On the Upper West Side of New York City, just across from Central Park, you'll find one of the most dazzling displays you'll ever encounter. Tucked into the fourth floor of the spacious New York Historical Society is a unique gallery of 100 illuminated glass lamps that celebrate the designs of Louis C. Tiffany, Clara Driscoll, and the “Tiffany Girls.” The "girls" were the artisans who brought Tiffany's designs to life, creating the distinctive lamps that have beguiled the world for more than a century.
The Museum’s Tiffany Lamp collection includes multiple examples of the Dragonfly shade, a unique Dogwood floor lamp (ca. 1900–06), a Wisteria table lamp (ca. 1901), and a rare, elaborate Cobweb shade on a Narcissus mosaic base (ca. 1902), among many others.
The hidden history behind the lamps offers a fascinating look at the contributions of women in the creation of this art. Louis C. Tiffany (1848–1933) was the artistic genius behind Tiffany Studios. However, he was not the exclusive designer of its lamps, windows, and luxury objects: Clara Driscoll (1861–1944), head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department from 1892 to 1909, has recently been revealed as the designer of many of the firm’s leaded glass shades. Driscoll and her staff, self-styled the “Tiffany Girls,” labored in anonymity but were well compensated. Driscoll’s weekly salary of $35 was on par with that of Tiffany’s male designers, a reflection of his regard for her abilities. The lamps in this exhibition reflect the prodigious talent of designers and artisans who worked in anonymity to fulfill Tiffany’s aesthetic vision.
We recently took advantage of the opportunity to explore this extraordinary gallery and we assure you -- this is a not-to-be-missed Manhattan attraction!
All photos copyright 2017 by Dan Cirucci.