a tattooed tiffany silver pitcher at sotheby’s


Tiffany and Company have been counted amongst the leading names of New York’s premier luxury brands for well over 150 years.  Their partnership with contemporary designers like Paloma Piccaso, which began in 1980, has only helped to further build on a strong history and tradition of excellence in design.  Sotheby’s New York will show a number of pieces by Tiffany in their upcoming Americana Sale that illustrate the history of changing fashions and tastes in the dining rooms of America’s upper echelons.

When I first saw this water pitcher, I immediately thought of tattoos, and then it got me thinking about how this piece fits into our present sense of aesthetics.  A couple of years ago Marc Jacobs stunned the world of fashion with his Spring Collection 2011, when he invited renowned tattoo artist Scott Campbell to design not only the luxury firm’s iconic Louis Vuitton handbags, but also to adorn the runway models in tattoos.  Critics showered praise on Jacobs for the “daring styling” of his models.  That same year, Parisian silversmith Christofle came out with a silver flatware pattern called Jardin d’Eden designed by Marcel Wanders with engraved decoration over the entire surface.  It really seems that today everything that is cool, is inked to the max!



But for real daring, imagine yourself at a dinner party on Fifth Avenue in 1880 – all sparkling crystal and glimmering silver a la Downton Abby, and then suddenly your hostess whips out this incredible silver water pitcher made by Tiffany!  Wowzers, now that’s an inked piece of silver!  In the late 19th Century as the world grew ever smaller and closer knit with steamships and telegraph cables crisscrossing the globe, styles from the Far East, particularly from China, Japan and India were all the rage with fashionistas of the day.  This piece of silver is completely swept up in decoration and styling more akin to the traditions of Indian henna tattoos, than anything seen in Western history in the last 500 years!   And like dinner guests 100 years ago, my imagination takes me to a land of turbaned snake charmers and elephant processions.  A great piece of art will do that to you!

Tiffany has always been synonymous with top notch quality and you can still see that in the workmanship in this water pitcher offered at the Sotheby’s Americana Sale in New York:  the flowers and scrolls are so detailed and the pattern appears to continue seamlessly from the body, across the handle, and back again.



And while this Tiffany water pitcher may not reflect my usual modern aesthetic, it is one that fits right into a contemporary home, where just like henna tattoos make for a beautiful bride, the pitcher will amp your cool factor and enhance the beauty of the table it sits on.

richard rabel
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city

image credit: Sotheby’s New York.  Important Americana, Lot 131, A Tiffany & Co. Silver Water Pitcher, 1879.  Estimate: $6,000-8,000. Sale: 24 January 2014.   SOLD US$6250.00