The New York Historical Society houses one of the world's largest collections of Tiffany lamps, comprising more than 130 unique handcrafted pieces. Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (the son of Charles Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany & Co.) from the 1890s to the 1920s, these lustrous light fixtures are known for their exquisite glasswork, inspired by the delicate beauty and vibrant colors of stained glass.
According to Margaret Hofer, the society's associate curator of decorative arts, Louis Comfort Tiffany first became interested in glassmaking after studying under American painter George Inness. Taking inspiration from both centuries-old French cathedrals and the flourishing art nouveau movement of his own time, Louis sought to incorporate the jewel tones of the cathedrals' stained-glass windows into decorative pieces such as lamps. After experimenting with textures and types of glass, he developed his own coloring process.
Today, these precious works of art are highly sought after, reaching values of up to 100 times their original selling prices. Some highlights from the society's collection include one of Louis's earliest lamps: the distinctive 1890s Hurricane, whose ornate ironwork reflects Middle Eastern influences, as well as the exquisite Wisteria, a lamp made from thousands of individual glass pieces assembled to resemble a sinuous tree with free-form blossoms.