Iridescent Favrile glass Cypriote vase with coarse, bubble-textured surface; inverted bulb shape; circular opening at top.
Louis C. Tiffany (1848–1933) was an artistic genius whose innovations spanned many media. He pursued blown glass with particular creative gusto, pushing both technical and aesthetic boundaries in glassmaking. Tiffany began working with flat glass in the 1870s but did not start producing blown vessels until 1893, when he commenced manufacturing his own glass. His Corona, Queens, factory, directed by English glassmaker Arthur John Nash (1849–1934), employed many skilled workmen in the production of blown and flat glass, as well as bronze and pottery.
In 1893, Tiffany’s factory produced its first glass vessels, many of them in organic, asymmetrical shapes and featuring ornamental feathering. He coined the term “Favrile” as a trademark for the glass, believing it connoted handmade quality. By 1894, Tiffany’s glassmakers had discovered how to achieve iridescence, the lustrous effect that became a hallmark of his blown vessels.
This vase is an example of “Cypriote” glass, so named for the glass excavated by Luigi Palma di Cesnola in Cyprus during the 1860s and later purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tiffany’s Cypriote glass is characterized by its bubbly, coarse surface, which resembled the pitted texture of buried Roman glass corroded by moisture and minerals. The effect was achieved by rolling a gather of glass over a marver covered with pulverized bits of the same glass, reheating it, and then blowing the vessel into its final form. Tiffany’s glassmakers were producing Cypriote vessels by late 1896.
The etched mark on the underside of this vase, “K250,” suggests a date of around 1899. A related Cypriote vase marked “K248” is in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin. It was purchased from Paris dealer Siegfried Bing, who was instrumental in promoting Tiffany’s glass and the Art Nouveau style in Europe.