At the beginning of the 20th century, the patriarch of the family extended this tradition to the tangible, bequeathing upon his four children “the essential heirlooms of a family.” Each child thereby received a piano from Steinway & Sons, a painting by Pablo Picasso, and a lamp from Tiffany Studios. With the exception of the pianos, the whereabouts of these gifts was thought to have been lost to time. The present sale, however, sees the reemergence of one of these children’s Tiffany lamps, enabling the realization of the next chapter of this family’s lore through a new lens.
The peony blossom, with its extraordinary lushness and variation in color palette, was the ideal subject for Tiffany’s leaded glass shades. The firm produced several variations of the floral motif, highlighting Tiffany’s admiration for this springtime flower. The many delicate layers of petals depicted in the “Elaborate Peony”—the most complex and naturalistic of the firm’s peony shade variants—features both full, mature blossoms and young, not-yet-bloomed buds, which punctuate the overall composition. Depicting both the fully-bloomed and yet-to-bloom flower imbues the composition with a wonderful Impressionistic quality, as if to capture a single, fleeting moment in nature.
The present Elaborate Peony example is a tour de force, exemplifying Tiffany’s unparalleled ability as a colorist. Tiffany’s craftsmen often surpassed the colors found in nature when executing peony shades, using a range of predominantly pink glass, but the present shade stands apart. Here, luscious hues of magenta, fuschia, deep red, and soft pink combine with lavender, indigo, and violet to bring the peony blossoms to life. They are set against a background of cobalt and azure blue, creating an exceptionally rich display of favrile glass.
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