Late 1800s-early 1900s
Brass Ormolu, Marble, Glass
One of the many benefits of our self-guided tours is the ability for guests to spend more time in rooms and with our objects that interest them most. As our tour path has changed, some objects that have not been easily viewed now are, including one at the back of the Williams Library. On a window sill just before you exit the house stands a clock held aloft by four red marble columns and topped with a cupid. We affectionately call this very heavy clock the “Tiffany Clock.” A red marble base supports four columns with gilt and ormolu (a gold colored alloy material that is at least 50% copper) Corinthian capitals entwined with ormolu foliage. The clock face is a white enameled dial with Arabic numbering and inscribed “TIFFANY & CO, NEW YORK.” A marble base on top of the columns supports a large, bronze cupid with “LEMIRE” marked on its base. The pendulum, made of ormolu, is a starburst. There is a maker’s mark inside the clock, “J & D”, and a Tiffany retailer’s mark and serial number.
Tiffany & Co., now known mainly for designing beautiful jewelry as well as silver household items, has a long history of designing and producing many different fine household goods, large stained glass windows and the jewelry for which they are still so well known. Charles Lewis Tiffany opened the first Tiffany & Co. store in 1837 and, in 1845, he introduced Americans to luxury goods by publishing the first direct mail catalog. In 1878, his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, opened his first interior design studio and glass foundry to create his visions—especially the stained glass Tiffany is well known for, glass that transmitted texture as well as rich color. Tiffany & Co. produced everything—jewelry, glass, lamps, vases, silver, large punch bowls, furniture, screens, leaded glass windows, chandeliers, hair ornaments, tiles, and more; basically any artistic or decorative medium. Tiffany played a large part in the Art Nouveau movement, discovered and named several luxury gemstones, and created the Great Seal of the United States, still found on the US dollar bill.
The beauty of the clock aside, one important question remains: is this clock an authentic Tiffany clock? Research has yet to yield anything similar in Tiffany & Co.’s body of work so we cannot definitively say that it is. But, the Tiffany & Co. archives does give us a little nugget of information. On their website, they state that they do not provide information on mantle clocks, meaning that there must be more mantle clocks similar to this one in existence. This information, along with the various markings on the different elements of the clock leads one to believe it is some sort of composite clock, with the clock itself made by Tiffany and the other pieces made by other manufacturers and someone joined them together to create the piece. The Tiffany connection would have appealed to the family because of the company’s international reputation for artistry. Regardless of its authenticity, this clock is a prime example of how the family created a sophisticated atmosphere inside their stylish home. When you visit the Library, look around and see what other decorative elements you can find that showcase the family’s international travel and worldliness.