The Angel of the Resurrection (1895)
Inspiration for the Window
The theme depicted in Matthew, chapter 28, lies at the heart of Christianity. Jesus had been crucified and his body placed in a tomb cut in limestone bedrock. An angel whose “clothes were white as snow” had rolled back a stone that blocked the entrance. He sat on the stone and spoke to two women who cautiously approached:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-7)
About the Window
Jesus is not shown in the window. The dark tomb is open, and an angel stands with an arm uplifted in triumph—the sky, his robe and gray-brown wings not yet lit by the rising sun. The work is Art Nouveau, a style that became popular in stained glass windows after the 1893 Columbia World’s Exposition in Chicago. The style is characterized by depiction of leaves and flowers in flowing, sinuous lines or, as one writer put it, by sinuous nymphs, leggy maidens, whiplashed curves, lilies and brambles. The lilies are traditional symbols of purity associated with the Virgin Mary or the Archangel Gabriel, but here they appear to be symbolic of Christ’s resurrection.
The window is signed “Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, New York, 1895.”
Given in Memory of Bloomfield Usher
The window was given in memory of longtime Potsdam resident, Bloomfield Usher (1814-1893), a member of Trinity Church vestry for 41 years—from 1852 to his death in 1893, and warden of the church from 1885 to 1893. Given by his wife and daughter.
When stained glass first appeared in churches, it wasn’t just about making churches beautiful. At a time when most people couldn’t read, stained glass windows exploited color and light to tell the Gospel story and make it come alive.
This window tells the story of the resurrection. In the background is the open tomb. In the foreground the angel announces that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
Tiffany uses his unique approach to make the message all the more real to the viewer. Tiffany’s windows draw us in by creating a 3-dimensional world in what is usually a flat two-dimensional medium. Usually he does it by his use of light and blended colors. Here, if you get up close, you can see that the glass images are actually three-dimensional, the folds in the angels robe, and especially the flowers in the foreground literally come out of the picture. The message is: the resurrection of Jesus Christ -- and ours to follow -- is tangible and real.