Lot 313
  • 313

Tiffany Studios

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • Hanging Head "Dragonfly” Floor Lamp
  • shade impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS 1507
    base impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK
  • leaded glass and patinated bronze
with a "Chased Pod" Junior floor lamp base


Sotheby’s Parke Bernet Inc., New York, April 1, 1977, lot 129
Charles R. Wood Foundation, acquired from the above
Sotheby’s New York, June 8, 2005, lot 180


William Feldstein, Jr. and Alastair Duncan, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 1983, p. 103
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany:  The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 304-305 (for the shade model)
Martin Eidelberg, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Nancy A. McClelland and Lars Rachen, The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2005, pp. 195 and 197 (for the shade model)


Overall very good condition. When viewed in person the overall coloration of the shade is even more icy and opalescent than in the catalogue illustration, with more pronounced green striations in the background passages. The upper geometric border is slightly less aquamarine and more turquoise compared to the catalogue illustration. The shade with approximately 20-25 cracks to the glass tiles dispersed throughout, including one cabochon with a tight hairline , all stable. The shade with some light surface soiling throughout concentrated to the contours adjacent to the leadlines. Each of the cabochons is plated on the interior with rich ultramarine glass to enhance the coloration and dimensionality of the jewels. As is commonly seen with plated glass, there is some minor dirt between the plated layers. One dragonfly head is slightly over-bent, causing the cabochon eyes to pull slightly away from their settings, stable. The base in very good condition and displays with a rich russet brown patina. The base with scattered minor surface scratches, abrasions, and light surface soiling and minor oxidation to the recessed contours consistent with age and gentle use. All sockets and paddle switches appear to be from the period. With a period finial in good condition with scattered minor surface scratches, abrasions and some minor rubbing. An extraordinary example of Tiffany’s iconic Hanging Head “Dragonfly” model, displaying a very elegant and sophisticated color palette. The silvery blue palette is truly sublime and highly unusual within Tiffany’s repertoire. The vigorous mottling throughout the shade and plated cabochon jewels heighten the visual movement and depth of this stunning lamp.
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

Although popularly known as the “Hanging Head Dragonfly,” the official Tiffany Studios Price List simply referred to this model as “22 in. Dragonfly, Holden.” Yet “hanging head” well describes the distinctive element of this shade—the way in which the insect’s heads and wings descend below the edge of the domed shade to create an undulant, organic silhouette.

Clara Driscoll designed her first leaded shade with dragonflies in 1899, and we can presume (although not with certainty) that the subsequent dragonfly models were devised or at least supervised by her. The fairly large number of variants, both as table lamps and hanging fixtures, suggests that the public was delighted with these novel designs. The lamp offered here, listed in the 1906 Price List but probably introduced several years earlier, was evidently so popular that in 1910, when the firm instituted a major cutback and stopped production of most lamps, this design remained in production.

The distinguishing feature of this particular shade is its extraordinary harmony of color. Whereas most Hanging Head Dragonfly shades combine several strong colors, this example is like James McNeill Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Gray. In the lower portions of the shade, the background glass is a mottled, soft dove blue with hints of lime green and then in the upper region it imperceptibly changes to an icy pale blue. The effect is of rippling water and rising mist. The large cabochon jewels, like opals and moonstones, oscillate in varying shades of radiant blue and violet, changing with one’s view point. This effect was achieved by adding a second layer of ultramarine blue glass behind the opalescent cabochons. While such “plating” (the double layering of glass) was commonly employed in Tiffany’s leaded windows, it only rarely was used for lamp shades. Some of the round jewels in this shade are a bright sapphire blue and they, together with the insect’s rich blue eyes and the blue-green jewel tones of the dragonflies’ wings, introduce accents of bright color to the moody Whistlerian palette.

Who was responsible for this striking coloration? Certainly it was not the Tiffany Girl who acted as the selector for this shade’s glass; that would not have been within her purview. Such responsibility lay with Clara Driscoll, but did this happen in an especially inspired moment? Or was it a special order commissioned by a client swayed by Aesthetic aspirations? However one explains the genesis of this brilliant idea, the striking beauty of this shade cannot be denied.

Martin Eidelberg