Lot 227
  • 227

Tiffany Studios

100,000 - 150,000 USD
112,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important and Rare "Lava" Vase
  • engraved L. C. Tiffany-Favrile/4056C
  • favrile glass
  • 9 3/4  in. (24.8 cm) high


Louis and Jack Drew, Omaha, Nebraska
Collection of Dr. Edward and Helen McConnell, Atlanta, Georgia, acquired from the above, late 1970s
Sotheby's New York, June 11, 2014, lot 12
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Art Nouveau Glass: A Connoisseur's Collection, exh. cat., Georgia Museum of Art, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 1984, no. 9 and front cover (for the present lot illustrated)
Paul Doros, The Tiffany Collection of the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk, Richmond, 1978, pp. 53-54, nos. 65-66 (for a related “Lava” vase and bowl decorated with abstract flowers and vines)
Alastair Duncan, Fin de Siècle Masterpieces from the Silverman Collection, New York, 1989, p. 49 (for a related example)

Catalogue Note

The blown glass objects produced by Tiffany Studios were internationally acclaimed for their forms based on nature and the use of vividly colored glass that ran the full gamut of the spectrum. The firm’s Lava vases were a rare and exciting anomaly. Apparently produced only in 1906-1907 and again around 1916, it was originally theorized that the motif was inspired by Louis Tiffany’s observation of Mt. Aetna erupting during one of his many European trips. That story, however, has been proven to be apocryphal. A far more likely design source can be found in Tiffany’s love of Japanese art, which had a significant influence on his aesthetics. He was a serious collector of Asian decorative arts, including ceramics, and Lava vases are Tiffany’s fairly obvious attempt to emulate, in glass, seventeenth-century Japanese raku-fired ceramic tea bowls.

The present lot is one of the finest examples ever produced by the company. It superbly features all the elements that make Lava vases so desirable: an asymmetrical, dimpled body with an uneven, slightly undulating rim and a multi-hued iridescence; a navy-cobalt overlay, with a texture like weathered leather, interspersed with irregular patches exposing the transparent yellow ground; and iridescent gold threading of varying dimensions dripped around the body, interrupted by large, floral-like applications in high relief of the same glass. The bright gold interior iridescence serves as a distinct counterpoint to the dark blue exterior.

The extreme rarity of Lava vases is due to the incredible technical difficulties involved in making a multi-layered object of different glasses with the additional complication of thick, applied sections. It is also highly likely that they were too artistically adventurous for most early twentieth century collectors.  One hundred years later, Lava vases are considered by many to best epitomize the creative supremacy of Tiffany’s blown favrile glass.