PROPERTY FORMERLY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LOUIS C. TIFFANY GARDEN MUSEUM, JAPAN
Dr. Egon Neustadt, The Lamps of Tiffany, New York, 1970, p. 168, fig. 232 (for the period photograph of the present lot illustrated in the Tiffany Studios photograph album ) and p. 232, fig. 231 (for another example of this model)
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany: The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 290-291
Bats rarely appeared in Western decorative arts until the turn of the century, largely due to the fact that as nocturnal animals they were associated with night and death. They were deemed appropriate for funerary monuments but not for objects to be used in the home. Yet all this changed after 1900 and was due largely to the influence of Japanese art where bats are an emblem of happiness. They frequently appear in Japanese paintings and prints, as well as on lacquer and metalware, and in textile designs. Bats entered the Western repertoire as part of the Japoniste tide, and appeared with increasing regularity in all media. They appeared in the jewelry of Lucien Falize and René Lalique, the ceramics of Clément Massier, and the glassware of Émile Gallé. From this center, the motif spread across Europe and America as well. Tiffany & Co., for example, showed a small vase decorated with bats at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (fig. 1). The vase’s background pattern is embellished with large stars and the sculpted animals’ heads and wings are articulated three dimensionally, extending outward beyond the lip. These decorative motifs are highly suggestive and perhaps inspired the design for a "Bat" lamp that Tiffany Studios created a decade later. Indeed, there are important aesthetic bonds between the work of the two companies that tend to be overlooked.
Tiffany Studios’ introduction of a “Bat” lamp after 1902 is timely within this historical context. Although still unusual, the bat motif had gained prominence and was stylish. Moreover, its use on lamps was particularly appropriate since, after all, lamps are used at night, the temporal realm of bats. The decoration expresses the object’s function, but in a poetic and charming way. That idea had also been exploited by Gallé, who designed several cameo glass lamps in which bats fly across the shade. Whether Gallé’s models were known at Tiffany Studios is moot, but the flow of ideas from France to New York was not uncommon.
Tiffany Studios’ “Bat” lamp exploited ideas that the firm had introduced earlier. Especially relevant is the “Dragonfly” lamp designed by Clara Driscoll in 1899. There, dragonflies (another motif introduced under the influence of Japanese art) are worked out in leaded glass in the shade, and the same insects, executed in low relief bronze, adorn a base with a colorful mosaic ground (see lot 327). The “Bat” lamp follows these conventions. The conventionalized bronze spider that serves as the cap for the “Bat” lamp was originally created for Tiffany Studios’ “Spider” lamp (model 337), another of the firm’s early table lamps. Also, like many of these early lamps, the “Bat” shade and base were specifically designed as a single unit and the same model number was applied to both parts (in this instance, model 353). Yet, while all these factors point to an early date for the introduction of the “Bat” lamp, none of the extant examples bear the pre-1903 logo of the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. It is therefore tempting to believe that the “Bat” lamp was introduced around 1903-1904. Certainly it was in production when the 1906 Price List was published and, as one would expect, it was discontinued by 1910 when almost every object with mosaic inlay was terminated, likely due to cost and the intensity of the labor involved.
Despite the light given off by this lamp, the bats, the stars and the dark glass of the shade evoke the magic of nighttime.
 I am indebted to Kevin Tucker, Janet Zapata and Tom Folk for their help in preparing this essay.
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