Lot 306
  • 306

Tiffany Studios

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Early and Rare “Octopus” Chandelier
  • with a "Chain Mail" curtain
  • leaded glass, favrile glass and patinated bronze


Private Collection, San Francisco, California, circa 1910-1985
Bryce Bannatyne, Santa Monica, California
Michael Carey Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York


Alastair Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2007, pp. 236 and 321 (for the model and related variants)
Martin Eidelberg, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Nancy A. McClelland and Lars Rachen, The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2005, pp. 136-140 (for a related model)


Overall very good condition. The shade with approximately 8 cracks to the glass tiles dispersed throughout, all stable. The shade with some light surface soiling to the contours adjacent to the shade leading. The chainmail curtain with approximately 2 hairline cracks to the favrile glass dispersed throughout. One chainmail strand with a chip to the corner of the bottom tile measuring approximately 1/4 x 1/2 inch. The chainmail strands with some light surface soiling throughout. The chandelier remarkably retains all its original hardware including its original ceiling cap which is not visible in the catalogue illustration. All of the bronze retains a rich dark brown and green patina and presents with scattered minor surface scratches, abrasions, very light rubbing, and minor surface soiling and oxidation to the recessed contours consistent with age and gentle use. A few of the large and small bronze loops that bear the suspension chains at the top and bottom of the chains appear slightly irregular and bent (though stable). All of the spiral tendrils appear straight and in good condition. All of the sockets and switches appear to be original and undisturbed. A superb example of this rare and early model, displaying extraordinary form and a strongly saturated and well-graduated color palette with intense mottling to 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

This dramatically shaped hanging shade is known popularly as the “Octopus” shade because of the bronze ribs that radiate out from the center. But while this lighting fixture was indeed made with the eight ribs that would justify the “octopus” nickname, the design was also offered in a larger variant with twelve arms, as seen in the example offered here. The way that the ribs curl at their outer terminations is a decorative flourish that perhaps furthers the resemblance to an octopus, but the fluent curves also reflect the calligraphic play of lines in the then-emerging Art Nouveau style.

This is one of the earliest known Tiffany Studios’ hanging shades intended for domestic use.  More specifically, it was announced as being destined for libraries and dining tables. It was illustrated in the firm’s modest 1898 brochure that advertised their entrance into the field of lighting. Until then they had been accustomed to creating lamps for special, deluxe interiors such as the Havemeyer Mansion, and they offered a wide variety of chandeliers for ecclesiastical furnishing. But only now were they starting to concentrate on table lamps, wall sconces, and overhead fixtures to decorate and illuminate America’s homes. When listed in the 1899 catalogue, shades of this type were described as “electroliers,” a name attached to all such hanging fixtures that were like old chandeliers but which used electricity rather than candles.

The shade offered here is the large model with twelve ribs. The intensely mottled yellow glass used here was often used for this lamp although, as the firm’s catalogue explained, it could be had in “any color desired.” The curtain of linked glass squares that descend from the perimeter were a special addition undoubtedly required by the client who wanted protection from the overhead glare of the electric bulbs. At the turn of the century, one of the often-voiced complaints against electric lighting was its supposedly harsh glare, especially when compared to the warmth of candle and gas light. The design of this fringe, its glass squares linked to each other by bronze and glass fittings, resembles Medieval coats of mail, but treated like decorative jewelry. Tiffany and his designers frequently found inspiration in historic models, be they Medieval or Byzantine, yet his sense of decorative effects inevitably, as here, transformed everything borrowed into something charming and seemingly modern.

MARTIN EIDELBERG, Co-author of The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York: Vendome Press), 2005 and author of Tiffany Favrile Glass and the Quest of Beauty (New York: Lilian Nassau), 2007 and Tiffany Favrile Pottery and the Quest of Beauty (New York: Lillian Nassau), 2010