesque cathedral.