A Tale of Two Tiffanys

The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1914). This personal copy belonging to Louis C. Tiffany is now owned by Winterthur Library.

The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany
(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1914). This
personal copy belonging to Louis C. Tiffany
is now owned by Winterthur Library.

Glimmering glass and glittering gems dazzle visitors this fall and winter at Winterthur. Two complementary exhibits, Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light and Tiffany: The Color of Luxury, celebrate the beauty and popularity of objects made and sold by Tiffany Studios and Tiffany & Company. Both firms are recognized as leaders in the
luxury goods market. Through the ingenuity, artistry, and keen business sense of family members and their associates, the Tiffany name has carried with it a legacy of quality
that remains intact today.

The Tiffany story begins with Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812–1902), who, with several
partners, set up a stationery and gift store in New York in 1837. By the early 1850s, the flourishing enterprise, renamed Tiffany & Company, had branches in Paris and London.
Charles’s son Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) trained as a painter but became
interested in glassmaking by 1875. Although he had an independent career as an
artist and craftsman with his own company, Tiffany Studios (fig. 1), Louis was also
associated with his father’s firm and was made design director of Tiffany & Co. in
1902. The Winterthur exhibits explore the careers of both men as well as the
diverse products designed and retailed by their companies.

Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light, organized by The Neustadt Collection of
Tiffany Glass in New York City and curated by Lindsy Parrott, includes iconic and
celebrated glass objects that highlight the rich and varied palette used by the artists
at Tiffany Studios. The larger of the two exhibits, Tiffany Glass features key figures who made significant contributions to the artistic success of the firm, including designers Clara
Driscoll and Agnes Northrop and chemist Arthur J. Nash. On view are impressive works that demonstrate Louis C. Tiffany’s fascination with the interplay of light and color. Windows such as Well by Fence illustrate how Tiffany and his employees embraced innovative techniques with varied patterns, textures, and opacities to create glass
“paintings.”

Well by Fence window, Tiffany Studios (design attributed to Agnes Northrop), ca. 1910. Leaded glass, 21½ x 53½ in. The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, N.Y.

Well by Fence window, Tiffany Studios (design attributed to Agnes Northrop), ca. 1910. Leaded glass,
21½ x 53½ in. The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, N.Y.

Even smaller domestic objects, like the numerous lamps they produced, show the range of naturalistic and geometric designs mastered by the Tiffany Studios artists. From dragonflies to wisteria to faux fringe, these designs add charm, whimsy, and beauty
to what would otherwise be utilitarian objects.

Wisteria library lamp, Tiffany Studios (designed by Clara Driscoll), ca. 1901. Leaded glass, bronze. 26½ x 18 in. The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, N.Y.

Wisteria library lamp, Tiffany Studios (designed by
Clara Driscoll), ca. 1901. Leaded glass, bronze. 26½ x 18 in.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, N.Y.

While Tiffany Glass features the celebrated and well-known glass produced at Tiffany
Studios, Tiffany: The Color of Luxury delves into other specialties of the company—
the interior design and rug departments (fig. 4). H. F. du Pont relied on Tiffany Studios
as the primary source for his rugs, both “oriental” and hooked. He furnished his
Southampton summer home as well as Winterthur with scores of rugs from Tiffany
and also had representatives from the firm provide yearly maintenance. This level
of custom service was a standard upheld by both Louis C. Tiffany and his father, setting them apart from their competitors.

The rug repository at Tiffany Studios, ca. 1913.

The rug repository at Tiffany Studios, ca. 1913.

H. F. du Pont was also a customer of Tiffany & Co., where he acquired nearly all of his stationery in addition to gifts of silver and, to a lesser extent, jewelry. Tiffany: The Color of Luxury includes an assortment of these objects alongside silver, jewels, and trinkets cherished by other twentieth-century owners, all illuminating the role of Tiffany & Co. as a major supplier of luxury and special-occasion gifts. That prominence continues to be reinforced by savvy retailing and branding efforts, with the famous Tiffany & Co. blue box a widely recognized symbol of quality.

Tiffany & Co. charm bracelet and recognizable blue box.

Tiffany & Co. charm bracelet and
recognizable blue box.

The firm’s role as a leader in high-end goods and services also created a level of recognition in popular culture. Following the release of the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s (based on the 1958 book by Truman Capote) and the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever featuring the Bond girl Tiffany Case (based on the 1956
book by Ian Fleming), the popularity of the name Tiffany skyrocketed. The image of the elegant Audrey Hepburn and the sex-appeal and glamour of  Bond-style living cemented the relationship of the Tiffany name with luxury-seekers worldwide.

Cover of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote.

Cover of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote.

We invite you to immerse yourself in the beauty of Tiffany Studios glass, to
encounter the personal stories behind Tiffany purchases and gifts, and to explore
the fascinating histories of the Tiffany businesses. Experience luxury at Winterthur
. . . you deserve it!

Post by Catharine Dann Roeber is Assistant Professor, Decorative Arts and Material Culture, at Winterthur, and  Maggie Lidz, who recently retired as Estate Historian and Curator of Garden Objects at Winterthur.

This entry was posted in Academic Programs, Design, Du Pont Family, Exhibitions, Glass, Members, museum collection, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *