Lot 26
  • 26

Tiffany Studios

400,000 - 600,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important and Rare "Iris" Lantern
  • leaded glass and patinated bronze


William Feldstein, Jr. and Alastair Duncan, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 1983, pp. 38-39
Alastair Duncan, Martin Eidelberg and Neil Harris, Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany, London, 1989, p. 106
Martin Eidelberg, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Nancy A. McClelland and Lars Rachen, The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2005, pp. 160-161 
Alastair Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2007, p. 245


Overall in very good condition. This lantern was sensitively conserved in the late 1990s by a professional Tiffany conservator. At the time three of the six panels around the circumference of the shade were stabilized, and approximately 6-10 pieces of glass on the respective panels were re-set with possible glass replacements. The glass in these registers appears harmonious with the rest of the shade, suggesting that any glass replacement involved complementary period glass. There are approximately 20-23 hairline cracks to the glass tiles dispersed throughout the lantern, which is a relatively low number when taking into consideration the complexity and scale of the design. With some small and minor traces of green pigment to isolated areas of the shade leading and bronze armature. A few of the panels show a very slight and subtle bowing, concentrated to the upper registers. By all accounts the reticulated bronze circular door on the underside of the lantern appears original and undisturbed, and also retains its original decorative latch. The patinated bronze surfaces of the armature display an exceptionally rich and satisfying russet brown and dark green patina. The bronze surfaces with minor surface abrasions, rubbing, small and minor isolated patina losses, and traces of surface soiling to the recessed areas of the design consistent with age and gentle use. The underside of the lantern armature (framing the bottom door) with a small fracture and associated loss (1/8 inch) to the reticulated bronze work. The accompanying hanging hardware is replaced and executed in a manner that is consistent with the original fittings. The patinated link chain, which can be reduced or lengthened if desired, is accompanied by a ceiling canopy and hook (not shown in the catalogue illustration). With three interior sockets, all of which are period. When examining the lantern from the interior, the sky register is “plated” (layered) on the interior in two areas, heightening the visual depth in these areas. A magnificent object by Tiffany Studios, showing the highest artistry of the firm’s leaded glass production. The glass selection seen here is outstanding, and the six distinct compositions of the Iris panels depicted around the circumference of lantern are stunning. The lantern is dazzling when experienced firsthand, presenting with strong sculptural presence. The leaded glass panels show greater luminosity, vividness and artistic nuance than seen in the catalogue illustrations, which are slightly too dense and over saturated.
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

Tiffany’s love of nature and his organic approach to design is wonderfully expressed in this hanging lantern, where images of flowering iris plants fill the six sides.  The vertical edges of each panel are masked by bronze, three-dimensional, sword-shaped leaves that seemingly grow up the sides.  Even the hinged door at the bottom has a rippling, linear pattern that represents the roots coming out of the rhizomes.

Although Tiffany Studios produced a wide variety of hanging lanterns, all of them were geometric in design, often employing glass panels or turtleback tiles, sometimes with filigree wire.  The floral subject of this lantern appears to be unique.  Moreover, perhaps only a half dozen or fewer examples of this model are known.  One can only wonder why the company was not prompted to create other lanterns with floral designs, especially considering how strikingly charming this design is.

Each of the six sides has a different arrangement of leaves, flowers, and buds.  One has as many as five flowers, another as few as one flower and several buds.  While the panels are unified by the stunning dusk-to-dawn glass selection that makes up the background, each facet of the lantern is a studied arrangement in asymmetry, very much like a Japanese pillar print.  There are famous Japanese prints that come to mind by Hiroshige and Hokusai but the source could equally well have been a more commonplace print by a secondary master.  Not only was Tiffany a great admirer of far Eastern art but so too were his workers.  Clara Driscoll, for example, bought Japanese prints from Vantine’s, a store in New York known for its Japanese imports.  Design manuals frequently borrowed Japanese prints or offered their own versions of Japanese arrangements to guide their readers.  For instance, a design of iris composed in the manner of a Japanese pillar print can be seen in Lilley and Midgley’s A Book of Studies in Plant Form, published in London in 1896.

The vertical composition of the iris plants and its sword-shaped leaves in this lantern cleverly accommodate themselves to the lantern’s height, in a manner borrowed from Japanese prints.  The overall shape evokes the advice that Tiffany gave Clara Driscoll when she was designing the Butterfly lamp.  She had originally intended to have a spherical base covered with a mosaic depicting primrose plants, but Tiffany suggested that she make the base tall and slim, like the plants themselves.  Here too, the tall, slim proportions of both the lantern and the iris plant complement each other.