Photos courtesy Ayer Mansion
A preservation organization that is renovating a historic house in Boston’s Back Bay is asking collectors, dealers, curators, and others to be on the lookout for a vase by Louis Comfort Tiffany that has gone missing. It was one of three that Tiffany designed for Frederick Ayer and Ellen Banning Ayer at 395 Commonwealth Avenue. Completed in 1902, it is Tiffany’s only surviving intact residential commission.
One of the vases in its niche at Ayer Mansion, electric-lighted from below.
Currently, there are two Tiffany Favrile vases in the house’s front hall. An inventory for the house, prepared in 1903, clearly lists three. And while that third one has been missing for decades, Jeanne M. Pelletier, preservation advisor for the Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, has reason to believe that it will soon be changing hands again, at auction. That’s why she is getting the word out about it.
“We have heard through the grapevine that the vase is now the base of a lamp, and that it is in the estate of a Tiffany collector from the Midwest who died last year. We have also heard that part of his collection, including the vase, will be going up for auction. However, we have been unable, through our contacts, to find out where the auction might be.”
The same vase, without the lighting effect.
Pelletier added, “It’s our understanding that the vase now has a Tiffany shade on it as well, and we have no interest in that portion of the ‘redesign’—only the vase.”
The mansion has been under restoration for 20 years. The vase has been missing all that time or longer. “There is some lore that a previous owner took it with him when he sold the house in 1964,” Pelletier said. “At any rate, it is no longer here. We would, of course, like it to be returned to its original home.”
The inventory says: “3 Tiffany Favrile glass jars. 16" high, 8" diameter of centre; (over electric bulbs in niches above wainscoting). Shaded bronze, green, and gold coloring; open bottoms. Perfect condition.”
The bottoms are open, and the light from the electric bulbs shines up through the tops. They are, in fact, exquisite vase-lighting fixtures. Two are in the niches that Tiffany designed for them. A ceramic statue is holding the place of the third one.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Pelletier at <[email protected]> or (617) 859-7193.
Originally published in the March 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest