Unique “Viking” Exposition Vase Made by Tiffany & Company Recently Acquired for the Dallas Museum of Art Collection

The Dallas Museum of Art today announced the acquisition of a major work for its acclaimed decorative arts collection, a “Viking” Vase made for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, designed by George Paulding Farnham (1859-1927) for Tiffany & Company. This richly ornamented silver vase is decorated with semiprecious stones along with delicately colored enamels.

“We are extremely pleased to bring such an exquisite piece into our Decorative Arts and Design collection here at the Dallas Museum of Art,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “This vase serves as an important addition to the Museum’s holdings in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American silver, particularly enhancing our presentation of Tiffany & Company’s stylistic explorations of the ‘exotic’ – from a promised gift of a silver and turquoise “Zuni” bowl (1900) to the recently acquired Aztec coffee service made for William Randolph Hearst (1897).”

Created especially for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, this vase is a superb example of the Viking-themed silver designed by George Paulding Farnham for Tiffany & Company in the decade following the Columbian Exposition of 1893, where the first such works by the firm were exhibited. Echoing the ornamental features of Farnham’s other known “Viking” silver, this vase includes intertwined serpentine handles culminating in bird heads, and presents a complex engraved, chased, and etched pattern of scrolls and masks adorned with colorful enamels and semiprecious gemstones.

“This exceptionally powerful yet diminutive vase reflects the great expertise of Tiffany & Company’s designers and silversmiths in fashioning precious and highly refined objects reflective of a variety of artistic influences popular at the turn of the twentieth century – and at a level of quality easily rivaling and often surpassing the efforts of their European contemporaries,” said Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art. Other Tiffany works in the “Viking” style include a massive punchbowl (Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection) in iron and silver made for the 1893 Columbian Exposition and a coffee service in the collection of the Newark Museum, which appeared alongside this vase at the 1901 Buffalo Exposition.

Designer Paulding Farnham originally received his artistic inspiration and training from Tiffany’s lead designer, Edward C. Moore (1827-1891), chiefly identified for his richly ornamented “Saracenic” and Japonesque designs for the firm. Farnham became the chief jewelry designer for the firm after Moore died in 1891 and, in the late 1890s, Farnham was charged with the leadership of the silver hollowware department and subsequently named art director for the company. Many of his major exposition designs were intended to reflect international sources, including Asian, Egyptian, Russian, Islamic, Celtic, and Native American motifs. In keeping with the eclectic nature of nineteenth-century design, these influences were often combined with little regard to historic precedent, all in the effort to create richly ornamental works.

In 1893, Farnham was involved in the design of a significant number of presentation pieces exhibiting these various stylistic influences for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It was at this same exposition that Tiffany’s first “Viking” pieces were shown. Farnham received a gold medal for jewelry at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, the grand prize for his Native American-style silverware at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and a gold medal for silverware at the Pan-American Exposition for his jeweled and enameled “Viking” and “Saracenic” silver.

Silver at the Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art began its collection of silver in 1987 with the gift of the Hoblitzelle Collection of English and Irish silver, a collection of mostly eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century silver. In 1989, the Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund established the foundation of the Museum’s now-unparalleled collection of American silver of the nineteenth century through the purchase of several important objects from the Sam Wagstaff Collection, including Gorham’s iconic “iceberg” bowl and a Tiffany & Co. “Chrysanthemum” pitcher from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. In the 1990s, the Museum continued the development of these holdings through the acquisition of the Stephen Vaughan Collection of nineteenth-century flatware, the 1889 Belmont-Rothschild humidor by Tiffany, and the Oberod Collection of Martelé by Gorham, later adding the unique Martelé dressing table made for the Paris Exposition of 1900. In 2002, the DMA acquired the most important private collection of American twentieth-century manufactured silver: The Jewel Stern American Silver Collection.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs are its encyclopedic collections, which encompass more than 25,000 works and span 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum today welcomes more than 600,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings and dramatic and dance presentations.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

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For more information, please contact:
Dallas Museum of Art:
Jill Bernstein
JBernstein@DallasMuseumofArt.org