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A Rare ‘Pebble' Table Lamp, circa 1901-1904
Favrile and leaded glass, quartz pebbles, patinated bronze
with a ‘Pepper’ base
shade impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 1459-2
underside of oil canister applied with button tag impressed TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 21218 with the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company monogram
19 in. (48.2 cm) high; 18 ½ in. (47 cm) diameter of shade
Dr. E. Neustadt, The Lamps of Tiffany, New York, 1970, p. 63, pl. 87 (for the base)
W. Feldstein, Jr. and A. Duncan, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 1983, pp. 96-97 (for a closely related shade)
M. Eidelberg, A. Cooney Frelinghuysen, N. McClelland, L. Rachen, The Lamps of Tiffany Studios, New York, 2005, pp. 14-15 (for a closely related shade), pp. 147 and 205 (for the base)
A. Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Suffolk, 2019, p. 50, pl. 161 (for a closely related shade), p. 160, pl. 652 and 653 (for the shade)
Further details
Louis Tiffany had a considerable knowledge of gemology, acquired at an early age. His father, Charles Lewis Tiffany, was the principal owner of Tiffany and Company, the world-famous jewelry firm, and Louis frequently visited the store as a boy, developing a fondness for the “bright-colored jewels.” He was equally fascinated with how the colors of gems and semi-precious stones reacted to transmitted and reflected light, which led directly to Tiffany’s use of simple beach pebbles in some of his most innovative and important designs.
Tiffany used opalescent “jewels” of both pressed and chipped glass as early as 1881 in his leaded glass windows for the Seventh Regiment Armory and a mosaic for the Church of the Divine Paternity. His use of pebbles appears about seven years later and coincides with the purchase of property in Long Island. In late 1888, Tiffany obtained a large parcel of land overlooking Cold Spring Harbor, and his first country estate, The Briars, was built on the site the following year. The shoreline below the house was completely covered with richly colored quartz pebbles that had been rolled, washed and polished by the surf. People came as far away as Connecticut to collect these stones and Tiffany, with his young children, did the same. However, Tiffany’s artistic imagination and desire for constant innovation led him to utilize these pebbles in his decorative work.
The first recorded use of these stones was for a leaded window Tiffany made for himself. Susan Merrill Ketchum, a noted artist who had studied under William Merritt Chase, described it in March 1890. “A large window for the residence of Louis C. Tiffany is combined entirely of ‘jewels’ and polished pebbles, gathered by his children. The pebbles vary in size from one to three inches, cut roughly a half inch thick, placed with the smooth, worn side in the face of the window. Against the light, it takes on the brilliant hues of veritable jewels and is a window fit for Aladdin’s palace.” Similar windows were later produced for other clients and the pebbles were also employed in the borders of several significant windows, including the “Minnehaha” window created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the “Fish at Play” window displayed at the Grafton Galleries (London) in 1899 and the “Squash with Pebbles” window currently in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The 'Pebble' model was probably among the first leaded shades produced by Tiffany. As exemplified by this superior example, the design incorporates red, brown, brick and purple-streaked translucent sliced quartz stones of gradating size arranged in a stylized floral motif. The upper portion of the hemispherical dome is formed by small pieces of leaded glass in tones of pale red, green, white and yellow in a matching floral pattern. When lit, this sparkling glass serves as a direct contrast to the warm organic glow of the pebbles, allowing the lamp to light a larger area of the room. The shade also combines wonderfully with the patinated bronze base. The model, described in the Tiffany Studios 1906 Price List as “Pepper, all metal leaf base,” has a vertically-ribbed rounded body, raised on a finely cast six-sided platform, that complements both the shape of the shade and the pebbles themselves.
'Pebble' lamps are exceedingly rare, even though the shade was offered in the company’s 1906 price guide (number 1459) for $100 and were in production through at least 1911. This model would have appealed essentially to true connoisseurs, customers with a more sophisticated taste who could better appreciate its subtle beauty and superb craftsmanship.
Paul Doros is the author of The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York, 2013).

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Alex Heminway
Alex Heminway

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