Tiffany Studios Leaded Glass and Gilt Bronze Jeweled Drophead Dragonfly Table Lamp, circa 1910.
At the turn of the century, Clara Driscoll, head of the women’s glass cutting department and the brains behind some of Tiffany’s most iconic shades introduced the “Drophead Dragonfly” to the world. Unable to cut the pieces of glass small enough to give the desired lacy effect to the wings of the dragonfly, Driscoll came up with the idea of using a brass filigree overlay that would be soldered over top of the glass wings, giving a much more intricate appearance.
These filigrees had previously been used on smaller decorative items but were a new concept in lamp design. The Dragonfly became one of Tiffany’s first recorded leaded shades, shown as early as 1899 by Art Nouveau tastemaker Siegfried Bing at Grafton Galleries in London The design won her the bronze medal at the 1900 world’s fair a year later.
As the son of Tiffany & Co-founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, jewels to Louis Comfort Tiffany were as water is to a fish. It is no wonder with this background that Tiffany made the bold decision to employ Leo Popper & Sons of New York City as its producer of glass jewels Popper was founded in 1880 to produce imitation stones for costume jewelry, and Tiffany’s entrepreneurial prowess saw the possibility of using jewels in leaded glass shades. On the subject, Tiffany wrote: “Anyone who has seen the great rose windows of Chartres has, intuitively or otherwise, understood the relationship between glass and jewels. Designed to refract light prismatically, and placed to raise heads beatifically, they resemble nothing so much as magnificent celestial jewels.” It was likely for this reason that model no. 1507 was Tiffany’s favorite. More than any of its variants, the shade was spangled with a wide assortment of cabochon topaz glass jewels.
This lamp features a unique example of Tiffany Studios’ iconic Drophead Dragonfly shade depicting a swarm of nine descending dragonflies, each with a distinct combination of body and eye color. Dragonflies, each with wings of strikingly mottled apple green and deep red and a unique combination of eye and body color. The ground is a warm saffron yellow shaded up to rich butter yellow, punctuated by twinkling amber cabochons jewels and topped by geometric bands of purple mauve and mint green. The vibrancy and variation in the dragonfly glass selection contrasts well with the warmth of the ground. A Gilt Queen Anne’s Lace telescoping base in overall very good condition. Sockets and heat cap appear original. Scattered fine surface wear and minor rubbing to gilt indicative of age and gentle handling. Telescope mechanism functions smoothly. These Dragonflies do not last long. Andrew Carnegie’s Identical lamp sold for $2.2 million.
Marks to shade: TIFFANY STUDIOS 1507
Marks to base: TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK 397
Height: 28.5 Inches (adjustable higher) (72.5 cm) Diameter: 22.5 inches (57.2 cm)
Condition: The shade has approximately 10-15 tight, stable hairlines to mostly the wings undetectable behind filigreed meshing and very few tiles. Base with slight wear to gilt patina. Displays beautifully.
Private Collection, Southwestern United States; Christie’s New York, June 9, 2005, lot 48; Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Private Collection, New York, acquired from the above in 2007.
A. Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware: An illustrated reference to over 2000 models, Suffolk, Woodbridge, 2019, p. 95, fig. 365 (similar example of shade 1507 and base 397).
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