MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Deering Estate recently held a celebration unveiling two beautiful stained glass pieces titled “Flight Into Egypt.” These rare, centuries-old artifacts depict biblical scenes of the Holy Family fleeing King Herod’s rule. They are part of Charles Deering’s vast art collection.
Jennifer Tisthammer, Deering Estate Director, explains that Charles Deering was a philanthropist, a friend of artists and avid art collector.
“He was a visionary as it was in establishing art, most of the estate [collection] is at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and there’s some in the National Gallery in D.C.”
Their exact origins and age of the two stained glass panels are unknown, likely renaissance and even medieval, they were recorded in the 1924 inventory of Deering’s gifts to his daughters, then decades later rediscovered in disrepair. Expert preservationists were enlisted from RLA Conservation, like Julie Flynn, who was at the grand unveiling. She described the panels.
“All the colors were really matted and spotted with dirt and the metal was rusty with corrosion. This is the most intensive stained glass project we’ve worked on, we had to stabilize everything we had to bring all the colors out, make it look as vibrant as it looks now in the light boxes.”
Antique stained glass pieces like these rarely left Europe, many were destroyed during the reformation and in war. Their significance can’t be overstated.
“Charles was such a unique collector, very few Americans and art collectors collected stained glass,” said Maria McDonald, President of The 100 Ladies of Deering, a philanthropic arm of Deering Foundation that led this project.
“Pieces like this don’t tend to come down here, and they don’t tend to survive as well down here,” said Flynn.
Now elegantly displayed in the Stone House, Deering’s home completed in 1922, these exquisite pieces are a triumph for the Deering Foundation, The 100 Ladies of Deering, the Deering family, and donors who made this happen. McDonald was delighted to see the outcome.
“We had no idea what condition these things were in, it was shocking, there was rust no vibrancy no color and unbeknownst to us they [RLA] had done one side and they flipped it over and all you could here was ‘Wow this is just gorgeous!’”
The process from recovering to restoring to revealing the pieces took twelve years.
“We had grown as an institution to where we could actually steward a piece like this,” Tisthammer explains, “to be able to give this piece back to the world.”
The hope now is that scholars, art enthusiasts and historians will visit the estate to appreciate, discuss, and perhaps even reveal more of the history of these pieces.
“These houses are coming alive with these artifacts and these two are just our most precious artifacts right now,” beams McDonald.
Charles and his brother James, whose Villa Vizcaya is also testament to the family’s mark in South Florida, are part of the family that built one of the U.S.’s largest companies -International Harvester.
For more about Deering Estate visit the website at www.deeringestate.org