An Early Electrified Tiffany Lamp
The somewhat heavy forms of the first "Tiffany Lamps," designed under the direction of Louis Comfort Tiffany in the late 1890s, were necessitated by the limitations of technology at the time: the rounded bases were intended to conceal large canisters containing kerosene within a more aesthetic shroud of blown glass, pottery or patinated bronze.
By the early 1900s Tiffany's designers were conceptualizing lamps which would integrate the latest advent in technology: electricity.
Among the firm’s earliest electrified table lamps, the Pond Lily Lamp was introduced around 1902. The ingenious design both incorporates and disguises its inner workings. Unlike the bulbous forms of the bases of earlier oil lamps, the base of the Pond Lily lamp is formed by a sculptural foot of chased bronze lily pads and buds from which a series of slender bronze stems, concealing the wires which power the lamp, rise to support a series of gold iridescent Favrile Glass shades representing flowers, their rims elegantly ruffled. These delicate Favrile Glass shades shield the lightbulbs from view while diffusing the electric light to an atmospheric glow.
Even the light switch is camouflaged as a small bronze lily pad tucked amongst the leaves and buds of the lamp’s base.
The Lily Lamp earned Tiffany Studios a prize at the 1902 Prima Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna (the First International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts) in Turin, Italy. This particular World's Fair focused on decorative arts and design objects which seamlessly unified function with an original, aesthetically pleasing form. The lamp was prominently displayed on a table in the center of the exhibition space used jointly by Tiffany & Company and Tiffany Studios; two other early Tiffany lamps, including one of the first five Dragonfly Lamps designed by Clara Driscoll in the late 1890s, were also displayed installed on newel posts at the entrance to the Tiffany stand.
The Pond Lily Lamp
While today we refer to both the overall design of this line of lamps as well as these specific forms of Favrile Glass shades as "Lily," period literature distributed by Tiffany Studios in addition to surviving internal records indicate that the lamp was actually marketed by the company as the Pond Lily base with Favrile Glass globes; there is no indication that the company referred to this form of shade as the "Lily."
The notebooks of Arthur and Leslie Nash, which feature detailed descriptions and notations on titles of each type of glass produced under their supervision, list the form of the supposed "Lily" shade simply as shape #104 in the section on Favrile Glass Globes and Shades.
Tiffany Studios produced Pond Lily lamps in a number of configurations and sizes, from low "piano lamps" with three shades, to wall sconces and hanging chandeliers, and table lamps featuring anywhere from 7 to 18 Favrile Glass shades, thus appealing to a wide variety of clientele at both high and low price points.
A winning design among both critics and Tiffany’s clientele, these iconic lamps remain popular with today’s Tiffany collectors.