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The Neustadt Collection

In the 1930s, Austrian immigrants Egon and Hildegard Neustadt began collecting Tiffany lamps. Eight decades later, their nearly 200 lamps and quarter-of-a-million examples of Tiffany glass are carefully cared for by the Neustadt Collection organization, based out of Long Island City, New York.

AIRED: May 03, 2018 | 0:05:03
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It all started with a $12.50

lamp.

Austrian immigrants

Egon and Hildegard Neustadt

married in 1935 and were living

in Flushing, Queens, when they

went shopping at a secondhand

store to furnish their

apartment.

Ego later wrote in his memoirs

that a strange, old-fashioned

lamp caught his wife's eye.

It was a Tiffany lamp and would

be the first of more than 200

that make up the Neustadt

collection, based out of

Long Island City.

>> And it's great because it's

this Tiffany lampshade.

They had been made just about

15 years earlier.

So they were neither

old-fashioned nor particularly

strange.

They had been quite ubiquitous

at the turn of the century in

America.

But they were an unusual form to

Egon and Hildegard, and he

describes it, when Hildegard

held it up to the light in the

window, that it gave the effect

of real flowers growing in a

real garden.

>> Parrott says the Neustadt

were able to amass a formidable

collection because they were

buying just as the lamps were

going out of vogue.

But in the first decade of the

20th century, Tiffany lamps were

all the rage.

♪♪

>> They were produced by the

thousands.

In fact, we don't even know how

many Tiffany lamps were made in

total, but thousands of lamps

were made in hundreds of

designs.

>> Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of

Tiffany & Company founder

Charles Lewis Tiffany, trained

as a painter and became an

influential interior decorator.

He began producing objects for

the rooms he designed.

Parrott says Tiffany's iconic

lamps are an outgrowth of the

stained-glass or leaded windows

he also created for customers.

>> Tiffany was very influenced

by medieval stained-glass

windows, and so he loved the

rich color that was embedded

into the glass matrix.

What he was also interested in

in medieval windows were all of

these little kind of

inconsistencies, the sort of

movement, unexpected movement,

little bubbles and little bits

that had fallen into the glass

and helped to refract the light.

>> By the time Tiffany worked in

interior decoration, stained

glass was made differently.

Artists used large, single-color

panes of glass and painted

directly on them, like a canvas.

>> So, what Tiffany seeks to do

is to create colored glass,

richly textured glass, glass

with these unbelievable color

combinations, and to build

pictures out of small pieces of

this colored and textured glass.

♪♪

>> Over a 250,000 examples of

this glass are housed in the

Neustadt collection, many made

in glass furnaces in nearby

Corona, Queens.

These glass pieces are not only

valuable in their own right, but

also demonstrate the wide

variety of colors and styles

Tiffany used in his creations.

>> So, Tiffany had names for

many of these different kids of

glass.

So, for instance, this is a type

of heavily textured glass called

drapery glass.

And this glass was used for

things like flowing garments.

So, imagine a window with saints

or a window with angels in a

church.

And so as light would transmit

through this glass, the color

would, of course, change.

And you really get a sense of

the flow and drape of a garment.

>> There's foliage glass,

iridescent glass, streaky glass,

and glass jewels.

But perhaps the most surprising

pieces in the collection among

the myriad of Tiffany decor

elements are the non-Tiffany

items, a collection of

forgeries.

Parrott affectionately refers to

them as "Tiff-phonies."

>> These were purchased by

Dr. Neustadt.

We suspect that he was duped

over the course of his

collecting career, probably more

towards the end of his life.

And so we have approximately 50

of these forgeries like these

four Wisteria that you see here.

>> An authentic Wisteria lamp

when they were first being made

cost $400.

For reference, the average

annual income was not much more

than that.

So selling fakes could be

lucrative.

But Parrott says she and her

colleagues can pick out the

Tiffanies from the

"Tiff-phonies" by carefully

cleaning them and looking for

telltale signs.

>> One of the things that we

look at first is the glass, and

this is where our glass archive

becomes so important.

We're well-acquainted with not

only Tiffany's color palette,

but also the different types of

glass that they were

manufacturing and using.

We look at things like the

soldering.

We look at the way that these

branches have been joined by the

leaded glass blossoms.

And we also look at the way that

the bases were cast.

>> Parrott hopes to create an

exhibit where viewers can learn

what makes a Tiffany, a Tiffany.

She plans to challenge them to

pick out the real McCoys from

the phonies.

Pieces from the Neustadt

collection are available for

view in traveling exhibitions

and in a permanent gallery at

the Queens Museum, not far from

where they were created and

where the Neustadts fell in love

with that strange, old-fashioned

lamp that kicked off a lifetime

love of all things Tiffany

glass.

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