Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dragonflies at the Art Institute draw light to the career of Tiffany's Clara Driscoll

Chai Lee of the Art Institute has sent us this picture of one of the museum's most recent acquistions, created in the New York studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany - a circa 1906 Hanging Head Dragonfly Lamp on Mosaic and Turtleback-Tile Base. The fringe of the stained glass shade is a row of dragonflies with "intricate, web-like wings and luminescent eyes made of bulbous blue-green glass."

The lamp is the work of Tiffany designer Clara Driscoll, who "by 1904 had become one of the highest paid women in the United States", earning a $10,000 annual salary at a time when a shop foreman was making $21.00 a week. This photo of Driscoll working in her studio comes from an excellent profile of her remarkable career on the New York Historical Society website.

The Dragonfly was not exactly rare - it was a huge popular hit - but the Art Institute says of its own new acquistion that "Although these objects are readily found on the market, an example of this type and quality with a distinguished provenance is extremely rare."

The lamp is on display in the Museum's Gallery 171, at the back of the first level of the Rice Building.

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