Lot 211
  • 211

Tiffany Studios

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important "Dragonfly" Table Lamp from the Collection of Andrew Carnegie
  • shade impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK/1507-27
    telescopic base impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/397
  • leaded glass and patinated bronze


Collection of Andrew Carnegie and Louise Whitfield Carnegie, New York, circa 1905
Thence by descent to the present owner


Memorials in Glass and Stone: Tiffany Favrile Glass, Tiffany Windows, Tiffany Mosaics, Tiffany Monuments, Tiffany Granite, New York, 1913 (for the Carnegie memorial window in Scotland in an advertisement for Tiffany’s Ecclesiastical Department)
Heather Ewing, Life of a Mansion, the Story of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, 2014, p. 74 (for the present lot illustrated in the Picture Gallery of the Carnegie Mansion) and p. 83 (for a smaller Dragonfly lamp model from the Carnegie Collection, now in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)


Overall in very good condition. This extraordinary lamp is being consigned by a direct descendant of Andrew Carnegie, and by all accounts the shade, base and finial have originated together since the period. The shade with approximately 15 cracks to the glass tiles dispersed throughout, as well as 4 tight hairline cracks to the jewel cabochons. All of these cracks appear stable, and have been sensitively stabilized by a professional Tiffany conservator. On the shade interior, many of the glass jewels are plated with another layer of glass to heighten the coloration and visual depth of the jewels. All of the reticulated bronze wing overlays appear intact, stable and in very good condition, with light surface soiling to the recessed contours of the design. The patinated bronze surfaces of the reticulated base display a particularly rich and satisfying green and brown patina. The patinated bronze surfaces with some occasional light surface scratches, gentle rubbing, and a few isolated traces of minor surface residue commensurate with age and gentle handling. The telescoping device on the base (which allows one to adjust the height of the base if desired) is fully functional. The underside of each foot has been applied with felt glides. With period electrical sockets and paddle switches, and with a Perkins black plastic base switch which appears to date from the early 20th century though not original to the lamp. (If desired one could have this replaced with a Tiffany bronze base switch). The finial is in very good condition showing very gentle wear and rubbing. A magnificent example of this iconic Dragonfly model from the esteemed personal collection of Andrew Carnegie. The shade displays a particularly dramatic glass selection, the rich warm color palette and use of textured "rippled" glass heightening the aquatic and naturalistic sensibility. The wide tonal variations seen in the dragonflies around the shade circumference are suggestive of dragonflies fluttering before a saturated sunset sky of golden yellow and fiery orange hues. The sculptural reticulated base is highly complementary, displaying elegant proportions and further heightening the naturalistic sensibility of the lamp. The lamp presents beautifully in person, with strong visual presence. When viewing this lamp firsthand, the colors are much richer and less red than seen in the catalogue illustrations. The catalogue photography does not fully capture the radiance and luminosity 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

Andrew Carnegie’s patronage of interior decorations and objects produced by Tiffany Studios is the foundational context for this extraordinary “Dragonfly” Table Lamp. The Scottish-American industrialist is famous for ushering in a modern era of production and expansion in the steel industry of the United States, however his interest in technology and art was also of paramount importance to his cultural and philanthropic endeavors. A shared love and fascination with nature accounted for Carnegie’s interest in the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, especially in the realm of domestic interiors. His summer residence at Skibo Castle in the Scottish highlands as well as the historic residence at 2 East 91st Street in New York City (now the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum) were both characterized by abundant gardens, conservatories, and myriad floral arrangements that graced the interiors. Carnegie was fascinated by botany, an intellectual pursuit that was especially displayed in the context of his home with collections of intriguing, exotic plants and blossoming species that enchanted his guests. This interest was strongly paralleled in the lush gardens and collections of Louis Comfort Tiffany at his Laurelton Hall estate. 

In 1913, Carnegie commissioned a major work from the Tiffany Studios Ecclesiastical Department for a memorial stained glass window depicting a magnificent scene of natural beauty, originally intended for installation within the abbey church in his home town of Dunfermline, Scotland. Carnegie’s on-going patronage of Tiffany Studios was not limited to the ecclesiastical context, however, as period photographs and inventories of the Carnegie residence in New York City depict myriad designs produced by Tiffany in an array of popular models ranging across Turtle-Back tiled chandeliers, geometric as well as intricate floral leaded glass table lamps, Favrile blown glass objects, and most notably, the present offering of this extraordinary “Dragonfly” Table Lamp, which graced the Carnegie's Picture Gallery as seen in a period photograph of the room interior. The Carnegie Mansion on 91st Street was completed in 1903, which suggests that Andrew and Louise Carnegie commissioned these works from Tiffany Studios around this same time. 

The naturalistic glass selection in this shade speaks to a painterly sense of tone and texture, with rich coloration that suggests dragonflies fluttering before a saturated sunset sky of golden yellow hues and fiery orange tones below. The texture of the rippled background glass heightens its reference to aquatic settings associated with dragonflies, and provides a sense of fluid movement in the design. Cabochon jewels display a range of deep colors in vibrant red, orange, gold, and green that complement the warm coloration of the background as well as the tonal variation in the dragonflies themselves. The dragonflies around the circumference of the shade display a wide range of colors in the wings and spines in deep purple, greens, and warmer tones, which indicate that the glass selector in the design process was looking directly at natural  sources as well as period studies of entomology that showed variations in anatomical iridescence. This suggestion of tonal variation is only heightened when the shade is illuminated—a combination of art and technology that was beloved by Carnegie.

Carnegie shared with Tiffany a passion for incorporating art into everyday life and objects, especially through an enthusiasm for marrying artistic representations of the natural world with technical innovations. This conceptual relationship is expressed profoundly in the present offering, a “Dragonfly” lamp that embodies the dual passion of art and technology through its natural iconography and bold use of electrification—a true illumination of Carnegie’s commitment to supporting and enjoying the work of contemporary artists in his time.

The Carnegie Legacy Today

The name Andrew Carnegie is as synonymous with philanthropy as it is with steel.  It immediately conjures up visions of grand libraries and one of the world’s most renowned music halls, but these images offer only a glimpse into the staggering depth and breadth of one incredible man’s efforts for the betterment of our global society.  Through his bequests, with which he disposed of his entire personal fortune, Carnegie founded twenty-two institutions, each with the goal of doing “real and permanent good in this world.”

Education—one of Carnegie’s greatest passions—is at the core of his philanthropic work, with a particular emphasis on scientific and technical research.  His programs have fostered significant advancements in areas such as astronomy, genetics, medicine, and robotics, and they have also served to promote the visual and performing arts.  Today, such institutions as Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Institute of Science, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching remain as pillars of the intellectual community.  Carnegie also established institutions that encourage and reward morality, honor, and ethics on both the individual and national levels, such as the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, the Carnegie Hero Funds in Europe and the UK, and the Carnegie Council of Ethics in International Affairs.  Additionally, Carnegie advocated resolutely for world peace, endowing The Peace Palace in The Hague and founding the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to continue his work.

Remarkably, each one of these institutions has withstood a century of change and their work continues to dynamically influence society.  It is a profound testament to the farsighted vision of their benefactor who, with his boundless optimism and keen sense of direction, imbued them with flexible mandates, tacitly trusting in future generations to manage the gifts he had given. Stellar amongst his institutions is the Carnegie Corporation of New York, whose multi-faceted work is exemplary in growing the legacy of Carnegie’s passion and vision. In 2001, under the leadership of its president, Vartan Gregorian, the Carnegie Corporation drew together the family of 22 Carnegie institutions in commemoration of the philanthropic chapter of Carnegie’s life.  They have continued to meet biennially to award the prestigious Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and to honor the extraordinary individuals and families of today who have followed Carnegie’s example through their own immense generosity.  Of Carnegie’s many achievements, certainly one of his greatest is the legacy of philanthropy he left behind. 

– Linda Thorell Hills, great-granddaughter of Andrew Carnegie