Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)

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Lot 25W
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists
Important Sofa
circa 1879
for the salon of Kemp House, New York
holly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholstery
height 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)

Sold for US$ 225,075 inc. premium
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists
Important Sofa
circa 1879
for the salon of Kemp House, New York
holly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholstery
height 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)

Footnotes

  • George Kemp, a wealthy pharmaceuticals manufacturer, hired Louis C. Tiffany to decorate the entrance hall, dining room, library and salon of his mansion at 720 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of 5th Avenue and 56th street in New York. Completed in the Spring of 1881, the lavish Kemp salon was one of the earliest and most important of the interiors Louis C. Tiffany designed. The sumptuous effect of the interior formed the template for several commissions created by the "Associated Artists", the collective of artists including Candace Wheeler, Lockwood de Forest, and Samuel Coleman founded by Tiffany and in partnership in various iterations from 1879-1883.

    An assimilation of Middle Eastern styles, the room included hanging mosque lanterns, Damascus tiles, and Oriental carpets, Moorish style tracery and cut velvet on the walls, and embroidered velvet portieres and curtains. Tiffany's admiration of Middle Eastern design was no doubt ignited during his tours through Spain, Morocco and Egypt with painter Robert Swain Gifford in 1870-71.

    By the end of 1879 or early 1880, Tiffany headed three separate businesses, Tiffany and Wheeler (specializing in embroideries); Tiffany and de Forest (decorating services) and L.C. Tiffany and Co. (furniture). It is often understood that by the middle of June 1881 these had merged into a single entity, Louis C. Tiffany & Co., Associated Artists, however, there has been debate surrounding exactly which artist or designer was formerly included in which company, and at what time. For the Kemp commission, it is most likely that Candace Wheeler oversaw the creation of the textile effects and needlework, and that the mosque lamps, carpets, and tiles were bought from Lockwood de Forest who acquired them on his trip to the Middle East in 1875-76.

    The sofa for the Kemp salon ranks amongst Louis C. Tiffany's most important and progressive furniture designs. The bold rectilinear outline and simple form evoke early oak benches and settles, the low seat and high back recall Ottoman seating arrangements, and the regular geometric hexagonal inlay echoes Middle Eastern tile shapes and decorative patterns. Taken as a whole the sofa appears distinctly modern.

    Constructed in white holly as part of the overall scheme for the salon, the sofa provided asymmetrical balance to the fire surround it was placed beside, and the hexagonal motif of the inlay is repeated elsewhere in the room, as is the iridescent nature of the mother of pearl, for example in the ceiling, which overall created a very pleasing effect. As a contemporary noted:

    "Wherever he stands the diverse beauties of this shimmering expanse attract his eye and fascinate his fancy, and, if he has the good fortune to be present about midday, between the hours of eleven and two when the opalescent glass of the magnificent window is illuminated by the sunshine and is reflected not only by the ceiling but by the large mirror on the opposite side of the room, the diversified splendor is beautiful beyond description".

    The choice of white holly, for the furniture as well as interior moldings, columns, and the floor, contributed to an overall impression of shimmering lightness and iridescence, a motif which would figure prominently throughout Tiffany's artistic career. Around fifteen years after the creation of this sofa, Tiffany patented his 'Favrile' glass, a type of iridescent glass he used for windows, lamps and decorative objects. Thus, we see in the Kemp Sofa Tiffany's early experiments into the application of color and light into his decorative works for which he would become so famous.

    George Kemp died towards the end of 1893, and his wife Julia remained in the building until her death in 1897, after which the building was leased to Edwin Gould. In 1911 the Kemp estate leased the building to Duveen Brothers, and later that same year plans were submitted by Horace Trumbauer to replace the Kemp house with a new five-story store.

    Literature
    Oakey, Alexander F. 'A Trial Balance of Decoration', in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. LXIV, 1882 pp. 732-741 (shown in photograph)
    Peck, Amelia, et. al. Candace Wheeler, 'The Art and Enterprise of American Design', 1875-1900, New York, 2001 pp. 114-117
    G.W. Sheldon, 'Artistic Houses, Being a Series of Interior Views of a Number of the Most Beautiful and Celebrated Homes in the United States', New York, 1883 (reprinted 1971), Vol. 1 Part 1. pp. 53-54
    Meyer, Roberta A., Lockwood de Forest, 'Furnishing the Gilded Age with a Passion for India', Newark, 2008 pp. 86-97
    The Decorator and Furnisher Vol. 23, No. 6 (Mar., 1894), pp. 209-210
Contacts
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
Louis C. Tiffany (1848- 1930) for Associated Artists Important Sofacirca 1879for the salon of Kemp House, New Yorkholly inlaid with mother of pearl, original tufted olive velvet upholsteryheight 43 1/4in (110cm); width 70in (178cm); depth 31in (79cm)
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