Desk accessories became increasingly popular around the time that Tiffany Studios opened a metal foundry in 1897. This coincided with a flourishing culture of letter writing, in which the elegance of one’s handwriting and the objects used in its practice became important indicators of character and social status. Inkstands could be part of a matching suite that included blotters, picture frames, and letter trays.
This glass and bronze inkstand was inspired by the poppy flower. It was designed in 1901 by Clara Driscoll, manager of the women’s glass cutting department at Tiffany Studios. She created three sections of colorful inlaid glass tesserae with a bronze framework of spiky poppy leaves. A pressed inkwell insert and cap form the petals and pistil, and the bright orange and dark blue Favrile glass closely approximates the coloring of the actual flower.
Under the artistic direction of Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, 1848–1933), Driscoll skillfully balanced administrative duties with creative product design. Her influence included the successful development of leaded glass lampshades and bases, such as the Corning Museum’s “Dragonflies and Water Flowers” reading lamp (2013.4.4), and of small household and office accessories that could be produced at lower prices for a wider range of consumers. Known as “fancy goods,” these metal objects were made primarily of bronze or brass, and they were embellished with gold plating or glass, or left undecorated.
This inkstand, which was more expensive than undecorated metal inkstands, retailed for $30 in 1906 (about $800 today).
Marked: “TIFFANY STUDIOS / NEW YORK / 867.”
For more information on Clara Driscoll, see Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray, and Margaret K. Hofer, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls, New York: New-York Historical Society in association with D. Giles Ltd., 2007. For more about Tiffany desk sets, see Brittany A. Spencer-King, “Molded in Bronze: The Desk Sets of Louis C. Tiffany, 1897–1929,” master’s thesis, George Mason University, 2013; and Martin Eidelberg, “Tiffany’s Lamps and ‘Fancy Goods,’” in Tiffany Glass: A Passion for Colour, ed. Rosalind M. Pepall, Montreal: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2009, pp. 164–199.