Lot 302
  • 302

TIFFANY STUDIOS | “Frog and Fish” Covered Box

Estimate
25,000 - 35,000 USD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Tiffany Studios
  • “Frog and Fish” Covered Box
  • impressed 9041/3 with the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company monogram
  • enameled copper
  • 1 1/2  in. (3.8 cm) high4 1/8  in. (10.5 cm) diameter
  • circa 1900-1903

Provenance

Louis C. Tiffany Garden Museum, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Literature

Martin Eidelberg and Nancy McClelland, Behind the Scenes of Tiffany Glassmaking: The Nash Notebooks, New York, 2001, p. 119 (for the present lot illustrated)
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany: The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, p. 407 (for a period photograph of the present)

Catalogue Note

The Enameled Creatures of Tiffany's Gardens
Lots 302 and 303

Tiffany enamels, just as the Favrile glass objects, were considered unique works of art intended for wealthy collectors.  Tiffany & Company’s 1905 Blue Book listed enameled small trays, bonbonnieres and fancy cabinet pieces at $10 to $50; large bonbon boxes were $50 to $250, and vases ranged between $25 and $300.  Another marketing similarity with Favrile glass was that the firm was willing to offer a few clues concerning the technical innovations in creating their enamel pieces but absolutely refused to go into specifics: “The Tiffany studios have their secrets of detail that are jealously screened from vulgar inspection—that is a matter of business which the public has no right to probe.  The hint given…is sufficient for the inquiring and the curious.”

The two boxes presented here (lots 302 and 303) are illustrative of Tiffany’s more playful decorative side and include wonderfully portrayed frogs, a theme rarely seen in the company’s oeuvre.  The stamp box (lot 303) was probably part of a desk set, as the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (Richmond, VA) has a letter rack in its collection that is similarly signed and numbered EL207.  As that piece was apparently offered in Parke-Bernet’s 1946 auction of objects from Laurelton Hall (lot 321 in that sale), it is highly likely that this stamp box also graced a desk in Tiffany’s mansion.  While the museum’s letter rack depicts a green-spotted frog among tall marsh grass and flowering jack-in-the-pulpits, the stamp box is formed by a very realistic and beautifully conceived crimson-spotted yellow frog on an irregularly shaped mossy patch surrounded by mushrooms of various types, sizes and colors.

The covered box (lot 302) is a superb early example.  The lid is again enhanced with a frog in varying shades of green, resting on a large green lily pad floating on sapphire water, with irregular pink and turquoise streaks simulating the current, bordered by impressionistic water lily blossoms.  The exterior of the body has a matching floral design. The interior of most Tiffany boxes have a very simple light green or dark blue enameled surface, but this piece has a surprise: a large orange carp swimming among dark green seaweed on a sapphire blue ground.

These two pieces vibrantly display all of the supreme creativity and technical command one hopes to find in Tiffany’s finest enamelware.  The shapes and forms are fashioned flawlessly, and the actual enamels are applied as only a master craftsperson can.  The products of Tiffany’s Enamel Department are as treasured today as they were when they originally appeared, and these two pieces are truly indicative of the department’s primary tenet, as expressed by Elizabeth Willmarth, one of its first heads: “Nothing takes too long, costs too much or is too much trouble to produce.”

—Paul Doros
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