During her tenure at Tiffany Studios, Clara Driscoll and her “Girls” introduced several Peony lamp shades that proved quite popular, both for table lamps and hanging chandeliers. Although undoubtedly attracted to this flowering perennial itself, its sweet fragrance perfuming American gardens in the late spring, they may also have been mindful of the peony’s omnipresence in Asian art.
While the designs for these leaded glass shades were codified and standardized through the templates used to cut the glass, they varied considerably as a result of Driscoll’s or the selectors’ choices of glass. There were colored drawings which indicated the general color scheme and guided the selector but, as the hanging shade presented here reveals, there were occasions when the glass selected was exceptional. If more standard pink blossoms predominate on one side, yellow and white ones are on the other, and there is an unexpected patch of deep purple in one area at the top. Drapery glass was normally reserved for leaded windows and used to represent the rise and fall of textiles, but here is used here to define some of the petals and adds unexpected texture to the design. Likewise, the centers of two of the flowers are a large chunk of chipped yellow glass that dramatically juts out in relief, and sparkles like a topaz. In her letters to her family, Driscoll occasionally reported on how certain selectors excelled, well aware of the different levels of talent and skill among the Tiffany Girls. We can only hope that the selector for this brilliantly executed shade was properly rewarded for her distinctive artistry.