Beginning in 1893, with the establishment of a glass furnace at Corona, Queens, New York, Tiffany Studio’s began producing three-dimensional forms in glass in great variety and number. While preparing the chapel for view at the Columbian Exposition Tiffany desired to create blown glass forms to his own standards. Tiffany’s earlier visit to the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 exposed him to the works of Emile Gallé. The many techniques and Gallé’s use of nature as the primary decorative theme greatly influenced Tiffany as he began his experiments in glass. Tiffany formed a corporation with Arthur J. Nash, a former manager of a glasshouse in Stourbridge England, called Tiffany Furnaces. Louis C. Tiffany was the designer, Nash the plant manager, and Tom Manderson was the first master blower.
The advances Tiffany had previously made to benefit his stained glass window making were applied to blown glass forms. After manipulating varicolored glass, the final substance was then fumed with metallic oxides to create rainbow iridescence in glass whose surfaces, hues, and forms were completely new. Tiffany first named this new glass “Fabrile” after the Old English word “febrile” which meant hand-wrought. Tiffany wanted a name that sounded elegant and also signified the hand-blown quality and uniqueness inherent in every piece of glass produced by Tiffany Furnaces. In 1894 Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company registered the “Favrile” trademark. Though the name connotes a specific form of glass, it was used by the company as a guarantee to customers that the glass was of the finest quality.
Production at Tiffany Studios was classified by Dr. Robert Koch into three periods: the early period, 1892 to 1900 which was largely experimental, the peak period, between 1900 and 1918 in which the greatest quantity of items were produced, and the late or Nash period, from 1918 to 1928. At the height of its production, Tiffany furnaces produced almost 30,000 items of blown glass each year. The public demand for art glass began as glass vessels from Ancient Rome, the Islamic world, Venice, and Bohemia were being displayed with increasing frequency, fueling the public’s desire for new and exceptional pieces of ornamental glass.
Popular shapes pioneered at Tiffany Studios included the flower form, pyroform, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit vases. The “Morning Glory” or “Paperweight” technique was a novel effect created by Tiffany Studios in which up to five types of glass were used in multiple firings that could react unpredictably during cooling, making a piece with the proper effect even more special and rare. Another rare technique for decorating glass pioneered by Tiffany was “peacock glass.” Opaque striated “feathers” were created on an iridescent background, with translucent highly pigmented glass “eyes of the feather” were inserted into the piece while it was at white heat. Tiffany Studios also produced a limited number of pieces using the “cameo glass” technique. Common in the glass houses of Europe, Tiffany was reluctant to embrace the style, perhaps because he feared being viewed as an imitator. Those pieces that were created received full interior decoration while still in a molten state, often sculpting superb flowers that seem to float within the glass. “Lava glass” a style possibly inspired by Tiffany’s visit to Mount Etna in Sicily during one of its eruptions is another technique pioneered by Tiffany with a high attrition rate. Different metallic oxides mixed within the glass, creating iridescent “lava-flow” effects and black voids similar to the pitted surface of volcanic rock. The last major technique publicized by the firm was “Aquamarine glass” introduced around 1911. In this technique small designs of aquatic plants and marine life were made of glass and were pulled into the form and encased in clear or tinted glass, resulting in the effect of looking into a fishbowl or pond.
According to Dr. Robert Koch, Tiffany glass was numbered and registered for retail sale in the following way, “During the first years of production, the numbers were in sequence from 1 to9999, with the letter X indicating “experimental.” The, instead of going to five numbers, the prefix A was used. Hence, the ten thousandth piece was registered and marked as A1, and thereafter on through the alphabet.” By 1906, the alphabet being used entirely, it was necessary to switch to a suffix, beginning again with 1A. Dr. Koch stresses that this system should be used with caution, and that the explanation was published in Antiques December 1926 in the Question & Answers section from a letter by Tiffany Studios providing the information.
During the 1920’s Tiffany Studios art glass changed to keep pace with current trends. Most notably the glass was produced in pastel hues with a thin iridescence, no longer the strong golds, blues, and dark greens of the previous era. In 1931 Tiffany Furnaces was closed permanently and glass production ceased.
A very rare example of a “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” vase, few of this form were made in the deep blue color with gold and purple highlights. This style was a form of “flowerform,” because of the long slender necks connecting a larger top and bottom, these vases are extremely fragile. This particular example has two hairline cracks that are nearly invisible to the eye but can be felt on the surface. This is the first blue “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” Macklowe Gallery has ever had for sale.
This vase was created using the “Lava glass” technique pioneered by Tiffany Furnaces. The vase features an organic design simulating lava-flow over blue basaltic rock. A costly effect to create, due to the internal fissures many pieces suffered from during cooling, this technique was highly prized and valuable. A similar example is owned by the Chrysler Art Museum.