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Property from an Important Private Collection

'Turtle-Back Tile' Chandelier, circa 1900

'Turtle-Back Tile' Chandelier, circa 1900
leaded glass, patinated bronze
16 in. (40.6 cm) high, 32 in. (81.3 cm) diameter, 34 in. (86.4 cm) drop
Lillian Nassau, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1974
H. F. McKean, The "Lost" Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 1980, pp. 124-125, figs. 115-116 (for related examples)
A. Duncan, Tiffany at Auction, New York, 1981, pp. 120, no. 324; 194-195 (for related examples)
M. Eidelberg, A. Cooney Frelinghuysen, N. A. McClelland, and L. Rachen, The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, 2005, p. 41, no. 49 (for photographs of the related 'Turtle-Back' chandeliers at Laurelton Hall)
A. Cooney Frelinghuysen, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall: An Artist’s Country Estate, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, pp. 90-91, 137, 179 (for related examples)
A. Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2019, pp. 278-279 and 281 (for related examples)
P. Crist, Tiffany Lamps: A History, Mosaic Shades, Volume I, Santa Fe Springs, 2023, p. 266 (for photographs of the related 'Turtle-Back' chandeliers at Laurelton Hall)

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Daphné Riou
Daphné Riou SVP, Senior Specialist, Head of Americas

Lot Essay

Molded glass tiles resembling the backs of turtles were among the earliest objects manufactured by the Stourbridge Glass Company, Louis Tiffany’s initial glasshouse in Corona, New York. Their first recorded appearance was as one of the major components of the enormous electrolier, currently in the permanent collection of the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (Winter Park, FL), that was featured in the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company’s Chapel created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Those initial tiles of transparent green glass were quickly supplanted by versions in darker green with a multi-hued iridescence, iridized translucent red, and opalescent white with a gold iridescence. All three colors were made in a variety of sizes and shapes and appeared in a wide range of the company’s products including leaded glass windows, lighting fixtures, candlesticks, lamp bases, inkstands, lanterns, fern dishes, and paperweights. An early explorer of Tiffany’s original New York City workrooms on Fourth Avenue remarked: “Here choice pieces of blown glass lie around, awaiting attention from Mr. Tiffany or his intelligent aide, among odds and ends of all kinds; the dark-green ‘turtle-backs’ of molded glass that make such delightful hall lamps….”

The chandelier offered here fully displays the marvelous effect that could be derived when turtle-backs were incorporated into leaded glass shades. This example is particularly noteworthy for its exceptional design. The vast majority of the model feature two rows of identically sized and shaped tiles leaded together. This chandelier features eight individual triangular sections, each comprised of three rows of dark green tiles enhanced with a heavy multi-hued iridescence, set into a patinated bronze framework having scrolled terminals. The top of this shade is also highly unusual. The standard example has a domed cap with a single hook, while in this instance a finely cast patinated bronze openwork finial having eight hooks for the suspension chains is incorporated.

This chandelier has a magnificent presence both in reflected and transmitted light. It is due to examples such as this one that led a 1904 critic to exclaim that the “lanterns with heavy opaque panes, the so-called ‘turtleback’ pattern, impress one with the power of production, the beauty of conception, and the skill of the master workmen that have combined to work out such fascinating and magical effects of light and color….”

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

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