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Property from the Estate of a Private Collector, New York

Tiffany Studios

"Lava" Vase

Auction Closed

December 8, 10:47 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from the Estate of a Private Collector, New York

Tiffany Studios

"Lava" Vase

circa 1906-1907

favrile glass

engraved L.C. Tiffany 4085C and inscribed with Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., accession number L87.281/GAT

10 in. (25.4 cm) high

Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. , Norfolk, Virginia
Sotheby's New York, The Estate of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.: Important Art Nouveau and Art Deco, June 16, 1989, lot 414
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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. Primarily produced only between 1904-1907 and again around 1915, 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 masterwork offered here is one of the largest vases of its type ever made and that it survived the production process is near miraculous. Later Lava pieces that feature a similar design of spiraled iridescent gold were mold-blown to create the effect. That was a fairly simple and straightforward technique with limited risks. This vase was far riskier to produce and is of considerably greater technical complexity, as an assistant dripped thick bands of yellow glass onto the body, with apparent randomness, while the gaffer slowly rotated the piece on his blowpipe. He would have then tooled, marvered and further blown the vase before it received its iridescence, which is the typical bright gold on the exterior but an unusual orange-gold on the interior of the flared neck. Finally, it would have been placed in the annealing oven overnight and very gradually cooled to room temperature.

One possible reason for the extreme rarity of Lava vases is that they were too artistically adventurous for most early twentieth century collectors, who generally preferred symmetry and rich, bright colors. One hundred years later, however, this piece perfectly demonstrates why Lava vases are considered by many to best epitomize the creative supremacy of Tiffany’s blown Favrile glass.

Paul Doros