Lot 218
  • 218

Tiffany Studios

600,000 - 800,000 USD
975,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important "Wisteria" Table Lamp
  • mounting post on underside of shade crown twice impressed 23917/2
    top of base column twice impressed 23917/2, TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK, and twice impressed with the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company monogram
    base plate impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK/23917/2 with the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company monogram
  • leaded glass and patinated bronze
  • 27 in. (68.6 cm) high
    18 1/2  in. (47 cm) diameter of shade
with a "Tree" base


Lillian Nassau, New York
Private Collection, Woodsburgh, New York, acquired from the above in 1957
Thence by descent to the present owner


William Feldstein, Jr. and Alastair Duncan, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 1983, pp. 36-37
Alastair Duncan, Fin de Siècle Masterpieces from the Silverman Collection, New York, 1989, p. 40
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany: The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, p. 293
Martin Eidelberg, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Nancy A. McClelland and Lars Rachen, The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2005, pp. 106-107 
Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray and Margaret K. Hofer, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls, London, 2007, p. 48

Catalogue Note

The Wisteria is probably Tiffany’s most iconic invention in the field of lamps. But as we now know, it actually was designed by Clara Driscoll at sometime around 1901. This was revealed in the weekly letters that she sent to her family, where she boasted of their success: “All of it goes to my credit, it being my design.” In February 1902, Driscoll reported that some fifteen Wisteria lamps had been sold and by 1905 she reported that 123 had been sold—one of the few times where we gain insight into how many lamps were made at the time. This is all the more remarkable because Wisteria lamps were priced at $400, among the most expensive of all the lamps made.

The lamps were so much in demand that three sets of templates were in use and, moreover, Driscoll had to cut new sets because the original ones had worn out. By 1906 when the women’s glass-cutting department could not keep up with demand, it was decided that the male glass cutters in Corona, Long Island, would take on the work of producing Wisteria lamps, even though until then the men had been entrusted only with shades with geometric designs. The floral-themed shades had been the exclusive domain of the women. Not until 1910, when overall lamp production at Tiffany Studios was cut back severely, was the Wisteria lamp dropped from the company’s Price List.

This Wisteria lamp has a remarkable provenance. Sixty years ago it was owned by Lillian Nassau, the undisputed New York doyenne of Tiffany and Art Nouveau, and then remained with one family for the next half century. Unknown to the outside world, its re-emergence reveals unexpected and exciting aspects about Tiffany, his business, and his art.

This Wisteria lamp has the distinction of being one of the earliest examples created, and this is shown several ways. First, both the underside of the base and the top of the vine’s thick stem are marked with the monogram of the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, a name that became obsolete in 1902. Also, both the tag inside the shade and on the underside of the base are stamped “23917 2,” production numbers that preceded the introduction of standardized model numbers around 1903.

The early date of this Wisteria lamp is also revealed in the refined selection of the glass used here. Especially pertinent is the striated amethyst and clear glass at the lower irregular edge—a fringe of color that adds a piquant accent and suggests that the newest of the blossoms are about to open. Significantly, the very same color accent is found on two other Wisteria lamps, both offered at Sotheby’s in December 2014. Moreover, these two lamps had the production numbers 23917 4 and 23917 5, suggesting that there was an early, tightly controlled series of Wisteria lamps following the same specific color scheme, one undoubtedly invented by Clara Driscoll. All three share not only this commonality of production numbers and edge of extra color but also a remarkable finesse of color throughout the design. The extravagant counterpoint of a wide variety of violets, lavenders, and blues, is extravagant and yet nuanced. The thoughtful juxtapositions of colored glass reveal the great care that was taken when these lamps were executed in the early years of Tiffany Studios.

MARTIN EIDELBERG, co-author of The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York: Vendome Press), 2005 and author of Tiffany Favrile Glass and the Quest of Beauty (New York: Lillian Nassau), 2007 and Tiffany Favrile Pottery and the Quest of Beauty (New York: Lillian Nassau), 2010