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Nicholas B.A. Nicholson
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Published: 4 April 2016

Whimsy & Charm: Tiffany & Co. Circus Figures

Table decorations in silver, gold, enamels and precious stones have an illustrious history, dating back to the Renaissance, when the famous jewelers Benvenuto Cellini and Johann Melchior Dinglinger created extraordinary figural compositions to grace the tables of the courts in Italy, France, and Saxony.  In the 18th century, artists worked in enamels and in porcelain to create similar objects for Versailles, Caserta, and Schönbrunn.   These figures designed to amuse, have never lost their ability to delight - and to the present day, jewelers such as Faberge, Cartier, and Verdura have tried their hand within the genre of table ornaments.

Freeman’s is pleased to present an extraordinary collection of enameled silver table ornaments by the designer Gene Moore for the venerable firm of Tiffany & Company (Lots 233-238 in the April 19 auction of American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts).  Drawing on historical tradition, Moore nevertheless gave the genre a purely American touch of whimsy with his charming figures that recreate the festive atmosphere of a three-ring circus.  Gene Moore, who began his tenure at Tiffany by dressing the store's windows, and establishing their legendary reputation, spent nearly 40 years creating striking and sometime provocative displays, before turning his attention to design.

Elephants, jugglers, acrobats, and clowns cavort and contort – their beautifully modeled figures with painted enamel decoration.   Moore may have been inspired by the historical, but his pieces are as fresh and American as Alexander Calder’s famous wire circus. 

These beautifully-made vintage pieces will certainly go on to captivate new generations of collectors with a sense of style and a Big (Top) sense of humor.

View Lots 233 - 238 of the American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts Auction

Images: Lot 238, a group of sterling silver and enamel circus figures: monkeys and harlequins, Gene Moore (1910-1998) for Tiffany & Co., Sold for $10,400; Lot 235, four sterling silver and enamel circus figures, Gene Moore (1910-1998) for Tiffany & Co., Sold for $11,050.

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