Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, 1848–1933)
Silver, enamel, black and pink opals, demantoid garnets
Gift of Linden Havemeyer Wise, in memory of Louisine W. Havemeyer, 2002 (2002.620)
After Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Company, died in 1902, his son Louis Tiffany was able to pursue artistic jewelry without reticence. He began working on this pursuit in 1902 to prepare himself for the St. Louis fair of 1904, where he exhibited twenty-seven pieces of jewelry. Tiffany Furnaces initially produced the jewelry, but after 1907 Tiffany & Company acquired Louis's artistic jewelry department. This hair ornament is one of the most extraordinary pieces of Tiffany's surviving jewelry, incorporating a remarkably realistic rendering of two dragonflies resting on two dandelion seedballs. Tiffany designed the hair ornament for Louisine W. Havemeyer, who, with her husband Henry Osborne Havemeyer were among Tiffany's most enlightened and devoted patrons. The hair ornament was known only from archival photographs in the collection of the Tiffany & Company Archives until Louisine's great-granddaughter brought it to the Museum's attention. The piece epitomizes his earliest jewelry designs, which were based directly on modest forms in nature, such as field flowers and wild fruit, as well as his affinity for enameling and semiprecious stones with unusual colors. The dragonflies rest on dandelion seedballs, one of which is shown partially blown away, underscoring the fragility of nature. Highly skilled artisans conveyed the transparency of the insects' wings through delicate metalwork filigree. The temporal quality is revealed in the subject: dragonflies rest in one place for mere seconds before flitting away; dandelions disperse into thousands of airborne seeds with the gentlest of breezes.