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Nicola D’Ascenzo




“Diversly colored and whimsical, this stained-glass window was originally installed at the Horn Building, at the corner of 16th and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, which opened in the late 1920s. The Art Deco architect, Ralph B. Bencker, designed the building for restaurant innovators Joe Horn and Frank Hardart. It housed Horn & Hardart’s corporate offices and a signature Horn & Hardart eatery. This monumental window, made of eight panels, featuring stylized floral and leaf motifs, was designed by Nicola D’Ascenzo. D’Ascenzo’s stained-glass workshop was premier among roughly forty ateliers working in Philadelphia, during the first decades of the twentieth century. By this time, D’Ascenzo had been working with Horn & Hardart for over a decade, and for this commission his studio produced several two-story windows for the entranceway and the side façade.

Known for the high quality of his craftsmanship, D’Ascenzo masterfully manipulated hand-blown, antique, opalescent and other glass in a wide range of saturated colors and textures. He was also known for varying the size of the lead cames between the glass, resulting in a sophisticated and complex composition. Here, strong vertical elements, in a limited palette, are counterbalanced by overlapping circular motifs, bursting with color, suggesting bouquets of assorted flowers. Star shapes, squiggles, stylized open and closed buds and leaves all contribute to the playfulness of the image. Enclosed in a medallion, a basket of blooms dominates the central section, while vines and geometrical designs enliven the large areas of clear glass. For the Horn Building windows, D’Ascenzo employed bold tonalities, patterning, and a purposeful rejection of naturalistic details and recession into space to create a decidedly modern window in a centuries-old technique. “

Nicola D’Ascenzo


Nicola D’Ascenzo was born in Italy in 1871 and came to the United States when he was eleven years old, settling in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. D’Ascenzo studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art and the New York School of Design. In Philadelphia, D’Ascenzo set up a studio initially for portrait painting and interior design, but he soon became interested in stained glass. D’Ascenzo traveled to Europe, specifically to France and England to study the best examples of medieval stained glass. Wanting to control the production as well as the design, he opened a much larger studio based on a medieval guild, during the 1920s. As the first half of the twentieth century witnessed a building boom in Neo-Gothic churches and university campus buildings, D’Ascenzo Studios met with enormous success with projects for windows, mosaics, and mural painting across the country. Among the most well-known commissions were windows for: the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, DC); the National Cathedral (Washington, DC); the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (New York City); and the Washington Memorial Chapel (Valley Forge, King of Prussia, PA). In addition to the many residential and commercial commissions, D’Ascenzo designed stained glass for dozens of the extraordinary and popular Horn & Hardart locations in New York and Philadelphia. The studio’s incredible success can be attributed to D’Ascenzo exquisite designs, gorgeous and meticulously crafted glass fabrication and selection, and the modern interpretation of his subjects.

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    127.0 x 215.9 x 325.1 cm (50.0 x 85.0 x 128.0 in)

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