Lot 407
  • 407

Tiffany Studios

350,000 - 450,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important and Rare "Fish" Mosaic Panel
  • iridized mosiac favrile glass, bronze


Vito D'Agostino, New York
Louis C. Tiffany Garden Museum, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 29, 1989-March 4, 1990, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, April 12-September 9, 1990, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Museum, Tokyo, Japan, January 12-March 17, 1991, Kobe City Museum, Kobe, Japan, April 6-May 12, 1991, Toyama Citizens Plaza, Toyama, Japan, June 30-July 26, 1991


W.H. Thomas, "Glass Mosaic: An Old Art with a New Distinction," International Studio, May 1906, p. LXXVII (for the present lot illustrated)
Alastair Duncan, Martin Eidelberg and Neil Harris, Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany, London, 1989, fig. 69 (for the present lot illustrated)
Antiques Magazine, March 1995, front cover (for the present lot illustrated)
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany:  The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 174-175 (for the present lot illustrated)


Please note that the mosaic panel retains its original bronze frame. This frame is fitted with two original small integral bronze hanging devices below the reverse upper border. Overall in very good condition. When viewed in person, the thoughtfully selected glass tiles display a wide range of decorative techniques and range of colors, and the iridized surfaces throughout impart the panel with strong luminous color in a range of brilliant jewel-tone hues. The mosaic glass tiles with a few minute particulate inclusions inherent in the making and not visually distracting. The surfaces with a few light surface scratches and a few occasional minor hairline cracks to the glass, only visible upon close inspection. The edges of a few favrile glass tiles with small and minute flecks. A few isolated flecks to the mosaic, the largest measuring 1 x 1/4 inches along the bottom of the proper left edge of the mosaic, the second largest measuring 1/4 inches diameter in the upper proper left quadrant. The grout with light surface soiling and a few minor and occasional losses not visually distracting and which do not affect the stability of the mosaic. The original patinated bronze frame is in very good condition with a few minor surface scratches, minor abrasions and minor pitting consistent with age and gentle handling. An extraordinary painterly mosaic by Tiffany displaying an outstanding glass selection that demonstrates the firm's mastery of the mosaic glass medium. The panel presents beautifully, and the colors are far more nuanced and vivid than seen in the catalogue illustrations, which do not sufficiently capture the richness and radiance of the 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

The American Interpretation of an Ancient Technique

“‘All my life,’ said Mr. Tiffany, in answer to the reporter’s question, ‘I have had a fancy for collecting bits of glass. As a boy I was fond of the bright-colored jewels in my father’s shop, and the passion for color grew with age.’”1 With this love of glass fragments and the eye of a supreme colorist, it was only natural that Louis Tiffany would be drawn to the art of mosaics. Well before the founding of the Tiffany Glass Company in 1885, he incorporated mosaic details in several of his most important interior design commissions, including the Veterans’ Room in the Seventh Regiment Armory, the White House and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s mansion.

These early attempts were relatively unsophisticated, both aesthetically and in terms of craftsmanship. However, Tiffany was drawn to the medium as a means of artistic expression as well as for financial reasons. The number of houses of worship being built in the United States in the latter part of the Nineteenth entury was growing exponentially. Leaded glass windows, a field in which Tiffany and his firms would soon be dominant, were a natural decorative element for ecclesiastical purposes. However, walls, particularly where natural light was unavailable, also needed to be enhanced and mosaics were the perfect choice.

Tiffany’s mosaics were used in a moderate number of buildings, but that aspect of his business was catapulted by two events in 1893. First, he established the Stourbridge Glass Company in Corona, Queens, which expanded his available palette to an almost infinite number of color combinations and textures. Perhaps of greater significance was the Tiffany Glass Company’s Chapel at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Mosaics, incorporating over 400,000 tesserae, were used extensively throughout the building and were seen by almost 2 million visitors in the first 3 months of the fair.2

Tiffany mosaics quickly became world-renowned and continued to be a major decorative element for decades. In a time when building fires were a near-constant concern, the company brilliantly, and continually, marketed that these panels were impervious to fire, water and smoke damage and would withstand the ravages of time for centuries, just as the ancient Roman examples had. Also, as was the case with their leaded glass windows, the firm’s mosaics appealed to national pride: A reporter, in discussing Tiffany’s mosaics for the Marquette Building in Chicago, wrote: “Glass mosaics, such as the ones in question, are today nowhere else made with such art and beauty as in America.”3

Almost as important as American jingoism and his glass was Louis Tiffany’s ability to discover craftsmen skilled enough to translate the artists’ cartoons into an actual work. Importing Italian mosaicists, then the acknowledged masters of the art, would have been the easiest solution. Tiffany, however, decided on a radically different scheme. He believed the European workers, accustomed to creating mosaics by the “direct” method, in which mosaics were created in situ directly into cement, would not willingly accept his preference for the “indirect” approach, where the tessera were assembled on an easel and cement was then poured over the glass. So “he decided that it would not do to import mosaic workers from Italy, as these would have their own traditions and ideas. He concluded that the persons who could do this work most successfully were the young women from the art schools in this city [New York]. He believed that they had their color sense more fully developed than any men he could get, that they were trained in form and the use of their hands.”4

These so-called “Tiffany Girls,” led by Clara Driscoll, superbly translated the artist’s design with their unrivalled skill in glass selection, a task that required a remarkable degree of patience as well as talent. Most of their work was displayed in religious and commercial buildings, but they also produced a limited number of panels for wealthy Americans who wanted to decorate their mansions with these unique works of art. The present "Fish" mosaic displays the finest elements of the company’s mosaic concepts. Probably designed by Louis Tiffany, it features a wonderfully Japanesque depiction of iridescent red-mottled koi among beautifully shaded pink and lavender irises against an iridescent green, gold and blue background. A contemporary critic, in reviewing a number of other Tiffany mosaic panels, including this specific work, accurately proclaimed: “Today, the artist, glassmaker and craftsmen work in unity, with one purpose, to produce the best, the most artistic results. They have succeeded, and their accomplishments in glass mosaics are, unquestionably, the best of all times, and they have given a new distinction to an old art.”5

—Paul Doros, Author, The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany