Lot 56
  • 56

TIFFANY STUDIOS | An Important “Dragonfly” Floor Lamp

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • An Important “Dragonfly” Floor Lamp
  • shade impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1507-7base impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS/NEW YORK
  • leaded glass, favrile glass, patinated bronze
  • 63 3/4  in. (161.9 cm) high22 1/2  in. (57.2 cm) diameter of shade
  • circa 1910
with a rare "Ball" base and finial


Minna Rosenblatt, New York
Private Collection, New York, 1978
Sotheby's New York, June 15, 2011, lot 13


Dr. Egon Neustadt, The Lamps of Tiffany, New York, 1970, p. 177 (for the shade and the base model configured as a table base)
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany:  The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 304-305 (for the shade)
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)
Alastair Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2007, pp. 159, no. 647 (for the shade) and 251, no. 847 (for the present lot illustrated)


Overall very good condition. When viewed firsthand, the shade displays an intense red and yellow palette which is more luminous and widely variegated than in the printed catalogue illustration. The background glass transitions from crimson, garnet red, and coral to warm yellow and ochre toward the bottom of the shade. This fiery background presents vibrant contrast to the rich emerald dragonflies with seafoam green and mauve wings. The shade with approximately 25 hairline cracks dispersed throughout which have been recently stabilized by a professional glass conservator. (This is a relatively low number in proportion to the vast number of glass tiles which were required to execute this large and complex shade.) The shade with some light surface soiling to the adjacent contours of the shade leading and beneath the dragonfly wing overlays. The etched bronze overlay on the wings is in very good condition with one very small and minor loss to the bronze at the point where the wing overlays join on the body of the dragonfly, stable. 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 soiling between the plated layers. The shade is paired with an extremely rare "Ball" floor base, which is in very good condition. The base displays a rich brown patina with scattered minor surface scratches, abrasions, and light surface soiling consistent with age and gentle use. The top of the foot with some light wear. The favrile glass balls are beautifully iridized and display a range of orange, blue and lavender tones. Two balls appear to have been replaced with complementary period favrile glass balls. One ball with a tight hairline crack which appears stable. All of the sockets and paddle switches appear original and undisturbed. With a period "Ball" finial in very good condition. The ball with some very light wear and surface scratches. The finial with some light wear and minor oxidation. A rare and highly artistic floor lamp with exceptional coloration and an outstanding shade and base pairing that transcends the model. When viewed in person, this lamp presents with an approachable and highly refined scale, and the "Ball" floor base and finial and luminous cabochons in the shade impart the lamp with an elegant, jewel-like sensibility.
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

Dragonflies proved to be one of the most popular subjects for Tiffany Studios’ lamp shades. Clara Driscoll created the first example in 1899—a model that depicted the insects flying against a complex background with marsh plants and red flowers. Soon thereafter the design was radically altered: the floral background was eliminated and the insects were presented in a repetitive, conventionalized design, one that is markedly simpler. This became the basis for all the dragonfly shades that followed. Other elements, especially small and large cabochon “jewels,” were introduced. Adding to this rich repertoire, on some models the dragonfly heads were extended below the shade’s border and the wings established an undulant lower edge. All of these changes were carried over from table lamps to large floor lamps, and there were many color arrangements as well. These many variants existed side-by-side, offering a wide variety of possibilities. This wealth of models suggests the economic well-being of the company, its ability to satisfy a large, varied public, and the commercial popularity of the dragonfly motif in the period.

A striking feature of this particular floor lamp is the opalescent glass balls that encircle the base and embellish the upper finial. The idea of producing such iridescent spheres must have occurred after 1900, but once invented, they were employed in myriad ways: on the bases of candlesticks, jardinières, and mirror frames, set on plain leaded shades, encircling lamp bases as seen here, or set under lamps with Root bases (lot 9). In the company’s official Price List, these spheres are noted by the abbreviation “G.B.,” indicating “glass balls.” Yet despite this prosaic description, they are more like ropes of precious pearls, enhancing the objects with light and luster.

The overall effect of this bold and colorful lamp transcends the history of its individual parts. Because there was a shared aesthetic throughout the firm’s many divisions, an aesthetic governed by Tiffany’s personal vision, there is a wonderful harmony between all the elements. It is as though they were planned to be together from the start. The red and orange cabochon jewels in the shade, the red hemispheres of the dragonflies’ eyes, the lustrous glass balls distributed evenly around the base and the jeweled finial—together they are like gemstones adorning a precious object. They glow with gentle incandescence when the lamp is not lit and they are charged with a brilliant, fiery light when the lamp is illuminated.

—Martin Eidelberg