We’ve all seen the “life of the party” at a gathering or two. The teller of jokes, the keeper of magic tricks, the dancer of jigs, the wearer of a lampshade…which brings us to this 1966 CoverGirl advertisement for Frosty Mad Mad Mixer lipsticks, in which the woman in the picture is wearing a Tiffany lampshade on her head (à la the life of the party perhaps?).
Maybe this ad is meant to dazzle you with color by comparing lipstick to the visually dynamic art work in a Tiffany lamp, which at that time was regaining artistic merit and popularity among art collectors. In fact, the first museum exhibitions of Tiffany glass were mounted in 1955 and 1958 at the Morse Gallery of Art in Winter Park, Florida, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York City, respectively. And let’s not forget that it was in 1961 that the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s debuted, bringing the Tiffany name, albeit the retail store, to the height of popular culture.
Or, perhaps this ad reflects the new CoverGirl: an artistic and modern “life of the party,” who wears these “mad” colors and sticks a lampshade on her head to be fun and free and sassy.
If it’s the latter they were going for, they hooked onto a concept that can trace its root all the way back to the 1920s. The term “life of the party” dates back to the early 20th century as shown in this Baltimore Evening Sun article, which was reprinted in the Decatur Herald on August 13, 1928. The article notes that “it is customary for the life of the party about the middle of the evening to put a lampshade on his head…” And, after an evening of impersonations, side play, juggling, and yoweling, the life of the party has “made the evening a huge success. But, he leaves the host and hostess wondering whether the success is worth the damage done to the lampshade, which will never look the same.”
Thankfully, the real, stunning Begonia Lamp by Tiffany Studios was never actually worn on someone’s head (as far as we know), and it can be seen in person in its full life-of-the-party glory in the Winterthur Galleries as part of our exhibition Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light. This exhibition was organized by The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in New York City. We hope you’ll come see it!
Blog post by Jennie Brown, Public Programs Department