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Tiffany Studios New York 7-Piece "Pond Lily" Desk Set

Tiffany Studios’ Pond Lily Desk Set is a rare model, with only three extant sets known. The set is decorated with a dazzling array of lily pads, lily buds, dragonflies, and moths. The dragonfly and moth was a leitmotif of the Art Nouveau, but Louis Tiffany encountered the creatures and explored their form and significance throughout his childhood and artistic life, beginning as a youngster who sketched au plein air in the woods and wetlands surrounding his father’s summer house. At his Laurelton Hall estate, an artwork of nature coaxed into form over decades, Tiffany observed these insects in the teeming saltwater marshes and wetlands of Oyster Bay. The crown jewel of his Laurelton Hall garden was a water lily pond filled with varieties of colored water lilies, a novelty that debuted at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Tiffany proceeded to make a series of designs based on the pond lily which he displayed to much acclaim in the 1902 Turin Prima Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna.

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  • Product Details
  • Curator's Notes

Item #: T-21399
Artist: Tiffany Studios New York
Country: United States
Circa: 1905
Materials: Patinated Bronze
Signed: blotter ends, inkstand, calendar frame, pen tray and rocker blotter each impressed "Tiffany Studios New York"; the inkstand, pen tray, rocker blotter and blotter ends further impressed with firm's respective model numbers
Literature: Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray and Margaret K. Hofer, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls, exh. cat., New York Historical Society, New York, 2007, p. 80 William R. Holland, Tiffany Desk Sets, Atglen, PA, 2008, pp. 224-226 (for the present lot illustrated) Alastair Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2019, p. 533, nos. 2133-2136

The financial success of Tiffany Studios was dependent on the sale of luxury goods such as this set at Christmas and Easter. These gifts were both functional and beautiful, fulfilling William Morris’ dictum, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Yet, as stunning as this desk set may be, only three extant sets are known. Two, including this one, have a rich brown and green patina, and the third has a gold doré finish. The rarity of the Pond Lily set stands in stark contrast to the boundless number of other, more popular desk sets such as Pine Needles (Etched Metal), Grapevine, Zodiac, and Bookmark.