Lot 212
  • 212

Tiffany Studios

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • "Laburnum" Table Lamp
  • shade impressed 1539-9/TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK
    base impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK/442
  • leaded glass and patinated bronze
  • Height: 27 3/4 inches
  • Diameter of shade: 22 inches
  • with a rare "Bird Skeleton" base


Alice Osofsky, Hewlett Bay, NY
Sandra van den Broek, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner


William Feldstein, Jr. and Alastair Duncan, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 1983, pp. 138-139
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany:  The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 282-283
Martin Eidelberg, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Nancy A. McClelland and Lars Rachen, The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2005, pp. 113 and 116
Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray and Margaret K. Hofer, A New Light on Tiffany:  Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls, London, 2007, p. 192


Overall in very good condition. The shade with approximately 20 cracks to the glass tiles dispersed throughout, which is a relatively low number in proportion to the vast number of glass tiles which were required to execute this complex shade. All of these hairlines appear stable. The shade leading is beautifully rendered with very refined lines and displays a particularly rich russet brown and green patina. The shade is articulated in an extraordinary range of glass. Much of the background passages and select Laburnum clusters are articulated in "Granite" glass, which has a subtly textured surface on the shade interior, heightening the visual depth of the lamp. Additionally, select clusters of Laburnum blossoms are articulated on the shade exterior in textured rippled glass. The extraordinary "Bird Skeleton" base is in very good condition, displaying a particularly rich and deep russet brown and green patina. The mid-section of the base stem with a small indentation with a small associated loss to one of the reticulated vertical branches, only visible under close inspection. The patinated bronze surfaces with some gentle rubbing to the high points of the design. All of the sockets and paddle switches appear original and undisturbed. With a period final that displays a closely corresponding patina to the base. The small top knop of the finial appears to be replaced, with some adjacent light surface wear. A stunning example of the Laburnum model, displaying a highly artistic and naturalistic glass selection. The rare shade and base pairing seen here is the most desired for the model, displaying elegant proportions and further heightening the naturalistic portrayal of the subject. When viewing this lamp firsthand, the colors are richer and more nuanced than seen in the catalogue illustrations. The catalogue photography does not fully capture the full range of colors seen in the Laburnum passages or the pictorial depth of the shade.
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

The Bird Skeleton model is informed by biological precedents and highlights Louis Comfort Tiffany’s interest in designs that were inspired by the natural world.   With its sinuous curves and biomorphic architecture, the abstract form of the Bird Skeleton base references the delicate anatomy of a bird.   This naturalistic tendency is in part rooted in the affinity for cataloguing flora and fauna, which flourished in the 19th Century—a time when many natural history museums were founded in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.   The Osteology of Birds, published by the noted ornithologist R. W. Shufeldt in the early 20th Century, was a historical source of ornithological study for both the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History.

Tiffany reinterprets and abstracts the skeletal form to give an evocative sense of the natural, eschewing scientific accuracy for rhythmic verticality and visually suggesting natural sinews, joints, and bones.   The execution of such a complex design was surely a tremendous feat for the Studio.   When the Bird Skeleton model was first mentioned in the firm's 1906 Price List, the base was originally offered for the comparatively large sum of $90.00, attesting to the expense of casting something of such intricate construction.

The pairing of this abstracted base form with the painterly Laburnum shade complements the delicacy of the Laburnum blossoms.   As the pattern progresses around the undulating form of the shade, the blossoms naturalistically change in coloration, displaying varying tonalities from yellow-green to yellow-orange across the quadrants of the shade.   The background passages along the lower irregular border and upper register of the shade are accented with purple and cobalt jewel tones, suggestive of an azure sky just beyond the tree’s branches.

The Laburnum design shows compositional similarities to the Wisteria model in the choice of flora as inspiration.   Both models incorporate the fluid naturalism of the long floral panicles, which create the lyrical irregularities that contrast the firm’s more conventional even border shades.   The dream-like evocation of softly toned yellows and greens in the present offering suggest the notion of the Laburnum tree as a signifier of dreams.  This symbolism is notably referenced in Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, where the Laburnum tree’s “honey-sweet and honey-colored” blossoms symbolized the languid afternoon dream-state of the narrator.  The symbolism here is ultimately deepened by the juxtaposition of the youthful golden blooms with the reduced skeletal form of the base, expressive of the natural cycle of fading and flourishing in nature.