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Author Topic:   Just when you thought there were no more surprises...
Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 02-28-2010 09:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This little baby turned up on last week's Road Show--one of the few really great objects that have appeared in Madison, WI.

The appraiser drew the story out beautifully, but I knew all along that it was an 1893 World's Columbian Exposition object from Tiffany--the sheer chutzpah of the design and outlandish color scheme--which was no doubt meant to look Persian or something...but the curator within me coveted it mightily. I also knew that within minutes of the piece airing (which means, long before it actually hit the airwaves) it would be sold--and indeed it has gone to a private collector...
And what do we all think about this piece? The 1893 fair is one gap in Newark's holdings--but I do have the steel touchmark that Tiffany's used for the 1893 fair in Newark's collection...

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Posts: 4121
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 02-28-2010 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tiffany filtered through Charles Addams -- perfectly dreadful, but commanding attention like the two-headed calf in the natural history dsplay.

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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11520
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 02-28-2010 11:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Watch the excerpt click here

Appraised By:
Ronald Bourgeault
Owner, Appraiser and Chief Auctioneer
Northeast Auctions
Appraisal Transcript:

GUEST: I got it from my uncle's aunt. She lived in Chicago. Okay. That's about all I know about it.

APPRAISER: Well, you know a little more. You know who made it.

GUEST: Yeah, it's on the bottom.

APPRAISER: Yes, and what does it say?

GUEST: Tiffany and Company.

APPRAISER: And what else does it say?

GUEST: Sterling silver, and the letter "T" and some numbers.

APPRAISER: Well, the letter "T" means it was made between 1891 and 1902, when Charles Tiffany was in charge of the production. The first number is the pattern number, and the second is the order number for the piece. It's very unusual, and not only is it sterling, but it has enamel on it-- beautiful enamel decoration. It's almost over the top, I have to admit that. And then all of the stones are actually American stones. They're American turquoise...

GUEST: Oh, really?

APPRAISER:...and various other stones, plus the enameling. And, as I said, with the sterling mark. Now, you have no idea where she got it?

GUEST: None.

APPRAISER: But she lived in Chicago.

GUEST: She lived in Chicago, right downtown, near the Midway Plaisance, which was part of the site of the Columbian Exposition. So I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not, but...

APPRAISER: Now, when was the Columbian Exposition?

GUEST: 1893, I believe?

APPRAISER: Okay. Well, I think you've got a winner here. This was made for the Columbian Exposition.

GUEST: It was?! Really?


GUEST: Oh, my God.

APPRAISER: By Tiffany. And it is unique. When you first came in, what did you tell me when you took it out of the bag?

GUEST: I said, "It's ugly."

APPRIASER: Well, and I agreed with you. But boy, the more I looked at it, the... I couldn't believe how wonderful it was, with all of these stones, and then to check the mark and everything. It is absolutely spectacular. And when you turn it over, down here at the very bottom of the mark...

GUEST: Yeah?

APPRAISER: There is a globe with a "T" superimposed on it.

GUEST: I saw the "T."

APPRAISER: And a little tiny line in the middle that says "Tiffany." And that was the exhibition signature...

GUEST: Oh, my God.

APPRAISER:...for pieces in the World's Fair. So your great-aunt must have had some very special friend that gave it to her...


APPRISER:...or one of her husbands, maybe? (laughing):

GUEST: Maybe.

APPRAISER: Okay, well... There were several, yes?

GUEST: There were several.

APPRAISER: Well, she must have done something right to get this piece. Now, do you have any idea what it's worth?

GUEST: Well, just because it's sterling, maybe $15,000?

APPRAISER: Well, if it was sterling, that's what it would be worth. But with all the enameling and everything else, an auction value on this piece in today's market, which is a little conservative, I would say $50,000 to $100,000.

GUEST: Oh, my... You're kidding.

APPRASISER: No. Do you still think it's ugly? (laughing):

GUEST: Yes. Excuse me? How much?

APPRAISER: $50,000 to $100,000. (laughing and crying):

GUEST: Okay. But it's still ugly. (both laughing)

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 02-28-2010 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I keep saying that, as a curator, I've suspended all sense of taste...but I admit that this piece challenges me. It is awesome, as piece of eclectic design, but I can't decide if it's really ugly, or just overwrought.

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Posts: 252
Registered: May 2006

iconnumber posted 02-28-2010 03:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe one should not even try to judge - just like history try to see it with "the eyes of the time" - it is for sure the non plus ultra then.

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Posts: 966
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 02-28-2010 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would view this as a lapse in taste for Tiffany, especially when compared to Paulding Farnham's work. So grotesque it's actually sort of interesting.

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Posts: 1970
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 03-01-2010 09:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It makes me shriek and cover my eyes. It looks like a cross between a centipede and an Easter egg.

I hope the private collector enjoys it.

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Posts: 493
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 03-04-2010 03:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This piece was apparently designed for the Exposition by John T. Curran(1859-1933), in what was called the "Saracenic" style. An identical model with variant decoration appears in John Loring's Magnificent Tiffany Silver(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001), p. 192. The one in the book is considerably more restrained than this example.

[This message has been edited by blakstone (edited 03-04-2010).]

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Posts: 850
Registered: Jun 2004

iconnumber posted 03-07-2010 11:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had an interesting time with a Tiffany Columbian Exposition piece a few years ago. I was asked to look at it before it was bought and the condition was fine except it was jet black, it needed very little work, just a good cleaning.

The enamel was of flowers and was done the same way as this piece, the enamel very thick and sort of rough looking. I know from learning enameling years ago (and never doing it since) how difficult this technique is. So when I first saw it I was torn between the aesthetic and technical, both of which were not helped by the tarnish. After it was polished it transformed into a very subtle thing of beauty.

I would not judge this piece by images and would love to handle it. I am with Vathek and am enjoying its exuberance and difference. After all the really boring peices of silver seen most of the time, this is fun.

Also, now when I go to flea markets, I am looking for that special Columbian Exposition mark which, when I first saw it, was a complete mystery to me (OK I can dream can’t I?).

(The next day) I was too tired last night , just back from a trip, and I have watched the Road show clip... It only confirms what I felt initially - That this is in the top10% of difficulty to make - both for size and complexity!

[This message has been edited by agleopar (edited 03-08-2010).]

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Posts: 1507
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 03-08-2010 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is odd, but we once had a Paris exposition piece come in to a charity appraisal fair, likewise all black and stored in a ziploc bag. It still amazes me how important pieces of decorative art can literally "lose their luster" over the years, usually through family descent where the story is lost and the later generations don't know or care. Silver is especially vulnerable, since it usually spends its life stored away anyway and when it does surface it is black and crummy looking. Like it or not, I'm glad this piece didn't end up at the local scrap merchant, with all the other dicrarded family treasures.


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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 03-10-2010 06:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The New Jersey State Museum, I am told, owns a very similar piece to this--but in an all-enamel decoration scheme with less, uh, strenuous colors. This was the one illustrated in John Loring's book.

[This message has been edited by Ulysses Dietz (edited 03-10-2010).]

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June Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 1326
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 04-13-2010 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The less exhuberent version of the vase mentioned by blakstone and Ulysses is also pictured in the catalog that accompanied the Tiffany at the World's Columbian Exposition exhibit at the Flagler Museum in 2006.

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