THE two Tiffany works of art that gave strong performances within days of each other in recent US sales were not the usual lamps, glassware or table silver.
They were sufficiently unusual examples of
the celebrated firm's work to command keen competition and
First off on February 8 at Doyle New
York's Belle Epoque sale came a 5ft 7¾in (1.7m) wide
two-seater spindle-backed sofa in carved and parcel-gilt ash. The
back and seatrail had eastern-influenced densely foliate carving,
while the four reeded legs were joined by stretchers and the
upholstered seat featured a repeat motif of a dragonfly.
The sofa came from the Music Room of the
Fifth Avenue mansion belonging to the influential industrialist and
arts patron Henry Osborne Havemeyer and his wife Louisine, who
commissioned Louis Comfort Tiffany and Samuel Colman to create the
interiors. The Tiffany decor, which incorporated Japanese, Indian
and Islamic motifs to produce an American Aesthetic style, was a
departure from prevailing French Revival taste. Although the house
was demolished in 1930, some of the interior furnishings survived,
several of them now in institutions, like the pair of armchairs
from its Rembrandt room which are now in the Met.
Seven pieces from the Music Room have
survived, including Doyle's settee, which had passed down by direct
descent through the family.
Pedigree has its price. Doyle had reckoned
on around $125,000-175,000 for this piece of Gilded Age history,
but come sale day bidding from the rooms, the phones and the
internet drove the price up to $350,000 (£233,335).
Eleven days later, over on the West Coast,
Clars Auction Gallery's February 19 art and
antiques sale in Oakland California featured a Tiffany presentation
silver dagger in Aztec style that had been designed in the early
1900s by the firm's chief jewellery designer, G. Paulding
Farnham was an inventive talent who raided a
broad range of past cultures to provide inspiration for his works
including ancient Egypt, Russia, the Celtic nations and Native
America. In the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle he
was awarded the grand prize for his Native American silverware.
Clars' dagger, which is 11½in (57cm) long,
features an Aztec-type face in elaborate headdress to the mount of
the ivory-inlaid hilt, while the blade is inset with panels of dark
obsidian, a direct reference to the Aztecs' use of this sharpened
stone to create highly effective daggers.
Clars had the advantage of being consigned
this piece without reserve and were accordingly able to offer it
with an very attractive estimate of just $10,000-20,000, a level
which it easily outstripped as interest online, in the room and on
the phones took the bidding to $90,000 ($60,000), at which point it
was purchased by an unnamed institution for their permanent