The Doros Collection: The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany

The Doros Collection: The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 317. "Lava" Vase.

Tiffany Studios

"Lava" Vase

Auction Closed

June 7, 10:21 PM GMT


60,000 - 80,000 USD

Lot Details


Tiffany Studios

"Lava" Vase

circa 1916

Favrile glass

engraved 1632LL.C. Tiffany Favrile

6⅝ in. (16.8 cm) high

5 in. (12.7 cm) diameter

Sotheby's New York, November 17, 1984, lot 234
Paul Doros, The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2013, p. 122 (for the present lot illustrated)

Golden Joinery: The Philosophy of Kintsugi

Tiffany Studios’ so-called “Lava” vases are exceptionally rare primarily for two reasons. First, they were extremely difficult to produce from a technical aspect, with many either cracking or completely shattering during the annealing process. Second, the examples that did survive were perhaps too outré for even the most adventurous of the company’s clients.

Apparently produced only in 1906-1907 and again around 1916, it was originally theorized that the lava 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 much of his aesthetics. It is highly probable that the direct inspiration for his “Lava” vases was his familiarity with the Japanese restoration technique of kintsugi, or “golden joinery.” Originating in 15th century Japan, this method of repairing broken ceramic vessels involved using thick, irregular gold seams to make the piece whole and even more treasured than when it was originally created.

Louis Tiffany was a serious collector of Asian decorative arts, including ceramics, and “Lava” vases are Tiffany’s fairly obvious attempt to emulate, in glass, 17th century Japanese raku-fired ceramic tea bowls repaired with gold. Kintsugi is also perfectly aligned with the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of flaws and finding beauty in imperfections, an attitude that exactly matched Tiffany’s artistic philosophy, as he continuously implored his glassworkers to experiment and create what he and the company referred to as “happy accidents.” He was not concerned with condition issues, as even cracked pieces were sold to major museums; Tiffany’s only concern was the overall aesthetic quality of the object.

- PD