This capital, one of six owned by the Museum, once graced the ground-level storefront of the Bayard-Condict Building, the only structure in New York City designed by the renowned architect Louis H. Sullivan. Completed in 1899, the thirteen-story commercial building boasted a façade featuring an exuberant array of terracotta embellishment in the form of angels, lions, and plant life. With their spiraling, vine-like tendrils entwined with leaves, these capitals typify Sullivan’s unique vocabulary of organic ornament, which was akin to Art Nouveau but more directly inspired by his analytical study of botanical forms.
Once hailed by critics as the most important structure in the city, by 1964 the building was seen as an aged commercial property on a shabby street. During two unfortunate renovations—the last of which replaced the original ground-floor storefront with a new granite and aluminum façade—the capitals were first covered over, then removed and salvaged by architectural preservationists, who assisted in their relocation to the Brooklyn Museum. In 2002, the façade was restored to its original appearance with capitals reconstructed by Boston Valley Terra Cotta.