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Tiffany and Art Glass

March 18, 2021 Archive Insight
This is the second of a series of blog posts presented in conjunction with the traveling exhibition, Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection. The exhibit, consisting of approximately 60 artifacts, is on view at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation from March 6, 2021, through April 25, 2021. All of the objects shown here are from the collections of The Henry Ford and provide background on themes in the exhibition.

Louis Comfort Tiffany’s glass is part of a larger group that scholars and collectors call Art Glass. Art Glass is generally defined as ornamental and decorative glass dating from the mid-to-late 19th century through the early 20th century. Makers of Art Glass employed newly developed technologies for producing vibrant colors and surface textures. The work of Tiffany is undoubtedly the most well-known, but the beginnings of Art Glass predate Tiffany’s glass work by nearly a decade.

Nineteenth-century Americans were obsessed with showing off their good taste and wealth to family, friends, and neighbors. Conspicuous consumption and ostentatious materialism were bedrock beliefs in Victorian society. Glass for decoration was an important part of the Victorian interior, whether one was wealthy or of modest means. Art Glass, which was less expensive than cut glass, allowed middle-class Americans an opportunity to decorate with style.

Glass vase with slightly indented sides and a diamond-patterned texture, yellow at bottom morphing to dark red at top
Amberina Vase, 1883-1890 / THF163614

Orange and yellow glass kerosene lamp
Kerosene Lamp, circa 1880 / THF167773

Scholars consider the most successful early Art Glass a product line called “Amberina,” first made by the New England Glass Company (later the Libbey Glass Company) in 1883. It was extremely popular and was widely imitated. Amberina was a relatively simple technique, known to glass makers but only exploited in the 1880s. The glass, which ranges from amber at the bottom to red at the top, is colored with a heat-sensitive gold additive. This shading results from reheating the top part of the glass before allowing it to cool.

Art Glass Goes Big: The Morgan Vase and Its Impact


Vase with round body and long, thin neck, morphing in color from yellow at the bottom through orange and red to dark red at the top
Peachblow Vase, circa 1886 / THF163612

Glass pear in shades of yellow and dark orange
Peachblow Pear Whimsey, circa 1886 /
THF163610

In 1886, an 18th-century Chinese porcelain was part of a highly publicized New York auction of the collection of socialite Mary Morgan. The vase, reputed to be the finest of its kind, sold for a record of $18,000. This unprecedented price made headlines, and soon enterprising glass and ceramic makers began to produce replicas of the vase. First known as “Morgan” vases after Mary Morgan, and later as “Peachblow,” these wares made Art Glass overwhelmingly popular with the public and highly profitable for many firms. Peachblow glass, like Amberina, ranges in colors from dark red to yellow. The most famous maker of Peachblow was J.H. Hobbs, Brockunier, and Company of Wheeling, West Virginia, whose colorations closely imitated the famous “Morgan” Vase.

Glass with gold marbled pattern, morphing in color from beige at the bottom to dark pink at the top
Agata Tumbler, 1887 / THF163607

The New England Glass Company quickly produced a line called “Agata,” whose color and surface texture closely resembled that of the famous Morgan vase. Agata was difficult to produce and was only made for several years. The New England Glass Company also produced their own version of Peachblow, which they called “Wild Rose,” and collectors call “New England Peachblow.”

Two glass vases with rounded bodies and long, thin necks, morphing in color from white at the bottom to dark pink at the top
Peachblow Vases, 1885-1888 / THF163629

Glass pear with white color on one side morphing to pink on the other
Peachblow Pear Whimsey, 1880-1890 / THF163609

Mount Washington Glass Company Emerges


Opaque glass cup-shaped vase, with color morphing from yellow at the bottom to rust at the topBurmese Vase, 1885-1895 / THF163618

Round glass container with "salt shaker" type top and raised pattern of flowers, in shades of cream and peach

Burmese Caster, 1885-1895 / THF167758

The most versatile of Art Glass producers was the Mount Washington Glass Company, located in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Although they created some of the very first Art Glass in the 1870s, they made their name with a line called “Burmese,” first patented in 1885. Like Amberina, Burmese ranges in shades from yellow at the bottom to a pale pink at the top of the piece. Unlike Amberina, it is always opaque. It was produced in both smooth and satin finishes, decorated and undecorated.


Ecru-colored vase with wide body and thin neck, decorated with floral pattern in shades of beige and brown
Crown Milano Vase, 1888-1893 / THF163595

Beige vase with intricate top and pattern of pansies and swirls
Crown Milano Vase, 1889-1891 / THF125954

With the success of the Burmese line, Mount Washington Glass Company produced even more ornate lines. They followed up Burmese with their “Crown Milano” line, which featured exotic-looking forms with ornate surface decorations. These would fit perfectly into the décor of an eclectic, late 19th-century American parlor or sitting room.

Glass vase with gold body with floral pattern and twisted white neck
Royal Flemish Vase, circa 1890 / THF162343

For me, the ultimate in Mount Washington’s ornate Art Glass was their “Royal Flemish” line, dating to the 1890s. The satin glass body is covered with floral gilt decoration and the neck features swirled decoration, culminating in a gold ring at the top.

Tiffany Jumps In


Iridescent glass container with s-shaped swirls, with color morphing from blue at the bottom to gold at the top
Favrile Toothpick Holder, circa 1895 / THF165617

Thin red glass vase with "peacock feather" pattern in muted blues
Favrile Vase, 1901-1915 / THF163631

It was in this environment that Louis Comfort Tiffany started creating Art Glass. In the early 1890s, Tiffany developed a process to imitate the iridescent shimmer of ancient, weathered glass. He patented the process in 1894, which he called “Favrile.” Unlike other Art Glass makers, Tiffany was renowned for creating elegant, yet simple, products as well as grand, large-scale objects like stained glass windows and even interior environments.

Bronze and green glass candelabrum with holders shaped like buds
Candelabrum, 1903-1919 / THF163661

Tiffany often mixed media, such as the bronze and glass candelabrum above. The sinuous and organic forms are closely related to the international Art Nouveau style, which reached its height of popularity around 1900.

GIF rotating through several images and detail shots of a bronze floor lamp with domed glass shade in mottled greens and yellows
Floor Lamp, about 1900 / THF186205, THF186208, THF186219, THF186215, THF186218

Around 1900, Tiffany started making large scale floor lamps—the one above is one of his first efforts. The fish scale–like shade is composed of his signature Favrile glass, which glows when illuminated. The bronze base features undulating spirals which rise through the lamp’s shaft. The kerosene reservoir is covered with organic S- or wave-like patterns, all of which derive from Tiffany’s Art Nouveau vocabulary.

Bronze table lamp with glass shade with pattern of green and yellow daffodils
Electric Table Lamp, 1903–1920 / THF167923

This nature-themed "Daffodil" lamp is the first design attributed to Clara Driscoll, who led the Women’s Glass Cutting Department at Tiffany Studios. Driscoll designed many now-iconic leaded-glass lamps for Tiffany. Driscoll took iridescent Art Glass a step further, echoing nature—in this case daffodils, which she studied in detail while designing this lamp.

Tiffany’s Rivals


White glass vase with stem widening out from narrow at bottom to a crenellated flower shape opening at top; inside is iridescent blue
Aurene Vase, circa 1920 / THF162344

Dark blue iridescent dish with wide rim and shallow depression in center
Aurene Plate, 1920-1929 / THF166928

By the turn of the 20th century, Tiffany’s iridescent Art Glass faced competitors. Foremost among them was the Steuben Company of Corning, New York. “Aurene” was the name that Frederick Carder used for his iridescent Art Glass. When Aurene was first produced, around 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany sued Carder for copyright infringement. The courts found in favor of Frederick Carder, and Steuben’s Aurene competed with Tiffany’s Favrile glassware. The elegant, floral-shaped vase above combines a cased white outer shell with a dark blue iridescent interior, and may be easily confused with Tiffany’s work.

Two trumpet-shaped lampshades in iridescent gold, one laying on side and one upright
Lampshades, 1905-1910, Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company / THF167597

Like Frederick Carder’s Steuben, Quezal features iridescent glass similar to Tiffany’s Favrile. Also like Steuben, Quezal was founded in 1902 in Brooklyn, New York, by a group of Tiffany’s former employees. They produced some of the most vibrant iridescent colors of any of Tiffany’s competitors.

Wide blue glass vase with straight sides and wide opening, with pattern of lines running around it
Vase, 1924-1931 / THF166015

Glass goblet with clear or slightly greenish base and stem, and pattern on body of white and red arcs changing to solid red at top
Goblet, 1924-1931 / THF167600

One of the most interesting of Tiffany’s competitors was Durand Art Glass of Vineland, New Jersey. Founded at the end of the 19th century, the company developed a distinctive style of Art Glass. By the mid-1920s, they hired workers from the Quezal Art Glass Company, which had recently disbanded. They also hired a glass artist named Emil Larson, who had worked for several Art Glass firms and brought his distinctive feather design to Durand Art Glass.

The End of Art Glass


Wine glass with clear base and long stem topped by small body of sea green with striped pattern
Favrile Wine Glass, 1918-1924 / THF167662

Clear glass plate with radial pattern of sea green and transparent color
Favrile Plate, 1918-1924 / THF163653

In 1919, Louis Comfort Tiffany retired and turned his Tiffany Studios over to Arthur Nash, who continued the firm until it closed in 1933. These pieces were designed by Nash and marketed as Favrile glass. Nash maintained the high quality of Tiffany’s output, but times and tastes had changed following World War I. Art Glass was viewed as old-fashioned and part of the Victorian past.

One Last Gasp


Glass dish with thick transparent glass base and stem, topped with wide, shallow white glass bowl with swirling yellow-green pattern
Compote, 1931-1935 / THF166002

Following the demise of Tiffany Studios, Arthur Nash was hired by the Libbey Glass Company to design their “New Era” glass line. This ill-fated line was beautiful, but was considered old-fashioned during the early 1930s. This was also the beginning of the Great Depression, so sales were minimal and the line was discontinued by 1935.


Charles Sable is Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford.

design, Louis Comfort Tiffany, home life, Henry Ford Museum, glass, by Charles Sable, art

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