A love of nature imbued much of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s art. However, it was his observational skills and appreciation for what others might consider insignificant that make many of his designs so exceptional. Mushrooms, ferns, and other plants, which some would consider unworthy of study, were employed in innumerable motifs in all aspects of his firm’s productions. Assisted by his chief chemist, Dr. Parker McIlhiney, Tiffany’s imaginative designs in enamel were brought to fruition.
The covered box offered here is an example of Tiffany being inspired by a seemingly lowly object, an acorn, and using his creative genius to create a superbly artistic object. Part of the company’s EL series of enamelware, the box displays a higher and more sophisticated degree of experimentation than those pieces in the SG series being made concurrently. Interestingly, the box was designed as an upside-down acorn. The round body, representing the nut’s cupule, has repoussé scales finely enameled in translucent shades of orange, red, violet and green, all enhanced with a light multi-colored iridescence. The peaked cover, in the form of the acorn’s pericarp, is in complementary shades of green and blue with a more intense iridescence. This box, and enameled pieces like it, caused one contemporary critic to rave: “The secret of the great discovery rests with one artist, Mr. Louis Tiffany, for his work stands today unique in its originality, the admiration of the world of art. Upon the base of metal, be it bowl, box or vase, a design is beaten out or carved, and then follows this wondrous process, by which the design lives and is beautiful with a glow and wealth of color, for which all verbal expression utterly fails to convey the slightest idea.”1
PAUL DOROS, former curator of glass at the Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, Virginia) and author of The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany
(New York: Vendome Press), 20131
“Some Beautiful Glass and Rare Enamels,” The Art Interchange
, vol. 50, no. 6 (June 1903), p. 156.