PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
This piece is the last and probably the largest of Paulding Farnham's six vases inspired by Native American baskets and pottery. The first two were shown at the Columbian Exposition of 1893: a "Pueblo" vase inlaid with copper and niello, now in the Tiffany collection, and a small "Pueblo" vase, less than 4 inches in diameter, with enamel and precious stones, now in the Arts and Crafts collection of Crab Tree Farm at Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Three more vases were shown at the Paris Exposition of 1900: a "Zuni" bowl, a "Navajo" vase, and a "Hupa" vase (height 7 ½ in., now in the Virginia Carroll Crawford collection at the High Museum of Art). A writer for The Art Interchange recorded:
"In silver articles nothing more original either in shape or in treatment could be found than the bowls, hammered by hand from single pieces of silver, following the shapes of Zuni and Hupa Indian baskets... To the artist's eye they seem better worth the thought and care bestowed upon them than the more elaborate Adams vase" (Loring, op. cit., p. 62).
The 1900 Exhibition also showed a Farnham-designed "Aztec" chocker of fire opals and red tourmalines, now in the Tiffany collection (ibid. p. 71).
Given that these other vases were intended for major expositions, this massive vase, described as "Aztec" in the Tiffany records, may have been originally conceived for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. By this time, Louis Comfort Tiffany had become design director and Farnham's role was limited. The pieces he did contribute were favorably reviewed by International Studio, but, as John Loring notes:
The last of Farnham's great Native American-style objects – his remarkable "Aztec" bowl of sterling silver and copper set with semiprecious stones – which would have brought him far greater honor as a creative artist, was only completed by Tiffany's silver and jewelry shops on August 31, 1905, too late to bring him credit at the St. Louis World's Fair. (ibid. p. 25).
The original design for this piece is held in the Tiffany archives.
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