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Tiffany, Hair Ornament

Met curator Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen on transience in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Hair Ornament, c. 1904.

View this work on metmuseum.org.

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Created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Video transcript

Louis Comfort Tiffany, extraordinary artist that I’ve spent virtually my entire career studying. And yet, just a little over a decade ago, I saw this hair ornament for the first time, and nearly fainted. Tiffany in microcosm in a sense. A monumental work, yet it’s only just a little over three inches high. Embodying so much of what this artist was all about: his muse nature, and nature in its most natural state. Captures this tiny, tiny, tiny moment-- dragonfly just lands on something for an instant and then is off again--made of materials that are the embodiment of solidity. The dragonflies are gold encrusted with gems. Wonderful bulging eyes composed of these shimmering iridescent opals. And on the head little tiny red rubies. The black opals lined up on the back highlighted with these tiny, tiny green demantoid garnets, and you can almost sense the shimmering of the wings of the dragonflies. And then they’re sitting on these dandelion puffs--the most noxious weed that creeps into all of our yards, but he sees beauty. Little bits of white opal on this network that contains it; one of these dandelion puffs has actually been partially blown away. I think he looked at this with special eyes and those eyes help transform the way we look at nature. This hair ornament was made for Louisine Havemeyer, the great avant-garde collector of French modern painting. She’s quoted as saying when someone asked her, “Wouldn’t you rather have a string of pearls than a picture?” And she responded, “No. I would far rather have something made by a man, than something made by an oyster.” And I think when she did acquire a piece of jewelry for herself, she had Tiffany design for her a total and complete work of art.