Cornelia A. Atwill was the daughter of John and Sarah Talman of New York. She married, firstly, Seward Barculo in 1834, and secondly Winthrop Atwill, at some time after her first husband's death in 1854. Cornelia Atwill's will was dated October 30, 1895, and the two codicils of 1898 describe numerous gifts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including sculpture, Favrile glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany and English pottery by Minton and a "Pink Japanese Vase," which would be a typical addition to a collection of objects in the Aesthetic taste.
Mrs. Atwill, whose estate was valued at $1.4 million at the time of her death (after 1899), bought Tiffany's celebrated Magnolia Vase, the masterpiece of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Magnolia Vase itself received a great deal of publicity at the Fair, but its purchaser chose to remain anonymous. Accordingly, when Mrs. Atwill bequeathed the vase to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she had it inscribed as follows:
This Enamelled Silver Vase manufactured by Tiffany & Co. for exhibition at the Columbian Exposition has been presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the purchaser a lover of Art whose identity will be disclosed and name added to this inscription by Tiffany and Co. on receipt of the donor's permission 1899.
The vase, however, was never subsequently engraved, and the Museum only discovered that Mrs. Atwill was the donor after her death.
The pattern book at the Tiffany Archives records the charges for this vase on April 28, 1893, describing the shape as "Vase-For daisies and butterflies." The charges for making, chasing and enamelling totalled $710. The catalogue for Tiffany's exhibit at the Columbian Exposition includes the present vase as item 202, a "Daisy Vase, etched and enamelled daisies" ( Catalogue of Tiffany & Co.'s Exhibit, Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, p.76).