Over the holidays, I made a day trip to Winterthur, the DuPont museum of American decorative arts in Delaware, for an exhibition of works from Tiffany Studios. The show was called Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light, and contained more than two dozen lamps and several panels. You can see a detail from one of the panels at the top of this posting.
Let’s start by clearing up a little confusion: Charles Lewis Tiffany was the founder of Tiffany & Company, the jewelers. It was his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the stained glass and jewelry artist, who founded Tiffany Studios, which created those brilliant Tiffany lamps.
Here’s are a few of the pictures I took at the exhibition. Viewing the images on a computer screen doesn’t come close to seeing the actual lamps, but it’s better than seeing photos in a book. The way a computer monitor uses light gives a richer, more accurate representation of the luminosity of the lamps than a flat printed image can hope to capture.
Tiffany’s work fell out of fashion, and Tiffany Studios went bankrupt in 1933. By the 1940s and 1950s, the stained glass pieces were held in such low esteem that some of them were broken up and melted down for the metal content.
The revival of interest in Victorian art that began in the 1960s also saw renewed interest in Tiffany glass works. Since then, of course, appreciation for the genius of Louis Comfort Tiffany has grown exponentially.
For me, it’s difficult to understand how these magical works of art could ever be anything but cherished.
Then and Now. And Money.
Here’s a copy of one of the 1933 Tiffany Studios bankruptcy sale ads. Note the prices: Table Lamps, were $75, now $20. Floor–Bronze, were $950, now $175.
Nowadays, original Tiffany lamps routinely sell at auction for six figures. in the In 1997, one of them fetched $2,800,000.