Above: Photo by David Schlegel
Tiffany or Tiphony? The Art of Connoisseurship
50 Lamps: 33 Original, 17 Convincing Forgeries.
Can you spot the difference?
Picture a Tiffany lamp. Do you see a lampshade made of hundreds of small pieces of colorful glass? This iconic style was created and popularized between 1900 and 1925 by the talented artisans at Louis C. Tiffany’s famed Tiffany Studios in New York City.
Today, lamps in this style proliferate—in museums, gift shops, home goods stores, hotels, bars, and restaurants. But many are not authentic Tiffany lamps. Some are reproductions that attempt to mimic the beauty of Tiffany’s popular style; others are forgeries made to deceive and profit from the high market values of a true Tiffany.
A forgery—called a Ti-phony—can be so well executed it is difficult to distinguish it from an authentic Tiffany lamp. But if you look closely, there are always clues that help to identify a fake. Subtle differences in glass types, color selection, design patterns, and construction materials and techniques set Tiffany lamps apart from the rest. The art of connoisseurship, or building the skills to discern an authentic object from a forgery, requires expertise gained over decades of looking.
Outstanding examples of real Tiffany lamps, a model illustrating the labor-intensive process of making a leaded-glass lampshade, and a dazzling assortment of flat glass from The Neustadt’s one-of-a-kind Tiffany Glass Archive showcase the diversity of designs, shapes, styles, and color palettes in Tiffany’s lighting fixtures. Visitors are encouraged to actively participate by examining and comparing the lamps on display. Empowered with newfound knowledge, visitors can test their observation skills at the end of the exhibition and try to answer the question: Tiffany or Tiphony?