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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

American, est. 1837
Cigar Humidor
Sterling silver

8 5/8 x 14 3/8 x 10 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of "One Great Night in November, 1987"

Arts of North America

This high-style, Art Deco work is an outstanding example of Tiffany & Co.’s presentation silver and one of Tiffany’s last masterpieces in the genre. It was commissioned in 1925 by the business associates of Carl M. Loeb, president of the American Metal Company, Ltd., in honor of his 50th birthday.

Tiffany’s craftsmen were particularly adept at translating personal, historical, industrial, architectural, or geographic imagery onto monumental silver objects such as this cigar humidor through specialized techniques. The humidor features engravings of American Metal Company subsidiaries, workers at two of the company’s mines, and two figures on the lid: a miner chiseling ore from a rocky outcropping, and a steelworker pouring smoking, molten ore into a vessel. Images such as these glorified labor and suggested that workers were efficient, productive partners with industry.

Within a few years of this humidor’s creation, the United States was plunged into the Great Depression, which all but wiped out Tiffany’s commissions for major works of presentation silver. Tiffany & Co. remained one of America’s leading silver firms over subsequent decades, but its designs became increasingly modest and conservative, never quite matching the individuality of exuberance of the late-19th to early-20th-century period.