Tiffany & Co. Aesthetic Movement Iron Candlesticks Inlaid with Gold, Silver and Copper, New York City, 1878, Exhibited at the 1878 Paris International Exposition
These extraordinary candlesticks are some of the finest pieces to have come from Tiffany & Co.'s shop. Tiffany's iron work is the rarest of all their metals because of the difficulty working it with other metals.
Featuring bold swirling foliate and floral decoration of gold, copper and silver, these unique candlesticks are made in alternating sections of inlaid iron and solid sterling silver.
The iron base has inlaid gold flowers with copper accents and leafs of silver topped with gold flowers and copper stems. Above a small silver spool is an iron ball inlaid with gold honeysuckle and silver and copper foliate decoration. On this rests a wide silver disc on which rests a small iron knop with gold chevron decoration. (One knop is a replacement.) The socle is inlaid iron with gold, silver and copper floral decoration and a silver band at the top. At the top, the bobeches are silver. (And since the bobeches are removable, the French stamped them with import marks for sterling silver.)
On January 21st 1878, Charles T. Grosjean, Tiffany's great designer and shop superintendent, noted in his diary:
Picked out work for Paris Exposition Iron Candlesticks inlaid with 3 colors of gold, copper and silver. (1)
Tiffany & Co. had only just decided to exhibit at the fair and these candlesticks were some of the first pieces they chose to send. Grosjean further stated on February 12th 1878:
Rowland commences evenings to finish iron candlesticks. (2)
Rowland was one of Tiffany's lead chasers (3) and may be Howard Rowland, "Goldsmith", recorded as living at 274 Washington St., New York City in the 1880 federal census.
Exhibition masterpieces like this rarely come on the market: Tiffany's complete mastery of metalwork and silversmithing are on proud display. These candlesticks perfectly reflect their time and place - only Tiffany could have made these when they did.
Tiffany & Co.'s display at the 1878 Paris Exposition was a high-water mark of American decorative arts. The firm's mixed-metal wares and Japanese styled silver gained international attention and acclaim making Tiffany the first American firm to win a 'Grand Prize' for silver work at an international exhibition.
As The New York Times noted of their native firm's achievement:
[Tiffany's] award of a grand prize, the highest of all recompenses of goldsmiths' and silversmiths' work, showed the appreciation of foreigners for American taste and industry....A victory equal to this has never before been recorded.(4)
The great British designer Christopher Dresser wrote Tiffany after the fair, naming them the "first silversmiths of the world":
I can not refrain from expressing to you the pleasure that I have derived from the contemplation of your exhibit in the present Paris Exposition. No silversmith, that I know, has made the progress in art as applied to their industry in the last few years that you have - indeed, the rapidity of your advancement has astonished many of my art friends as well as myself. After much consideration, I cannot help thinking - you occupy the proud position of being the first silversmiths of the world, but if my saying this should in any way prevent your still exercising that energy which has done so much for you in the last few years, I should, indeed, be sorry. I cannot refrain from offering you my warm congratulations on your present success. (5)
With their extraordinary success at the 1878 Paris World's Fair, Charles Tiffany was awarded the honor of 'Chevalier' of the French Legion of Honor, Tiffany & Co. won the Grand Prize, Tiffany 'Collaborator' Edward C. Moore was awarded the Gold Medal and 'Collaborator' Dimes was awarded the Bronze medal.
These incredible candlesticks measure 7.5 inches high and 4.375 inches in diameter at the base. They are engraved underneath "TIFFANY & Co. NEW YORK", similar to other mixed-metal iron work by Tiffany from this period. Each bobeche is correctly marked with a tiny French "E.T." import mark. Underneath each base, there is an area of rubbing which may represent an erasure. With the exception of this rubbing and the previously mentioned replaced chevron knop, they are in excellent antique condition.
Charles T. Grosjean, Diary, Vol. 1, Gorham Company Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University, p. 37.
Grosjean, p. 62.
Grosjean, p. 60.
'More American Triumphs: Successful Exhibitors at the Paris Show' in The New York Times, September 15, 1878, page 5.