Tiffany (1848–1933) originally created the fireplace hood for his Seventy-Second Street residence in New York City around 1885, but later, in 1919, had the work moved to the smoking room of Laurelton Hall. The massive masterwork, measuring 66 1/2 inches tall by 55 1/2 inches wide creatively combines distinctly American, post-Civil War iron with Japanese inspirations. It was thought to have been destroyed when Tiffany’s estate burned down in 1957.
When Jeannette G. McKean (1909–89), the Morse Museum’s founder, and her husband, Hugh F. McKean (1908–95), the Museum’s first Director and a fellow at Laurelton Hall in 1930, surveyed the burned wreckage of the paradisiacal environment Tiffany had created, they decided to save everything they could. By then, however, the fireplace hood was gone. They could not have known that it had survived. The fireplace hood had been removed and stored for over half a century out of sight.
While the fireplace hood’s existence was confirmed by records, including by the Morse Museum’s vast collection of archival photography, it was unthinkable that it would not only one day be recovered, but joined with Tiffany’s most personal works in the Morse’s Laurelton Hall wing.
The installation of the fireplace hood recalls Tiffany’s original installation at his Seventy-Second Street home as well as his later reinstallation of the hood at Laurelton Hall. Though the fireplace hood itself is completely original, the tsuba, or Japanese sword guards, decorating the hood’s surrounding panels, have been recreated to allow the visitor to better understand and appreciate the exotic and dramatic qualities of Tiffany’s original conception. Tiffany had collected tsuba by the barrelful to be used in his interior design projects, and, just as he had them fashioned in his New York City residence, the reproduced metal discs decorate the walls in a spidery pattern in the Morse Museum’s installation.
Following Tiffany’s own placement of the work, the fireplace hood is set in a context of a group of art and architectural objects. Opposite the fireplace hood installation itself, an archival photograph shows the work as Tiffany installed it at Laurelton Hall.
The fireplace hood was purchased by the Morse from Lillian Nassau LLC with the generous assistance of Paul and Sharon Steinwachs.