Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 – 1933) is best known for his American Art Nouveau glassware and silverware. However, he was also a prolific furniture designer in the Aesthetic style. Recently, a Tiffany sofa went under the hammer in New York for $350,000 (£233,335) – twice the upper estimate, with the auction house no doubt taking a large commission.
In Lancashire, antique dining tables and Victorian dining chairs are not usually associated with the Tiffany Studios. However, these and many other furniture pieces were commissioned there – along with the iconic glass lamps and lightshades. Tiffany antique dining chairs and armchairs can be seen in American museums such as the Driehaus in Chicago, and the Metropolitan in New York.
The chances are that, as in Lancashire, those museums had to bid for them at auction, paying a high commission in the process, because when it comes to a famous name like Louis Comfort Tiffany, sellers will usually head for a high-end auctioneer rather than a dealer. However, vendors pay a heavy commission too, and those in the know will always see what a dealer is prepared to offer before calling the sale rooms.
The Tiffany sofa, which went under the hammer at Doyle of New York’s Belle Epoque sale, aroused a lot of competitive bidding, both in the sale room itself and by phone and internet. An eastern-inspired piece with dragonfly upholstery, it was originally commissioned for the music room of a Fifth Avenue mansion, demolished in the 1930s. Two antique chairs from the mansion are now in the Met – who may well have placed the winning bid.
In Lancashire, Victorian balloon backed dining chairs are unlikely to attract high bids from museums. An antique dealer, however, will always offer a fair price.
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