In the middle of a tour recently, on the sixth or seventh mention of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work, a woman turned and exclaimed—as if to have it out and finished with—“Is everything here a Tiffany?”
The answer, of course, is no. But what many people discover when they come to the Driehaus Museum is that the artist and his associated firms designed a great deal more than just lamps.
Take this side chair, for instance.
It sits in the oriel window in the gallery that was Mrs. Nickerson’s Sitting Room—a room easily recognizable by the Islamic-influenced sycamore carvings and designs. Made in or somewhere between 1881 and 1883, it is attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany, the famous American glassmaker and founder of Tiffany Studios.
It’s a peculiar chair. Carved in walnut, it sits lower than most; even on the raised platform of the oriel window where it is displayed, it seems one would have to stoop to sit in it. The finials on the crest rail—an egret and toad, clinging to their stations—provide a touch of Art Nouveau whimsy, but the really unique part are those glass balls in the wooden clawed feet.
Why attribute it to Tiffany? Although best known as a glass designer, he was a decorator first. Tiffany designed furniture for the Seventh Regiment Armory Veteran’s Room in New York City and for private homes, such as that of Henry O. Havemeyer (the sugar magnate) and William S. Kimball (of Kimball Tobacco Factory fame). But it’s those glass balls that really give it away; a white holly armchair and a prima vera armchair (see below), also attributed to Tiffany by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have that same distinctive feature.
Other examples of Tiffany’s chair designs include the following, both from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:
This oak and silk velvet armchair, from circa 1891-92, was created by Tiffany and Samuel Colman (an artist who also worked in interior design) for Henry O. Havemeyer’s home library. (The image is courtesy of the Metropolian Museum of Art.)
Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company produced this marquetry-accented armchair. It features claw and glass ball feet like our chair in Mrs. Nickerson’s oriel window. (Also courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)