Group of Nine Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver and Enamel Circus Figures
Designed by Gene Moore, 1990s
Comprising Ring Master, rearing horse, juggling clown, roller skating bear, seal balancing ball, lion, tiger balancing on a ball, elephant and clown with baby stroller. Height of largest 4 1/2 inches, total approximately 65 ounces, all in.
The excitement, color, characters, and action that the circus brings have long been an inspiration for artists, particularly in the twentieth century. Pablo Picasso was known to have frequented the Cirque Medrano in Montmartre and his early career included several images of circus figures, including the Family of Saltimbanques at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Alexander Calder's Grand Cirque created from 1926-1931, is part of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Doyle has been fortunate to sell various circus theme works, whether it be folk art from the 20th century (https://doyle.com/auctions/19am02-american-paintings-furniture-decorative-arts/catalogue/408-group-folk-art-carved); a cast iron mechanical bank (https://doyle.com/auctions/20fa01-cherished-american-folk-art-toys-estate-private-collector/catalogue/1-acrobat-cast); a lithograph by Chagall (https://doyle.com/auctions/10bp01-books-photographs-prints/catalogue/409-marc-chagall-travelling-circus-color); or a painting by Bernard Buffet (https://doyle.com/auctions/19pt03-impressionist-modern-art/catalogue/1070-bernard-buffet). It seems that everyone can agree on this theme.
This lot comprises nine sterling silver and enamel circus figures designed by Gene Moore for Tiffany & Co. Gene Moore (1910-1998) was Artistic Director and Vice President of Tiffany & Co. known for over five-thousand original and imaginative windows he created for their Fifth Avenue flagship store. Enameling is the process of fusing glass particles onto metal with heat. The colored particles, or powder, melt at the right temperature and harden to a smooth vitreous coating when cool. While there are many different variations of enameling producing different affects, these figures were probably done by enamel painting. This takes skill and precision to place the colors in the exact spot and create minute details.
Gene Moore arrived in New York from Birmingham, Alabama, and he longed to create in a town known for its art and theater. For over forty years, Moore used his talents to create rotating three-dimensional artwork for Tiffany's windows. He used radical and witty designs to draw in consumers who strolled past. He took everyday objects and contrasted them with the precious and refined jewelry in the windows. Having a long-standing relationship with Tiffany & Co., he even designed jewelry and silver for the firm. In 1997, he created a three-piece child's tableware set adorned with clowns, circus figures, horses, and elephants. The silver circus figures created in the 1990s incorporate the circus' childlike spirit and comical imagery such as the clown mother pushing the baby clown in the stroller or the bear wearing a party hat on roller skates.
It is curious to think about what inspired Moore to create these fun figures. Was it a love for the circus like Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany & Co. who once created a jeweled silver horse carriage as a wedding gift from circus legend P.T. Barnum to the performer General Tom Thumb and his wife. Tiffany has always been on the cusp of the trends, and maybe Moore was influenced by the 1988 Big Apple Circus that participated in the first circus collaboration with China and the U.S. in history at Lincoln Center. Or maybe it was just a love of the whimsy that came from the circus. From an advertisement in Orange Coast Magazine, December 1998, these "sterling silver and enamel circus figurines will be so cute in the baby's room. Not appropriate for teething purposes". We hope these figures bring joy to any successful bidder.
High Value Lot -- We are anticipating strong interest in this lot. Please email us at [email protected] to request an increase in your bid limit as soon as possible. Bidding in this auction beyond $20,000 requires a request in writing. The volume of bidding will be high, so we suggest that you place bids in advance of the closing date. The text of this lot updated on April 18.
C Estate of Julia Acton Forrest
Additional Notes & Condition Report
Rearing horse - losses to enamel especially to harness and flowers
Juggling clown - losses to enamel on balls
Roller skating bear - good and wheels work
Seal with ball - good
Lion - enamel probably as made
Tiger with ball - small enamel losses throughout to tiger; the ball with holes to underside presumbably for another ball, now lacking
Elephant - small losses to enamel on harness and feet
Clown with stroller - baby is removable; the wheels on carriage work; one flower with spot of enamel loss; spots of cracking to enamel in hair
No condition report? Click here to request one.