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A Stained-Glass Menagerie

The Works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Especially His Leaded-Glass Lamps, are Much Sought After by Collectors
Nicholas M. Dawes
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

(continued from page 2)

Streisand, who chose to dispose of most of her Tiffany collection and related items through Christie's in March, benefited from this upward trend and current demand. The rewards of collecting were particularly sweet with the sale of two major Tiffany lamps.A "Peony" pattern table lamp with a "turtleback" glass-tile and mosaic-inlaid bronze base, acquired from Nassau for $45,000 in the 1970s, sold for a whopping $345,000.

Even more impressive was a leaded-glass, mosaic and bronze "Cobweb" table lamp. The extreme rarity of this model, coupled with the celebrity provenance and deluge of publicity drew a final bid of $747,500. Streisand purchased the lamp, which she considers "kind of ugly-great," from Nassau for $55,000 in 1979.

Today's Tiffany collectors, many of whom appeared to be present at the Streisand auction, are often high-profile individuals enjoying new wealth. In fact, Streisand is far from being the only Tiffany enthusiast in the entertainment industry."Lamps have immediate appeal. They are very pretty, and you can turn them on and off," according to Duncan. But he notes that many collectors "flirt" with Tiffany and do not make a long-term commitment to their collections, a phenomenon not without parallel in the Hollywood lifestyle.

Fakes and reproductions appear in any marketplace when the supply and demand curves begin to take opposite directions. Thus it is not surprising that the current market has been overrun with faux Tiffany. "Initially, only lamps were reproduced," says Duncan, who now finds "virtually everything Tiffany made--from bronzes to art glass and stained-glass windows--being convincingly faked."

Tiffany's innovations and extraordinary accomplishments a century ago are more easily achieved by modern craftsmen, several of whom, operating mainly in California, specialize in casting bronze candlesticks, lamp bases and other objets d'art, complete with authentic-looking Tiffany signatures, which can fool all but the trained eye.

Leaded-glass shades and windows are more widely reproduced, often not with the intent of deception. But the best of these can also fool most collectors."A lot of forgeries are sent directly abroad for sale in countries where collectors are less well informed," says Duncan, a consultant who spends a good deal of his time authenticating Tiffany.As long as people continue to take an interest in the art of Louis Comfort Tiffany, it seems Duncan's job security is assured.

Nicholas Dawes writes frequently on the antique-glass market.


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