Encountering the name Tiffany leads most of us to think of the jewellery for which the Maison is so well-known, yet few are aware that, at the beginning of the XX century, an entirely independent business called Tiffany Studios produced some of the most wonderful works of art in glass to be found today. But let’s start at the beginning.
Tiffany & Co. (renowned across the world) was founded by Charles Tiffany in the mid-XIX century. One of Tiffany’s six children, Louis Comfort, became famous in the world of art for his important contribution to Art Nouveau.
L.C. Tiffany was born in New York in 1848 and turned out to be an able painter and interior decorator and, in founding Tiffany Studios, entrepreneur. The company specialised in the creation of works of art in glass such as stained glass windows, magnificent mosaics and a variety of furnishings including the celebrated stained-glass lamps.
L.C. Tiffany’s adventure with glass started in 1878 when he set up the first ‘glass house’. There followed the first works and patents regarding the innovative techniques of using this material, most importantly that producing the iridescent glass ‘Favrile’.
The first Tiffany lamp was presented to the public in 1893. Many others followed and over the years a unique and indeed iconic style has become famous, to be imitated all over the world.
Art Nouveau had a strong influence on Tiffany lamps. In fact, themes inspired by nature were the most common, especially those featuring flowers. The bases were generally made of bronze while the shades consisted of a myriad of glass tiles of different shapes and colours, fixed together using a special technique developed by Tiffany.
One cannot consider Tiffany Studios – a name adopted early in the XX century – without mentioning Clara Driscoll and her famous Women’s Glass Cutting Department, the so-called ‘Tiffany Girls’. They had a very creative and artistic role in choosing the glass and designing the bases and shades. Driscoll is credited with the design of some of Tiffany Studios’ most iconic products such as the Daffodil, Dragonfly and Wisteria.
The advent of Art Déco reduced interest in Tiffany Studios’ works and the company was obliged to close in 1932, a year before the death of L. C. Tiffany.
Nowadays its products are sought after by the world’s most avid art collectors, first and foremost the extraordinary lamps which continue to command high prices in auction after auction. One century on, Tiffany lamps remain some of the most imitated.
Our thanks to the photographer Colin Cooke for his cooperation in producing this article.
New York, November 2019