Here’s a colourful lady who has been the prima donna of velvet-upholstered sitting rooms since 1885: the Tiffany lamp. She was invented by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), a painter, designer and decorator who was the son of Charles Tiffany: yup, none other than the founder of the famous jewellery shop where certain young ladies like to have breakfast.
According to The New York Times, in 1913 Louis indulged his passion for ancient Egypt by hosting a costumed party at his Manhattan home: it came to be known as his “Egyptian Fête”. But although he produced lamps, he didn’t like being in the limelight himself; on the contrary, he preferred to remain unnoticed in the shadows, leaving his creations to get all the attention. Indeed, Louis was so shy that he asked his friend Gustav Mahler if he could to attend rehearsals of the New York Philharmonic in concealment so that he wouldn’t have to speak to anybody. Now let’s image him as a 17-year-old boy packed off to Europe to complete his training. In those days, Paris was the city of the Impressionist painters. But also in the French capital Louis liked to shy away from attention and began to think instead about the relationship between colourists and painters: “Colorists are men apart” he once wrote. “But always they are antagonized and decried by artists and critics who lack the gift and see nature in outline rather than in color.”
So off Tiffany went to look for his colours in Africa and, later, even further afield from Europe. Thanks to his stained glass lamps, he entered in shining glory the world of Art Nouveau which, thanks to him, also spread to America. At that point Louis may have taken his leave of the Europeans saying something like: “Strangers have the best candy”.