19th & 20th Century Furniture & Decorative Arts

Art Nouveau Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany

Objects designed in the medium of Favrile glass mosaic, such as murals for domestic interiors, lamp bases and desk accessories, including the gilt-bronze and rainbow-hued Favrile glass mosaic inkstand to be offered on November 9 (lot 227), are an enduring legacy of the artistic and creative genius of Louis Comfort Tiffany and his artisans.

The inkstand and paper knife desk set was made between 1920 and 1924. It was owned by Potter Palmer II (1875-1943), son of Potter Palmer (1826-1902), the Chicago business magnate, business partner of Marshall Field, and builder of downtown Chicago’s luxurious Palmer House. His mother was Bertha Matilde Honoré (1849-1918), a wealthy socialite, philanthropist and art collector, who befriended Claude Monet in France and who amassed a large collection of Impressionist art. In fact, Potter and Bertha Palmer eventually owned twenty-nine Monet paintings and eleven Renoir paintings, which they later donated to the Art Institute of Chicago, forming the core of the institution’s collection of impressionist art. Palmer II was director of the First National Bank of Chicago and President of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Potter and Bertha Palmer and their family resided in a grand mansion on Chicago’s North Lake Shore Drive, known as Potter Palmer Castle. Palmer II sold the family residence in 1930 and moved his family into a nearby modern sixteen-story cooperative apartment building, located at 1301 N. Astor Street. Their home occupied three floors as well as a ground floor lobby.

Decorated in the Art Nouveau style with its impressionistic red and golden-hued poppies against a blue-green ground, an exquisite and jewel-like covered box in the November 9 sale (lot 226) is an exceedingly rare example of enamel ware made by Tiffany Studios. These wares were introduced to the public by the firm in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where they received great acclaim. A novel quality was the addition of a layer of gold or silver foil to the copper body and undercoat of thin enamel that resulted in greater luminescence, metallic brilliance and depth of beauty. Vases, bowls and covered boxes, mostly small in scale, were decorated with colorful iridescent enameled surfaces. Some examples have smooth surfaces while others display naturalistic or shaped bodies created to heighten the artistic effect. By the time production was ceased in 1907, it seems the enameling department had produced no more than 750 pieces.

Portrait of specialist Malcolm N.  MacNeil
VP/Director, 19th & 20th Century Decorative Arts
19th & 20th Century Furniture & Decorative Arts
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