History of the Carnegie Tiffany glass window
The window was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie in 1913 in memory of his family, who had left Dunfermline for the US in 1848. The window was intended to be installed in the medieval Abbey Nave as the Abbey held dear childhood memories for Carnegie, but permission was refused by the authorities of the day as it was deemed to be “out of harmony with the existing stained-glass windows in the Nave”.
Since its completion, the Tiffany window has had a number of homes in Dunfermline. However, these had problems of access and in preserving the window. Following restoration, it was installed in the Abbey Church, at a special ceremony on 12 August 2019, coinciding with the centenary of Andrew Carnegie’s death. We are grateful to Dunard Fund and the Carnegie Corporation of New York for financial support to enable a purpose-built presentation place to be constructed.
The window design and fabrication
The window was commissioned from the famous Tiffany Studios in New York where Carnegie was an established customer. The scene shows an evocative pastoral sunset. Carnegie had preferred a landscape scene – in his words “God is in those rocks and rills. God is in the great outdoors”.
Although the scene is typically American, being a valley seen through a vista of stone pines, it does show rhododendrons and other flowers which can be seen more commonly in Scotland. It is believed that Carnegie had suggested that Scottish thistles should be added in the foreground, but as the artist was not familiar with thistles, rhododendrons were substituted!
At the turn of the twentieth century Tiffany’s new style of stained glass was extremely fashionable. Uniquely it uses Favrile glass (a type of iridescent glass with multi-coloured effects) which he patented in 1880. “Favrile” derives from the old English word “fabrile” meaning handmade
The window is made in the distinctive Tiffany style using layers of coloured glass in sections one on top of the other. The artisans who were employed in the New York studios were nearly all women due to the intricate work involved. This window was possibly worked on by Agnes Fairchild Northrop who died in 1953 aged 96.
There are four other Tiffany memorial windows in Scotland and two in England.
It is a fitting addition to the other high quality stained glass to be found in the Abbey.
We need your support…
After four years in its new home, the LED lights that ensure the right quality of light to enjoy the Carnegie Tiffany Window have failed and need to be replaced. All maintenance costs are met from church funds which are mainly given by church members but also include a small amount of donation from those who visit the church building.
Like many charitable organisations, both the Covid pandemic and the current cost of living crisis have had an effect on funds that are available and 2023 will be a very challenging year for the congregation as expenditure will far outweigh income. The LED lights were not expected to fail and so these costs are not included in the current budget. One of the reasons the Tiffany Window is now within the Abbey Church of building was to allow more public access to view the artwork, and this access is currently free to all.
The congregation are responsible for all associated costs with being open to the public, and receive no grants from government or local sources towards the running costs of a building that is of public interest. We are grateful to Historic Environment Scotland who have most recently offered support in ensuring that the building is staffed while open, and there is a shared agreement that now ensures that visitors are able to access all parts of the building within the Historic Environment Scotland working hours.