On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
Although Louis Comfort Tiffany also designed mosaics, ceramics, lighting, jewelry, metalwork, and interiors, he is perhaps best known for his work in glass. Tiffany, a son of the founder of the New York jewelry and silver firm Tiffany and Company, had already earned a reputation for his interiors and stained-glass windows when in 1893 he established what would become Tiffany Studios, a glass factory in Corona, Queens, with the English glassblower Arthur Nash. Together they developed a new type of blown glass that stood out for its embedded iridescent colors, metallic luster, and satiny surfaces. Tiffany named the glass Favrile, borrowing from the Old English word fabrile, referring to handwork. It was Nash, however, who invented the glass formula, which he kept a closely guarded secret—even from Tiffany himself. Tiffany Studios did not produce all the Favrile shades for their bronze lamps themselves. The studio collaborated with the New York City firm of Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company, for example, on the lamp with lily-flower shades seen here.
Tiffany was inspired by ancient Roman and Syrian glass, which, when it was buried in the earth, had turned iridescent as it reacted to the minerals in the soil. Tiffany produced Favrile glass in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. He considered the pieces to be works of art and actively endeavored to place them in museum collections.
Tiffany Studios also manufactured popular but expensive bronze and brilliantly colored stained-glass lamps suitable for the recently invented electric light bulb. Clara Driscoll, head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department at Tiffany Studios, was responsible for the design of this Dragonfly lamp. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, women played increasingly important design and fabrication roles in the production of decorative arts, including ceramics, glass, and furniture.
Glass, bronze, and lead
18 1/4 x 14 x 14 in. (46.4 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm) (show scale)
Stamped on underside of base: "TIFFANY STUDIOS / NEW YORK / 337"
Bequest of Laura L. Barnes
Table lamp in glass, lead, and bronze. "Dragonfly" design shade of predominantly amber and blue colors. Upper portion of shade is veined; lower portion decorated with band of dragonflies with outspread wings overlaid in pierced bronze encircling perimeter. Three light sockets on horizontally curving arms; vasiform shaft with vertical lobes; circular base with undulating ribbed surface.
Clara Wolcott Driscoll (American, 1861 - 1944). "Dragonfly" Lamp, ca. 1900-1920. Glass, bronze, and lead, 18 1/4 x 14 x 14 in. (46.4 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Laura L. Barnes, 67.120.54. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 67.120.54.jpg)
overall, 67.120.54.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Is it Tiffany?
You got it! You have found our Tiffany Dragonfly Lamp!
Tiffany employed a team of unmarried young women who worked in the glass departments, choosing which colors of glass to use. Recently it was discovered that some of them were also designers. This lamp is attributed to a woman named Clara Driscoll. A group of her letters were discovered just a few years ago! It was really exciting to learn that behind this famous male artist, there was a team of female designers that we can now credit.
It is fascinating that that she can get her credit now! Thank you so much for letting me know this! Wonderful experience!
Can you help me understand why Tiffany Lamps are such a big deal?
I would be happy to! Taste changes over time; when these lamps were first made in the 1890s, the popular style of the time was Art Nouveau. The Art Nouveau movement drew inspiration from nature, as can be seen the organic forms of the lamp.
When Art Nouveau fell out of fashion in the 1930s, Tiffany Studios went out of business. Not many years later, consumers were once again interested in the lamps, but since they were no longer being manufactured, the limited supply caused auction prices to skyrocket.
Ahhh, that helps me understand. The glass is a big deal, too, correct?
Yes! Tiffany Studios was one of the first operations to use chemistry to alter the color and texture of their glass. There have been many imitators but Tiffany was the original! Each Tiffany lamp is a unique work of art.
Cool - thanks!