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The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, is hosting a new exhibit called Tiffany by Design, which features the incredible leaded glass lamps created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Tiffany Studios from 1900 to 1918. This exhibit runs until August 24, 2008, and for anyone who admires the exquisite Tiffany style, this is something you will definitely not want to miss!

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the famous founder of Tiffany & Co., which has sold fine jewelry and sterling silver since 1853. Though he began his career as a painter, Louis soon found that his true interests were in creating glass work. With the help of his family name, Tiffany’s glass company, later named Tiffany Studios, was quite successful in the sales of his stained glass. Unlike his predecessors, Tiffany chose to use real pieces of colored glass to create his luminous effects. Tiffany created intricate lamps of all shapes and sizes, some small enough to be used as desk lamps, and others that could be hung from ceilings. Over 40 beautiful examples of Tiffany’s work are showcased at the Frist because of the generosity of the Neustadt family, who owns this collection and shares it with museums all over the world.

Dr. Egon Neustadt and his wife Hildegard began their love affair with the Tiffany leaded glass in 1935 after they were first married and shopping for furniture in a secondhand store in New York. Both Neustadt and his wife were quite taken by a small desk lamp decorated with stained glass daffodils. Neither knew that this small lamp was a Tiffany original, as this type of lamp was going out of style, and it was priced at a mere $15. Dr. Neustadt and his wife bought a table that day instead, but neither could forget the exquisite lamp, so they went back the very next day and bartered with the shop owner. They ended up paying $12.50 for this amazing piece of Americana—even in 1935, this was an absolutely amazing deal for a Tiffany lamp!

With this purchase, the Neustadt family was immediately hooked, and this lamp began their life-long love for the style. By the time he died in 1983, Dr. Neustadt had amassed a collection of hundreds of Tiffany lamps, but he never forgot the one that began his collection. Of the two daffodil lamp showcased at the Frist, it is believed that one of them is Neustadt’s first Tiffany lamp!

Tiffany also was a pioneer in hiring women to work with his company. In 1892, he opened the Women’s Glass Cutting Department, and as was a custom at this time, he mainly hired women who were unmarried or widowed. There were six women initially in this department, and Clara Driscoll served as the first supervisor. Working in pairs, one woman would be in charge of selecting the particular piece of glass and another woman would cut each piece by hand. Driscoll is now credited with the inspiration and design of many of Tiffany’s most memorable lamps, including the line of Dragonfly lamps, Wisteria lamps, and Poppy lamps.

After a careful viewing of each exquisite lamp, test your knowledge of Tiffany craftsmanship at the end of the exhibit by seeing if you can spot a counterfeit with a real Tiffany lamp and a forgery place side by side. Will you be fooled by the reproductions? Hopefully you will discover that a Tiffany lamp always has a little something extra! / Issue 83 - September 2018
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