Of all the producers of art glass during the final years of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, no one was more imaginative and inventive than Louis Comfort Tiffany. Contemporary critics were lavish in their praise of the shimmering spectral qualities of his Favrile glassware, which made its debut in 1893. Glass of different colors was combined while still molten; it was then blown and sometimes twisted and twirled on the gather to achieve effects suggestive of flowers, lava, and marble. Tiffany was especially admired for his iridescent glass, particularly in shades of blue and gold, the colors used in this unusually large vase.
The innovative genius of Louis Comfort Tiffany was most evident in the diversity of techniques he employed in the manipulation of glass. An amazing range of color, combined with his unique designs, inspired vessels unsurpassed in the history of American glassmaking. The Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vase is the most desired and rare flower form vase that Tiffany Studios produced. It was fabricated of peacock blue Favrile glass, consisting of tones ranging from blue to purple with an iridescent gold wash.

As America’s biggest proponent of the art nouveau movement, Tiffany embraced the idea of adapting the sinuous qualities found in nature, much in the same manner as his European contemporaries Emile Gallé and Antoni Gaudí. Like the latter, Tiffany strove to create entire environments of imagined malleable forms, yet like the former his exploration of these ideas was in glass. Tiffany’s zealous desire to be the acclaimed prophet of good taste and beauty in this country served as an impetus for his experimentation in glass, which resulted in the creation of many types of vessels.

By the late 1890s, he began to develop vases in the shape of single flowers, based on his belief that the source of all art derived from nature. These vessels initially served a utilitarian purpose but soon developed into purely decorative forms, often suggesting a single blossom along a slender stem. According to Hugh McKean, “The observer is to be attracted to it partly because of the beauty of the material, and partly because the material suggests the beauty of a flower.1” Tiffany meticulously numbered and recorded each piece produced by his workmen. This vase bears the inscription: “1495 J L.C. Tiffany-Favrile,” which, according to Tiffany’s registry of number by years, indicates that the piece was produced in 1915, when his work was most highly regarded.

Contemporary critics praised the visual qualities of Tiffany’s Favrile glassware, which debuted in 1893 and was patented the following year. The name appeared to evolve from the Old English word “fabrile,” meaning “belonging to a craftsman or his craft.”2 In making Favrile glass, Tiffany combined different colors of molten glass to achieve effects suggestive of the natural and supernatural worlds. The cooled glass may retain a molten appearance or may look more controlled, producing images reminiscent of botanical elements. For the glass to achieve its iridescent finish, the still hot but set glass was exposed to metallic vapors. James W. Tottis

Adapted from Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 81, nos. 1­–2 (2007): 44–45.

Notes

1. H. F. McKean, The “Lost” Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany (Garden City, N.Y., 1980), 162.
2. As described in a 1896 Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company brochure, see R. Koch, Louis C. Tiffany: Rebel in Glass (New York, 1964), 126.
Artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, American, 1848-1933
Manufacturer Tiffany Studios, American, 1902-1932
Title
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vase
Date 1915
Medium Favrile glass
Dimensions Overall: 20 × 11 1/8 inches (50.8 × 28.3 cm)
Overall (base): 5 inches (12.7 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, American Art General Fund and funds from Jerome M. and Patricia J. Shaw
Accession Number 1990.295
Department American Art before 1950
On View American W293, Level 2 (see map)
Inscriptions Inscribed: 1495 J L. C. Tiffany-Favrile
DuMouchelle Gallery;
1990-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
"American Decorative Arts Acquisitions 1985-2005." Bulletin of the DIA 81, 1-2 (2007): pp. 44-45, 68.