Thanks to Christie’s, the Decorative Mastery of Louis Comfort Tiffany Once Again Takes Center Stage

In the decorative arts, there is possibly no American designer more lauded than Louis Comfort Tiffany. The son of the founder of Tiffany became the leader of the Art Nouveau movement in the early 1900s with his ornate, nature-inspired glass work, which he modishly morphed into many forms. He decorated the reception rooms of Chester A. Arthur’s White House. He designed the ​​high altar in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and a glass curtain for the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. At a time when Europe and its artists were considered to have a monopoly on defining the cultural cache, Tiffany’s artistry was so undisputedly spectacular that he became the rare Yank to achieve critical acclaim abroad—his jewelry designs as the creative director of Tiffany made him one of three American jewelers represented at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. (In 2021, a Louis Comfort Tiffany necklace sold for $3.5 million.)

On December 8, Christie’s will dedicate an entire auction to his pieces. Titled “Tiffany,” it will offer 41 objects—including windows, mirrors, candlesticks, and lamps—for sale. All of them are rare, but some are extremely so. Take the Rhinoceros Beetle stamp box: “The highly nuanced surface of the body and interior of the box demonstrates how Tiffany, assisted by his chief chemist and some of the ‘Tiffany girls’, mastered the ancient technique of enamel, powdered glass fused on a metal body,” explains Christie’s America Head of Design Daphne Riou. “The shape of the rhinoceros beetle is both very naturalistic and reveals the inspiration of Tiffany’s several travels to Northern Africa, and in particular to Egypt.”

Then, there’s a lamp that Riou considers “a masterpiece”: The Dragonfly Table Lamp, which was made circa 1905. “The iconic Dragonfly motif is represented here in an exceptional color palette of sapphire blue dragonflies which hover against a background of blood orange, and red sky,” says Riou. “One of the most remarkable aspects of this shade is the glass selection of the background, in rippled, dichroic glass: while unlit, the shade appears in colors of dark teal green, it really comes to life when illuminated.”

Patrons of the Metropolitan Museum of Art might recognize the motifs of the Landscape with Magnolias and Iris Window, which is reminiscent of the famous window in the American Wing. “The natural light and various illumination can give a totally different perspective on the scene, in the same way as a natural landscape changes throughout the day,” says Riou.