Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Design for ceiling of Hershey Theater, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Artist:
Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, New York 1848–1933 New York)
Maker:
Tiffany Studios (1902–32)
Date:
ca. 1915
Geography:
Made in New York, United States
Culture:
American
Medium:
Watercolor, gouache, aluminum paint and bronze powder metallic ink on artist board with original shaped window mat
Dimensions:
Overall: 32 5/8 x 25 7/16 in. (82.9 x 64.6 cm) Design: 25 1/16 x 23 3/4 in. (63.7 x 60.3 cm)
Classification:
Drawings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Walter Hoving and Julia T. Weld Gifts and Dodge Fund, 1967
Accession Number:
67.654.12
Not on view
Chocolate magnate Milton Hershey commissioned Louis Comfort Tiffany to design the interiors of the Hershey Theater as one of his many gifts to the town he created in Pennsylvania. Tiffany’s designs envelop the viewer in the aura of an Italian garden room. Tiffany’s designs for the ceiling and lighting fixtures of the Hershey Theater suggest an evening sky to complement the garden that surrounds the audience. Individually unique snowflakelike constellations of silver stars are stenciled on a dark blue ground that fades to sunlit cream directly overhead. To illuminate his sky Tiffany designed corresponding glass lighting fixtures to hang from the center of each constellation. Light bulbs within the fixtures and nested in the cornices were to provide diffuse illumination to highlight the full effect of the ceiling decoration. Retracting windlasses incorporated into the ventilation system lifted the lampshades up and out of the way during performances. In the darkness, the changing light from stage or screen would cause the ceiling to sparkle like a star-strewn sky.
The death of Hershey’s wife in 1915 and World War I brought the project to a halt. When it was resumed in 1929, Hershey used the original plans drawn by C. Emlen Urban in 1915. Unfortunately, by then Tiffany had retired from the Studios and his interior design scheme was essentially abandoned. Today, the decoration of the theater bears little resemblance to Tiffany’s imaginative Italian fancy.
Signature: [recto, lower right]: Louis C. Tiffany

Inscription: [recto, lower left]: C. Emlen Urban / Architect / Lancaster Pa.
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