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Rare 'Moorish' Table Lamp, circa 1895

Rare 'Moorish' Table Lamp, circa 1895
Favrile glass, leaded glass, patinated bronze, gilt plaster
26 1/2 in. (67.3 cm) high, 13 3/4 in. (35 cm) diameter of shade
base impressed S629
Lillian Nassau, Ltd., New York
John Mecom, Jr., Houston, Texas, circa 1982
Highly Important Tiffany Lamps from the Collection of John W. Mecom, Jr., Houston, Texas, Sotheby's, New York, 22 April 1995, lot 23
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above
"Modern American Residences," The Architectural Record, vol. 1, no. 3, January-March, 1892, p. 390 (for a related example in the Rembrandt Room of H. O. Havemeyer's New York City residence)
C. W. Post Art Gallery, The Age of Tiffany: Glass, Paintings, Bronzes, Furniture, exh. cat., New York, 1981, n.p. (present lot illustrated)
B. Delatiner, “Shedding Light on Tiffany’s Creations,” The New York Times, Art Section, Sunday, 1 February 1981, p. 19 (present lot mentioned)
D. L. Shirey, “‘Tiffany’ Illuminates Craftsman as Artist”, The New York Times, Art Section, Sunday, 8 March 1981, p. 8 (for a reference to ‘The Art of Tiffany’ at C. W. Post Gallery, Greenvale, New York)
W. Feldstein, Jr. and A. Duncan, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 1983, pp. 82 and 83 (present lot illustrated)
A. Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, New York, 2019, p. 201, no. 786 (present lot illustrated)
A. Cooney Frelinghuysen, Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998, p. 13 (for a related example in the Rembrandt Room of H. O. Havemeyer's New York City residence)
Greenvale, New York, C.W. Post Art Gallery, The Age of Tiffany: Glass, Paintings, Bronzes, Furniture, February - March 1981
Special notice
Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.

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Elizabeth Seigel
Elizabeth Seigel Vice President, Specialist, Head of Private and Iconic Collections

Lot Essay


A trip to the Middle East was de rigueur for European and American artists of the mid- to late nineteenth century. Louis Tiffany was no different and his early trips to the region, then referred to as the Orient, were a major source of inspiration for all facets of his art.

Tiffany traveled to Algeria and Spain from December 1875 to February 1877 and it was during this trip that he likely visited the Alhambra palace in Granada, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and decoration. Tiffany was obviously captivated by the exotic decorative elements found throughout, resulting in his collecting numerous period photographs of the palace, obtaining a copy of Owen Jones’ 1845 book Details and Ornaments from the Alhambra for his personal library, and featuring the interior and exterior of the building in several paintings. It is therefore not surprising that he referenced those influences in the creation of the present lot, one of the firm's earliest leaded glass lamps, and a superb illustration of Moorish influence in the work of Tiffany.

This spectacular object features a shade made by the copper foil method, a technique first employed by Tiffany’s artisans around 1893. As described the following year, the process was made possible only after the company began to employ women for the glass cutting and assemblage: “A new departure, and one for which the fingers of women are especially adapted, is folding strips of copper over the edges of each piece of glass previous to being soldered.” The shade is similar in shape and style to one made approximately two years earlier for the Rembrandt Room in Henry Osborne Havemeyer’s 66th Street mansion. Its distinctive geometric pattern and vivid palette of crimson, green, teal, yellow, navy and amber are directly related to much of the wonderfully glazed ceramic tiles featured on many of the Alhambra’s walls.

Tiffany first utilized glass mosaic in his work around 1881 and mosaic bases were made to accompany some of the company’s earliest leaded glass shades, such as the Butterfly and Cobweb models. The base for this lamp, which probably predates the aforementioned examples, superbly demonstrates the firm’s mastery of the craft. Raised in a finely-cast patinated bronze surround with five lion’s-paw feet and enclosing an electrified fuel canister, the base comprises glass tesserae that complement those of the shade and are set in a geometric design. Some of the tesserae are of transparent glass backed with gold foil that brilliantly reflects the light. The central horizontal band is comprised of square transparent green glass “jewels” that are unusual but appear in two Tiffany lighting commissions of this period: the table lamp and a chandelier for H. O. Havemeyer’s mansion, as well as group of turtle-back tile hanging lights designed for the Washington Square apartment of Tiffany’s close personal friend, Robert W. de Forest. The gilt plaster that borders these tiles is atypical for a Tiffany lamp, but was an element he frequently incorporated in his early church reredos, such as those in St. Michael’s Church (New York City) and the First Presbyterian Church in Bath, New York.

Most likely unique, this lamp's historical significance is perhaps surpassed only by its superior craftsmanship and stunning artistry. It is a true masterwork that beautifully and succinctly exemplifies the Moorish foundation of many of Louis Tiffany’s creations, while at the same time demonstrating the supreme talents of his studios.

– Paul Doros, former curator of glass at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA and author of The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York, 2013)

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