Lot 301
  • 301

TIFFANY STUDIOS | "Olive" Covered Jar

30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • "Olive" Covered Jar
  • engraved Louis C. Tiffany and impressed SC 332
  • enameled copper
  • 5 1/4  in. (13.3 cm) high6 1/2  in. (16.5 cm) diameter
  • circa 1905-1909


Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., New York
Private Collection, New York, circa 1965
Thence by descent to the present owners


Martin Eidelberg and Nancy McClelland, Behind the Scenes of Tiffany Glassmaking: The Nash Notebooks, New York, 2001, pp. 21 and 178 (for the model executed in pottery)
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany: The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 466 (for the model executed in pottery) and 471 (for the model executed in bronze pottery)


Overall very good condition. This work has been examined and conditioned by a professional conservator specializing in enamel conservation. This piece has also been examined under blacklight and does not show any evidence of prior restoration. The enameled surfaces with some minor irregularities throughout inherent in the making and not visually detractive. The box and lid each with some scattered, very small and minor losses to the enamel consistent with age and gentle handling and not at all visually detractive. The box and lid each with some light wear to where the two elements come in contact. With some light surface soiling concentrated to the lid. A deeply sculptural work with rich, highly nuanced coloration. The decorative olive branch motif extends continuously from the lid onto the box, creating a wonderfully harmonious, singular composition. The box displays beautifully in person with spectacular scale and strong luminous coloration.
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

Louis C. Tiffany appreciated glass in all its multitude of characteristics and uses and was a genius for incorporating the material in an almost limitless variety of decorative applications.  He experimented with glassmaking in the early 1880s, although causing a fire in his Fourth Avenue workshops probably convinced him to hire more qualified professionals.  Hence, when he finally established his own glasshouse in 1893, Tiffany partnered with Arthur John Nash (1849-1934), making him superintendent, and hired Parker C. McIlhiney (1870-1923) a few years later, appointing him the company’s chief chemist.  These two exceptional men worked to turn many of Tiffany’s creative ideas into reality.

It was the combined efforts of Tiffany, Nash and McIlhiney that led to the company’s production of enamelware.  First displayed in the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company’s exhibition at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, the pieces featured both iridescent highlights and, more significantly, a unique translucency that allowed portions of the copper body to sparkle under reflected light.  The incredible attention Tiffany’s enamelware received was only heightened when the Exposition awarded them the Grand Prix. 

This enameled covered box clearly reveals the quality and innovative artistry that led to the company winning a gold medal at that world’s fair.  It is of a familiar form but features an unusual motif and palette.  Both the cover and slightly ribbed body have a repoussé design of ripening olives and pendant leaves on sinuous branches, one of them forming an irregular sculptural handle.  The gold background is particularly noteworthy.  Most Tiffany enamels of this type have a ground in shades of either red or blue.  The background used in this object is perfectly suited, as it suggests olives ripening under a warm, golden sun.  Hints of gold glimmer and sparkle through the slightly iridescent aubergine and purple olives, as well as the green leaves, adding to the illusion.  It was pieces such as this one that caused contemporary critics to proclaim Tiffany’s enamels as “rare works of art” as well as “visions of delight.”

PAUL DOROS is former curator of glass at the Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk, Virginia) and author of The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York: Vendome Press), 2013.