33 Tiffany Lamps Are About to Go Up for Sale
At the turn of the 20th century, multifaceted New York artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany was best known for his intricately detailed stained-glass Tiffany lamps (and the windows that preceded them). They were produced at Tiffany Studios, his complex of workshops in Corona, Queens. The prevalence of these colorful decorative-arts icons, fixtures in high-society homes of yore, began to wane in 1913. But today they are still coveted for their elegant, natural silhouettes, as reinforced by a surge of interest in Important Tiffany from the Collection of Mary M. and Robert M. Montgomery Jr., a single-owner Christie’s sale taking place on December 11. (For those looking to tune in, live streaming will begin at 3 p.m. ET.)
Coinciding with Christie’s large annual December Design New York auction, which features works from heavyweights such as Isamu Noguchi, Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, and Eileen Gray, the Montgomery presentation will comprise 34 lots.
Encompassing glittering lamps, sculptural candlesticks, and even a gilt-bronze desk set, this striking assortment was amassed by the Palm Beach, Florida, philanthropist couple from reputable galleries over the course of two decades. “They have assembled a collection that’s remarkable,” Daphné Riou, specialist and head of the design department at Christie’s New York, tells AD PRO.
Many Tiffany lamps, their designs revealed decades later to have been the handiwork of Clara Driscoll, head of the Tiffany Studios Women’s Glass Cutting Department, are deeply influenced by the landscape. Lamp bases, for example, often crafted from bronze, resemble tree trunks, capped in shades that illuminate the likes of joyful daffodils, daisies, and peonies. In the collection is a jagged-edge 1905 Wisteria table lamp, one of Tiffany Studio’s most sought-after designs, which is regarded for its complex composition. For many new Tiffany collectors, “they want just one Wisteria, and they’re done,” points out Riou. “There’s a magic feel to them, with glass that has movement.”
Floral inspirations abound throughout the Christie’s assemblage, such as the ideal-for-the-season Double Poinsettia floor lamp from 1910. There’s also the 1915 Laburnum table lamp, which flaunts a twisted vine base, and the 1910 seven-light Lily table, that with its swooping curves, Riou explains, embodies a turn-of-the-20th-century Art Nouveau feel.
One highlight of the Montgomery stash is the imposing, gold-toned 1905 12-light Turtleback Tile Moorish chandelier. Riou envisions it “hanging above a free-form dining table, like one by Nakashima.” She adds, “The tiles have an organic feel with an iridescence, and it looks modern.” Edgier patterns are also synonymous with Tiffany Studios, captured in the large-scale 1910 Geometric Parasol chandelier, a melange of amber, pink, and red offset by an unusual spiral border that could easily be the focal point of a contemporary, Mediterranean-inspired room.
There is also a rare Pebble table lamp, designed between 1901 and 1904, up for grabs, which incorporates small stones Tiffany personally gathered from the Long Island beach next to his house. “This lamp has a tactile feel, with tiny pieces of glass that look like jewels,” explains Riou, noting how over the past 30 years, fewer than 10 of these creations have been discovered. Equally remarkable is the oval 1905 Orange Tree ceiling light that depicts a bountiful fruit vignette. “It’s so vibrant,” says Riou, “like you’re about to pick an orange from a full tree.”