Dragonflies in Art Nouveau

by Mike Fredericks, Department Head

Tiffany Studios 26in dragonfly chandelier from an unreserved Texas Collection
Tiffany Studios 26” dragonfly chandelier from an unreserved Texas Collection

The Art Nouveau movement of 1890-1910 gave the world fine examples of workmanship in decorative arts and architecture, showcasing the organic flowing lines of nature. From flora and fauna to birds and insects, the finest makers of the time used these subjects to bring their creations to life. Few themes of the period are more notable than the mysterious dragonfly.

Dragonflies are admired in many cultures, often regarded as a symbol of change and self-realization. To the Chinese, they represent harmony, prosperity and good luck. To Native Americans, the ancient creatures are a symbol of purity as they were commonly found in the presence of water sources. In Japanese culture, the dragonfly is a reminder of summer and early autumn, and a symbol of strength and agility. The Samurai had great respect for the creatures, believing the dragonfly represented martial agility and victory.

Tiffany Studios 22in drop-head dragonfly lamp
Tiffany Studios 22” drop-head dragonfly lamp

At the turn of the century, the prominent European glass makers Emile Galle and Daum Freres were heavily inspired by artwork from the newly exposed Japanese culture that highlighted symbolism in nature. In America, Louis C. Tiffany’s designers also incorporated nature’s influence into their Favrile art glass and leaded glass lamps. Dragonflies were a desirable motif for all three of these icons of the period, and are still highly sought after in today’s collectible market. James D. Julia, Inc. is pleased to offer several high-quality examples of dragonfly motif from well-curated collections in our June 16th Rare Lamps, Glass and Fine Jewelry auction.