Until the recent discovery and auction sale of the Louis C. Tiffany Furnaces office scrapbook (see Christie's New York, December 8, 2000, lot 301) from the Estate of Leslie H. Nash, preparatory drawings for enameled works by Tiffany were virtually unknown. Nature sketches had served as references for decorative motifs, and designs for specific objects were not believed to exist. Further included in Christie's December 2000 auction were individual watercolor over pencil maquettes depicting bowls realized in enamel on copper and other watercolors and gouaches of floral designs for enamel wares (see lots 302, 305, 307).
In 1898 Tiffany established an enamel department at the Stourbridge Glass Co. and began his work with enameling on metals there. His enamels were executed as single pieces, whose decorative motifs complemented assorted vessel forms. In the example illustrated here, the upward sweep of the arrow-shape leaves emphasizes the verticality of the cylindrical vase, as do the thin stems of the water lily type flowers in relief. Effectively, the leaves define the contour of the irregular rim, and the flowers accentuate the perforated areas of the vase.
Although Samuel Howe, a Tiffany employee, notes in a Craftsman article of May 1902 that "experiments are now making, under the direction of Mr. Louis C. Tiffany, in his studio at Corona, Long Island, with the purpose of doing for enamel what has already been accomplished for glass," Janet Zapata, author of The Jewelry and Enamels of Louis Comfort Tiffany, observes that the maker's enamel output was significantly less than that in other areas of his firm's production.
All enameled pieces are stamped with Tiffany's initials or inscribed with his name in facsimile, and most pieces are stamped with a registration number preceded by the initials EL or SG, the latter which Zapata believes stands for Stourbridge Glass Co. The present vase, inscribed and stamped Louis C. Tiffany SG 76, is part of the SG series, whose numbers continue to 350, used by the enamel department. Zapata also states that the SG works appear to date from 1898 to 1902, at which time Stourbridge Glass Co. was renamed Tiffany Furnaces.
Within the SG number series are works of similar forms and motifs which are numbered sequentially. Low, rounded forms in repoussé with various plant motifs bear the numbers from 40 to 65. Later, Tiffany turned to tall, cylindrical forms, also in repoussé with plant motifs. This series begins with the number 72 and continues until 115. The present vase falls within this series. The final series of vessels dates to 1902.
The decoration of the present vase appears to be a union of two different water plants--'Nuphar' flowers and 'Sagittaria' leaves. While 'Nuphar'-- floating plants previously found in North American pools and later replaced by 'Nymphaeas'--usually feature more rounded leaves, the vase appears to be decorated with 'sagittate' arrow-shaped leaves.
It was not unusual for Tiffany to create molds from his enamel works and produce pottery vases and bowls from them. A pottery example of the present model was made and is included in a photograph album of pottery vessels from the Estate of Leslie Nash, also sold in Christie's December 2000 auction (lot 311).