This box is a rare example of Tiffany's work in the Art Deco Style. The economic hardships of the 1930s had severely limited the production of modern designs by American silver manufacturers. During 1939-1940, however, Tiffany embarked on a bold and expensive foray, producing an elaborate display of American modern silver at the House of Jewels in the New York World's Fair. It was the brainchild of Tiffany's chief silver designer, Arthur L. Barney (1884-1955).
This silver display included a cocktail set, a coffee service, a tea service, a beverage set, a centerpiece and matching candelabra, as well as several jewelry and cigar boxes. A cigar box from the exhibition, later adapted to a jewelry box, sold in these Rooms, 18-19 January 2002, lot 218.
Despite the high style and craftsmanship of these pieces, the exhibit was not a commercial success and many pieces failed to sell. World War II curtailed the luxury trade further and some pieces remained unsold until the 1950s. Thus Tiffany's Art Deco silver, produced for the Fair, and slightly thereafter, remained limited, and is therefore extremely rare today.
Irving B. Babcock (1891-1964) was President of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company, a division of General Motors based in Pontiac. In 1943, he was appointed Vice President of General Motors. In 1944, he left GM to assume the position of President of Aviation Corporation (AVCO). He was probably presented with this box circa 1943-1944.
(See: John Stuart Gordon, Selling Splendor: The House of Jewels and the American Luxury Market, 1937-1940, 2003; John Loring, Magnificent Tiffany Silver, 2001, pp. 240-245; Jewel Stern, Modernism in American Silver, 2005, pp. 174-183)
Caption: A silver cigar box also designed by Arthur L. Barney for the 1939 World's Fair and later adapted as a jewelry box, sold Christie's, New York, 18-19 January 2002, lot 218, (c) Christie's Images Ltd. 2002