AN IMPORTANT LEADED GLASS AND BRONZE TABLE LAMP
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect always open to the possibilities of the new-new ideas, new technology, new materials. In the Dana house lamp, he demonstrates his ability not only to embrace the new, but to make it his own. Electric lighting was still a novelty in many parts of the country in 1903, and the Susan Lawrence Dana house was one of the first homes in Springfield to make use of this technology. By 1902, Wright had already mastered the design of windows, though the Dana house windows would be his most complex and varied compositions to date, and here he very effectively and beautifully extends this experience to lighting.
One of two double pedestal lamps for the Dana house, this lamp is believed to have originally been situated in the library. The present lamp differs from its mate in that the predominant color in the side panels of the shade is green with amber/gold panels along the top of the peak, while its mate has predominantly amber/gold panels along the sides with green panels along the top of the peak. Both lamps have pendant panels of solid green iridescent glass set into the base. In both lamps, the color shifts depending upon whether light is reflected on the surface or transmitted through the shade. With raking light across the surface, the glass shimmers with multi-colored iridescence. With transmitted light, however, the colors soften into muted tones of brown, ivory, amber and green.
The color scheme of the lamp was carefully planned to be in keeping with its setting inside the house. The overall atmosphere Wright sought to create was one of quietness and "organic harmony". In 1908, in his article "In the Cause of Architecture," he famously wrote, "go to the woods and fields for color schemes. Use the soft, warm, optimistic tone of earths and autumn leaves in preference to the pessimistic blues, purples or cold greens and grays of the ribbon counter; they are more wholesome and better adapted in most cases to good decoration."
Large and architectonic, the lamp has a strong presence. The shade has broad "eaves" that somewhat echo the roofline of the Dana house itself. The pendant panels at each end of the base are a curiosity, but may relate to a unique "floating screen" or tapestry of pendant glass panels used in front of the arched window at one end of the house's gallery. It has been suggested that the pendant panels are reminiscent of ribbons hung in the doorway of a Japanese shrine to keep back evil spirits.
The source of inspiration for the bold, geometric pattern of the shade and other glass designs in the house may well have been the indigenous prairie plant, sumac, as Wright himself claimed. But Julie Sloan in her book Light Screens, The Complete Leaded-Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright (2001), has pointed out many similarities between the Froebel "Gifts"-playthings for children, intended to stimulate their creative development-and some of the motifs in Wright's glass designs of this period. Wright's mother Anna had introduced him to the Froebel Kindergarten system when he was nine years old. By 1903, Wright had six young children and Froebel's "Gifts" were once again a part of his household. They may have provided design ideas through their encouragement of play with shapes.
Wright recollected in 1952:
"I used to love to sit down at the drawing board with a T square and triangle and concoct these patterns that you will see in the windows. I evolved a whole language of my own in connection with those things. That was long before the Mondrians and these other things ever happened. You will see nearly everything that they ever thought of in these glass patterns-especially in Midway Gardens. And also in the home of Mrs. Lawrence Dana. That was when I was most interested in it. And when I had found the means in Chicago..."
Wright's early double pedestal table lamp for the Dana house is an outstanding work of art that embodies many of his basic precepts about good design and demonstrates their timelessness and success.
In addition to the two double pedestal lamps for the Dana house, Wright and the Linden Glass Company produced another very similar lamp for the Robie house approximately five years later. The Robie house lamp was sold at auction by Christie's on June 11, 1998 (lot 114) and still holds the record for any work by Frank Lloyd Wright sold at auction. The Robie house lamp has a shade of the same pattern and a base of the same form, however the glass panels of the base are leaded with a multi-colored geometric motif, rather than being plain as in the Dana house model. Following the sale of the Robie House lamp, Christie's was able to arrange a private sale of the mate to the present lamp to the Dana-Thomas house, also in 1988.
cf. For illustrations of the nearly identical double pedestal lamp in the Dana-Thomas house, see Donald Hallmark, Frank Lloyd Wright's Dana-Thomas House, 1989, p. 14; David Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1979, p. 105, plate 2; Donald Hoffmann, Frank Lloyd Wright's Dana House 1996, fig. 80; Thomas A. Heinz, Frank Lloyd Wright Glass Art, 1994, p. 45; Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and Yukio Futagawa, Frank Lloyd Wright Selected Houses 1, 1991, p. 93; Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and David Larkin, Frank Lloyd Wright, The Masterworks, 1993, p. 40; Julie Sloan, Light Screens, The Complete Leaded-Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright, 2001, p. 236, fig. 281.
22¼in. (56.5cm.) high, 32¼in. (81.9cm.) wide, 19 1/8in. (48.6cm.) deep
Susan Lawrence Dana
Charles C. Thomas
Thence by descent