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John La Farge, Peacocks and Peonies II, 1882, stained glass window, frame: 112 x 51 1/4 x 6 1/2 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Henry A. La Farge, 1936.12.2

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John La Farge was already an accomplished painter when he turned his considerable talents to reviving the art of stained glass in 1875. His many innovations included his 1880 patent for opalescent glass—a cloudy, marbled glass with subtle coloring like an opal. La Farge often sculpted his opalescent glass so that it gives a sense of volume and offers varied effects when viewed under different light conditions.

Look closely at the inner panels to see how skillfully La Farge manipulated glass in Peacocks and Peonies II. The peacocks' tails consist of tiny clear-colored glass, in a technique developed by La Farge, which he called "broken jewel." The peony blossoms are each made of a single piece of opalescent glass cast from a sculptured mold, so that light striking at certain angles delicately highlights the edge of petals. The rippled glass used for the deep blues of the background gives vibrancy to the setting.

See more artworks works by John La Farge in our collection search and in the online exhibitions The Gilded Age: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Graphic Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Luce Center for American Art