American Paintings and Sculpture
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Artist: Thomas Wilfred, American, 1889–1968

Unit #50, Elliptical Prelude and Chalice, from the First Table Model Clavilux (Luminar) series

1928

Metal, fabric, glass, and electrical and lighting elements on a maple table

41 x 32 1/2 x 46 3/4 in. (104.1 x 82.6 x 118.75 cm)
Gift of Thomas C. Wilfred
1983.66.1
Unit #50, Elliptical Prelude and Chalice functions simply as a piece of furniture until its owner flips a switch to activate the work’s mechanism. Inside the box, a bulb transmits light through two rotating discs, hand-painted by Wilfred in brilliant colors and abstract patterns. Light rays then travel through a set of dimpled, reflective cones—one placed on the underside of the table, the other inside the body of the lamp—and, finally, through the top of the lampshade. The ceiling, thus transformed into a screen, fills with a vortex of rippling clouds that swirl around a central oculus, evoking the eye of a storm.
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Sculpture
Status: 
Not on view
Bibliography: 

Keely Orgeman et al., Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2017), 100-101, pl. 1, ill.

John Stuart Gordon, American Glass: The Collections at Yale (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2018), 220–21, 271, no. 114, fig. 114A.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.