Barbra Streisand’s rare Tiffany cobweb lamp was featured on the cover of her Christie’s auction book in 1994. “The Barbra Streisand Collection Of 20th Century Decorative And Fine Arts Part I And II” took place on March 3 & 4th, 1994, in NYC. Sales from this auction totaled $6.2 million, exceeding the $4.5 million estimates.
One of the auction’s most valued objects was this Tiffany cobweb lamp, which Barbra found in 1979 for $55,000 in the basement of one of her favorite Manhattan vintage shops; Lillian Nassau. “I thought it was kind of ugly-great”, she stated. “There was one coming up for sale at Christie’s auction in three weeks, so I had to decide on what to do-wait for the auction or buy hers. So I took the chance and bought Lilian’s for $55,000. Three weeks later the one at Christie’s went for nearly $150,000. I was thrilled. Just a year later, Christie’s sold another cobweb lamp for nearly $400,000 and I was even MORE thrilled.” Barbra’s lamp ended up selling for $717, 500.00.
Prior to these auctions, Barbra had showcased much of her art deco collection at her 24 acre Malibu ranch, which took 5 years to decorate. “By the time I finished”, she said, “I was sick of art deco.” Eventually, in 1993 Barbra would donate the land and the five buildings on the $15 million dollar property to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory. The Peach House, which was the most famous structure on this estate was sadly lost in the 2018 Woosley fire.
Cobweb lamps are one of the most rare Tiffany lamp creations, and fewer than ten are known to exist today. The large size, complex form, octagonal shade, and mosaic of glass tiles made this model among the most expensive lamps created by Tiffany. These ornate pieces were selling for $500 in 1906, then the price of new Ford automobile.
Clara Wolcott Driscoll was one of Tiffany’s chief designers and headed a group of female designers, glass selectors and cutters known as “the Tiffany girls”. She is responsible for designing the astonishingly detailed cobweb lamp in 1902. Initially made with it’s based holding lamp fuel, the lamp was modified some years later for electricity. Barbra’s lamp was an electric version.
The lampshade is composed of flowers along with eight spider web medallions, each sightly differing from each other. Supported by bronze tree branches, these form a canopy over the streamlined mosaic base, which holds the lamp’s fuel. This base is covered in clusters of white narcissus in full bloom. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) as well as many other nineteenth-century artists were said to have been inspired by Japanese artists use of insects, which is reflected in this piece.
Today, these lamps remain one of Tiffany’s most collectable pieces.