Tiffany Studios was founded in New York by Louis Comfort Tiffany; the firm was operational from 1878 to 1933, creating remarkable design works featuring exquisite stained glass, including the Tiffany-patented iridescent Favrile glass. Freeman’s has a long history of presenting works created by Tiffany Studios at auction, ranging from small table lamps to a set of stained-glass church windows. Louis Tiffany arguably solidified his artistic legacy in the medium of glass as soon as he began his experimentation with it. As the technique for creating stained glass had gone largely unchanged since the medieval era, Tiffany’s process for glass production using copper foil and leaded techniques was cutting-edge for its time. The techniques he developed for cutting glass, and chemical formulas developed, allowed him to create a previously unreachable level of detail that brought about a rebirth of the medium.
Louis Comfort Tiffany’s name is synonymous with the ornate style of America’s Gilded Age, but little was known about the day-to-day operations of the Tiffany Studios firm until a cache of letters written by Clara Driscoll, a worker at the firm, was brought to light in 2005, filling in gaps left by the destruction of firm records in the early 1930s. This discovery has led to a reevaluation of Tiffany Studios, centering women in the company’s narrative and artistic output. From her letters, we know that Driscoll broke with the company three times over her twenty-year tenure for marital engagements—to work in Tiffany’s studios, women were not permitted to marry, and only men were allowed to unionize. Driscoll headed the Women’s Glass Cutting Department as early as 1894; under Driscoll’s creative direction, this all-female department, which at its peak employed 27 to 35 women, produced iconic lamps, mosaics, and stained-glass windows. These women continually displayed their skilled artistry without due credit, creating naturalistic and iconic lamp designs like the Dragonfly, Wisteria, and Daffodil, the Story of the Cross window made for a Chicago chapel, and the Four Seasons window exhibited at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. Driscoll oversaw the tedious and intensive process of selection, cutting, foiling, and assemblage of the thousands of pieces of glass it took to create each work.
The quality of the firm’s work was immediately recognized worldwide, becoming the gold standard. In 1893, Tiffany took the world by storm at the World Columbian Exposition, where his studio’s work received a sweeping 44 accolades; at the turn of the century, the studio’s work received the Grand Prix in Paris and St. Petersburg, and gold medals in Dresden and Turin. Thanks to the letters of Clara Driscoll, much more is known about the highly skilled laborers and processes that went into actualizing Tiffany Studio’s unparalleled designs—challenging the traditional male-dominated narrative and enriching the brilliance of the studio’s legacy, giving names, stories, and credit to those whose skilled handiwork has heretofore gone largely unrecognized.
Freeman’s recent successes in selling works by Tiffany Studios include the remarkable sale of a rare set of seven stained-glass windows in 2020 for $705,000, the 2016 sale of a rare and important Iris lantern for $370,000, and the sale of a Nasturtium table lamp in 2020 for $206,250.