Lot 12
  • 12

Tiffany Studios

75,000 - 100,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important and Rare "Lava" Vase
  • engraved L.C. Tiffany-Favrile/4056C
  • favrile glass


Louis and Jack Drew, Omaha, NE, circa late 1970s


Paul E. Doros, The Tiffany Collection of the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk, Richmond, VA, 1978, pp. 53-54, nos. 65-66 (for a related Lava vase and bowl decorated with abstract flowers and vines in the collection of the Chrysler Museum of Art) 
Alastair Duncan, Fin de Siècle Masterpieces from the Silverman Collection, New York, 1989, p. 49 (for a related Lava vase)


Overall in very good condition. As expected with the Lava technique, the exterior surfaces are wonderfully irregular and tactile showing some occasional surface irregularities and a few minute open air bubbles, all inherent in the making. The vase interior with some light surface soiling and a few surface residue drips. The exterior of the vase is intensely iridized, imparting the vase with strong luminosity and a spectacular range of brilliant hues as seen in the catalogue illustrations and front cover detail. The underside of the vase retains an old retail sticker inscribed Drew’s/Antiques/Omaha. An exceptional example of Tiffany’s rare Lava technique, displaying extraordinary scale, richly saturated color, and highly artistic decoration. When viewing the vase in the round, the abstract floral and vine decoration is highly dimensional and tactile against the background surface, imparting the vase with a strong sculptural sensibility. Both the overall form and decoration of the vase are asymmetrical, heightening the sense of movement and visual interest from every vantage. An outstanding example which epitomizes the highest artistry of Tiffany glass.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

There is a legend that Louis Tiffany was inspired to create Lava vases after visiting Sicily and seeing Mt. Etna erupt.  This story is most probably apocryphal.  It is far more likely that, as Jane Shadel Spillman theorized, Tiffany was influenced by seventeenth-century Japanese raku-fired ceramic tea bowls.  He was an avid collector of Japanese objects, and it is no surprise that some of the earliest pieces of blown Favrile glass were compared to “those freakish little things made nowadays in Japan of a rough-textured, strong pottery…that strike one far more as grotesque than beautiful.”

Lava vases are intriguing as they were perhaps the only type of blown Favrile glass that required an extended period of development until the glassmakers were able to perfect the style and achieve the necessary technical skills to produce them.  Unlike flowerforms and paperweight vases that took the glasshouse only a year or two to perfect, lavas evolved over a ten to twelve year period.  Considering the length of time required to achieve the desired decorative effect, it is surprising that Lava vases, featuring heavy irregular iridescent gold drippings over a textured dark navy ground, were produced by Tiffany Furnaces for only two brief periods: circa 1906-1907 and again around 1916.

The extraordinary example in the McConnell collection is comparable to two vases in the Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, VA) made at approximately the same time and numbered 2584C and 6529C respectively.  The decoration of this piece, however, is far better defined and is of a superior form.  It clearly reflects the incredible mastery the glassworkers worked so tirelessly to achieve.  Lava vases perhaps best typify the experimental decorative “accidents” Tiffany constantly urged his men to attempt.  Vases such as this one convincingly support Louis Tiffany’s claim that his objects were unique and beautiful works of art, equal to any painting or sculpture.

─Paul Doros