Guelder rose (snowball bush) and wisteriaLeaded glass Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900 26 in. x 32 in. (58-015)
When Louis Comfort Tiffany’s daughter Comfort Gilder (1887–1974) wrote Hugh McKean in March 1957 following the fire at her father’s Laurelton Hall estate, she inquired specifically about his interest in three leaded-glass windows: the wisteria, the magnolia, and the snowball. Of all the windows the McKeans rescued from Laurelton Hall, the snowball window was “Papa’s” favorite, she later told McKean. The snowball window, possibly used as a transom in the dining room, is a showcase for the Tiffany standard of excellence in the art of depicting nature in leaded glass. The window features a branch of a flowering snowball or guelder rose bush—a variety of viburnum that grows up to twelve feet in height—set against a horizon of mottled blues and greens where yellow glimmers through like the rays of the morning sun. Accenting this riveting abstraction of color, purple wisteria vines fall delicately between the snowball blooms and branches. The Morse’s snowball window is similar to another snowball window that Tiffany exhibited in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Tiffany Studios also offered the snowball design in two sizes of leaded-glass lamp shades. So in Tiffany’s garden of glass, the snowball flower was a compelling subject for the artist.