Theater Group Sues for Return of ‘Historic’ Lamp

MANHATTAN (CN) – Forty years after thieves snatched an “irreplaceable” Tiffany Studios light fixture from a long-running theater, a major Broadway theater group filed a lawsuit demanding its current owners return the acclaimed glasswork.

According to the New York County Supreme Court complaint filed Tuesday by the Shubert Organization,  the theater group learned that one of their Tiffany Studio lighting fixtures, missing from Shubert’s Belasco Theater since 1976, had turned up for consignment this summer at Lillian Nassau, an antiques vendor and Tiffany specialist on East 57th Street.

The Shubert Organization says it commissioned a Tiffany expert to examine the “historically and artistically significant” light fixture at Lillian Nassau on Aug. 2 of this year. The expert concluded that the piece at Lillian Nassau was one of the Tiffany lighting fixtures that were stolen from the Belasco in 1976, according to the complaint.

The theater group’s lawsuit claims that defendants Anne and Vilma Partridge, the latter of whom was the alleged consignor, have refused Shubert’s Aug. 15 request to return the light fixture, which included a confidential settlement offer.

Shubert seeks a court order declaring that it has superior title to the light fixture and an order of replevin directing the Partridges to return the piece.

“Vilma never acquired good title to the fixture, and the fixture remains the property of Shubert,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit called the allegedly stolen light fixture a “unique, historic, and irreplaceable antique object.”

According to a Landmarks Preservation Commission report on Belasco Theater from 1987, the theater was most famous for its “magically lit interiors.” The report noted that “the multitude of light fixtures, and the stained-glass capitals and ceiling panels are irreplaceable.”

The eight-sided light fixture is together with a brass channel frame and includes hanging glass baubles and pendants.

The iconic stained glass from Tiffany Studios glass is “streaky, slightly translucent, and opalescent,” the lawsuit states, ranging in color from pale yellow and amber to a rich orange/red.

According the complaint, the Belasco Theater’s warm colors and diffused light were meant to invoke a private living room, “a more intimate, personal experience between the audience and the production than was typical at the time.”

The Belasco Theater opened in 1907 under the name the Stuyvesant Theater. The Shubert Organization bought the theater in 1949.

The theater hosted the 1975 Broadway debut of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and recently home to the 2014 Broadway incarnation of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

The Shubert Organization is represented by Gerald C. Hoover IV, General Counsel and Vice President at the Shubert Organization in New York City.

Mario DeMarco, attorney for the Partridges, did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

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