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What American glass company produced more art glass than any other?

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The Legend of Bohemian Glass:
A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe

by Antonin Langhamer

This book offers a comprehensive overview of the history and traditions of Czech art glass. Divided into 12 chapters, the book details the evolution and development of glassmaking as an art form from the earliest times, when the first glass beads appeared in central Europe, to the present.
                                   
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LATEST COLLECTIBLES ARTICLE__________________________

Dressing Up the Glass Vase
by Bob Brooke

 


When anyone mentions Bohemian art glass, many people immediately imagine the delicate forms of art glass prevalent in the latter half of the 19th century. But glassmaking in Bohemia goes back much further to the 16th century.

The Napoleonic Wars brought disaster to the glasshouses of Bohemia. For nearly 20 years, the markets in Spain and the Americas had been closed and trade with Britain, the Low Countries and Holland disrupted. But the 18th-century supremacy of Bohemian cut and engraved glass had been threatened even before the French Revolution, as the fashion for English and Irish lead glass—simple, facet-cut, lustrous and relatively cheap – became popular throughout Europe.

By the time Napoleon had been exiled to St. Helena in 1815, the glasshouses faced an uncertain future. The British had undercut their traditional markets and the decorative colored and opaque glass of Clichy, St. Louis and Voneche (later Baccarat) had established the fashionable French Empire style.

Bohemian glassworkers in the 19th century developed an entirely new style and composition of glass and recaptured their former supremacy.

By the 1860s, the Industrial Revolution had created new wealth and brought railroads to Bohemia. A growing middle class demanded luxury in the decorative arts, including glass. While aristocrats still purchased ornate chandeliers and tableware, they increasingly desired decorativve glass objects for display and use.

Considering their enormous production in the 19th century, Bohemian glasshouses remained behind in adopting modern technology. As late as 1870, a dozen of the 169 large furnaces burned coal. Families strictly controlled by the families who owned them.

Glassblowers focused on simple, shapes, producing cylindrical tumblers or decanters, bowls and vases very similar to English patterns of the time. Even the English; style of facet and diamond cutting was follow closely. Later, in the Biedermeier period, classic design was a trumpet-shaped beaker was a heavy foot, often facet-cut, called the Rau Becher. The diversity of forms became so great adefy classification, and almost every object's domestic use, from snuffboxes to candlesticks, made in decorative glass.

Glassmakers used portraits in the form of medallion silhouettes or painted parchment as decoration

Engraver Dominik Riemann, whose shop engraved ornamental glass, was one of the first artists to cater to the tourist trade. He spent each season at the fashionable spa of Franzensbad, undertaking commissions and working on special orders, featuring exquisite portraits and landscapes.

The invention of painting in transparent enamel colors opened up the souvenir market. Immediately it became possible to paint in far greater detail and with more sensitivity than earlier artists using opaque colors. From about 1810 a series of major artists began decorating glass in wild and romantic mountain scenes, ruined castles, and gothic fantasies which appealed to the sense of awe, while genre scenes of children and animals satisfied the sentimental. Samuel Mohn, who settled in Dresden in 1809, and his son Gottlieb, who worked chiefly in Vienna achieved the highest standards of paintings. The father painted simple naturalistic landscapes, views of cities and churches, and the son indulged in romantic pastorals and sentimental allegories.

Followers of the Mohns worked in Berlin and Bohemia as well as Vienna, and in all the spas and watering-places—such as Carlsbad, Marienbad, Views of Baden appear on tumblers and goblets with increasing regularity after 1815. Anton Kothgasser of Vienna carried the fashion to its peak. His portraits, genre scenes, moonlit views and illustrations of proverbs, usually set in elegant gilt borders, are technically superb, works of art. There was no lack of imitators, and the fashion remained vital until the 1850s although the standard, especially on glasses designed export, had begun to decline.

Glass factories produced great quantities of engraved and cut clear glass, mostly for the export market, throughout the 19th century. These reflected common tastes and was usually heavy and repetitive. In Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the tables of wealthy city-dwellers and country farmers would have been decorated with cheap machine-made pressed glass or clear and colored glass with crude enamel designs. These pieces, with sprays of flowers, birds, or more modern emblems, such as railway trains, hark back to the 17th century.

Innovation was for the wealthy new patrons whose taste dictated the use of new colors and materials. Bohemia's response to this demand the 1830s and '40s was the most colorful in its long history of glassmaking.

Just as white opaque glass, called rnilchglas, had been made to imitate porcelain, 19th-century inventors strove to match the black basalts of Wedgwood. In 1822 Count George Buqu succeeded in creating a dense black glass which he called hyalith, and also a red glaze curiously like sealing wax. Enhanced with form designs of Chinoiserie scenes in fire-gilding, Its effect on his tall vases and tea- or coffee-sets was monumental. Later he developed what he called lithyalin, a marbled glass of astonishing variety, like jasper or agate whose colors ranged from brick red streaked with green to deep blue and purples. These,, too, he gilded and painted, sometimes with simple mottoes like `Erinnerung' (Remembrance). Bugu used Hyalith and lithyalin for vases, beakers, table-sets, scent-bottles, inkwells and candlesticks.

Egermann was a notable inventor; he discovered the gold stain, made with silver, which Kothgasser often used as a background color, and he made possible the cheap manufacture of ruby glass, by replacing the gold with copper. A wave of striking colors characterized the 1830s, as glasshouses added new substances like antimony and uraniurn. Turquoise, topaz, chrysoprase, and the shades of uranium green called Annagriin and Annagelb came from the factory of Joseph Riedel. But new color in glass was only one of many innovations bringing the finest glassware within range of the middle-class market. Stained glass (clear glass given a surface color) was widely popular and to the 18th-century purple stains were added to vivid reds, greens, yellows and sometimes a layer of gold or silver arabesques in high relief.

The most noted technique, however, was that of overlay, or cased, glass, in which glasshouses encased a vessel in opaque glass or glass of another color. Workers then cut these surfaces away in broad facets to reveal the contrasting layers beneath. The panels would be shaped and then finely gilded, painted or engraved as the designer's fancy chose. Until the 1850s, the process remained a secret in Bohemia.Decanters and sets of glasses, lusters and tall vases were for sale for high prices in London, Paris and New York until imitators caught up and repeated the technique.

The variety of decoration, even on the basic tumbler, was astounding. Bohemian supremacy lasted until the 1848 Revolution shook the whole of Europe.

Bohemian glassworks could hardly have fought off the competition from Britain and America for the entire 19th century. Cutting costs was the answer; and for every fine example of an engraved goblet or a painted overlay tumbler, glass factories sent out a dozen factory-made lifeless copies in the 1850s and '60s. Designs deteriorated and forms became heavy. The restless search for novelty produced pearl satin glass and imitations of Venetian latticinio, millefiori, and aventurine glass —yet the results weren’t inspiring. Bohemian glassmakers sent large quantities to America, and the firm of Lazarus and Rosenfeld of New York distributed what they called “Bohemian art glass ware”— lamps and vases in “Rose de Boheme” and “Green de Boheme”—cheap things from Altrohlau and Steinschonau.

The Reworking of the Classic Vase
From the 1870s to the early 1900s, Bohemian glassworkers reworked the classic vase form into swirling, organic-looking shapes like seashells, flowers, and tree trunks. Decorative vases, cups, and pitchers were popular forms, and many of the pieces have an iridescent sheen from the firing and reduction techniques used at the time.



It was the Lithyalin glass of the 1850s that paved the way for the iridescent Art Nouveau art glass. Types of "marbled" glass signaled a shift away from a study of form to an infatuation with surface treatments and techniques.

One of the manufacturers leading the art glass movement was Loetz Glass. The firm’s pieces included vases, pitchers, and bowls in the Phänomen series, which it patented in 1898. The series featured rippled or featherlike designs on the object’s surface, which glassblowers achieved by wrapping a molten piece of glass with equally hot glass threads, then pulling those threads to make waves and other designs while the materials were still malleable.

The Kralik glassworks was another well-known maker of antique Bohemian art glass. It produced mostly jars, vases, shells in the style of Loetz. Another contemporary of Loetz was Rindskopf and Sons. It produced tall vases with slender bodies and bulbous heads.

Pallme-König and Habel had its own patent for threading glass onto a vase. Their threading ranged from tight and regular lines to treatments that were almost Jackson Pollock-like, in which the thick threads of glass appear to be the only things that are keeping the deformed shapes underlying them from collapsing and falling apart.

Of all the Bohemian glassmakers of the 19th century, Ludwig Moser, known as the “King of Glass,” is probably the most famous. His company, Ludwig Moser & Sons of Karlsbad became known for its heavy and intricate gold enameling on its cut, gilded, and acid-etched wares. But Moser wasn’t the only glass decorator to adorn blanks with this type of decoration. Glassmakers copied each other in an effort to get their share of the market. Like many Bohemian firms, Moser sold blanks to other companies for decoration and decorated blanks bought from other companies, such as Loetz, Meyr's Neffe and Harrachov, so it can be difficult to tell if Moser indeed made a particular piece.

Beautifully made pieces of Bohemian art glass dominated the interiors of homes both in Europe and America from the last quarter of the 19th century into the first decade or two of the 20th.


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