“He was able to not only amass a huge number of lamps,” Parrott adds, “but his collection is renowned because there are so many totally fabulous, very rare examples.” She alludes to pieces like a globe-shaped shade in a Pond Lily design (one of only two known to exist), and a one-of-a-kind hanging Dragonfly shade, likely made as a special commission. “He was able to collect at a time when the Tiffany lamp world was his oyster,” she muses.
As Neustadt built his collection, he took a scholarly approach to the lamps, culminating in a 1970 book, The Lamps of Tiffany. “Dr. Neustadt had this really tidy, scientific mind, and the way he understood the world was by classifying things,” Parrott explains. While it’s not known how many different types of different Tiffany lamps were made, let alone how many were made in total, Neustadt played an important role in trying to codify the various designs. “He developed terms for different types of lamps—like ‘geometric’ or ‘geometric transitioning to floral’—and he was trying to categorize and develop this nomenclature for the lamps and for the glass as well.”
A special part of the collection—not currently on display, though likely the subject of a future show—is made up of Tiffany forgeries, which it’s believed that Neustadt bought inadvertently, likely at the end of his life. By then his collection had become better known, and his instincts may have faded.
“Some of the forgeries are magnificent, and you can see why he’d be fooled,” Parrott explains. “In some cases the work is really good, the craftsmanship is competitive with what Tiffany did—but the glass, however, is not.” Tomlin adds. “It’s a very fine line between colorful, sophisticated, and just garish.”
As we walk through shelves of glass and pore over shards, full sheets as large as two feet long, and bins of glass bits, Tomlin describes what an enormous, painstaking process it’s been to examine, document, and categorize each piece of glass, and build an archive of the materials. There’s never just a single green glass, she notes, rather something like 47 variations on green. “No two pieces of Tiffany glass are the same. So, within a sheet of glass, you could have one end of the sheet that is perfectly clear and light yellow, and then as it goes down it’ll get heavier and mottles to almost a flaming red-orange. Describing that is hard.”