Introduction to Bohemian Glass

Nineteenth century Bohemian glass

Bohemian nineteenth century glass

The region known traditionally as Bohemia lies at the centre of Europe. For much of its history it was part of the Habsburg Empire and stretched from Silesia in the north, now part of Poland, to the borderlands of Northern Italy. The main glassmaking area was, and still is, what is now the Czech Republic. This has been one of the most important centres of the production of glass from the 14th century to modern times.

Originally glass was made in the Venetian style. A mixture of silicon dioxide and various stabilisers was melted in a furnace. To this was added a flux to reduce the temperature of the mix to make it workable. In Bohemia this was the ash of burnt wood, a readily available material because of extensive forestation. The glass produced was generally darker than the Venetian version but the objects tended to be Bohemian interpretations of the designs created in Murano.

At the end of the 17th century a different compound was developed that produced a much harder and brilliant glass which could be carved and engraved in a similar way to rock crystal. The intricate quality of the engraving and cutting became desirable and influential all over Europe throughout the 18th century.

During the 19th century the skill of engraving was continued and developed by artists like Friedrich Egermann, Franz Zach and Dominik Biemann but there were others, many of whose names are not remembered. However, it was the introduction of new coloured glass in the second quarter of the century, which proved to be a step into a different world. New glass works were founded, especially during the years in the middle of the century. In 1855 there were eighty-three glassworks active in Bohemia, producing three fifths of the total glass production of the entire Austrian State. In 1853, 120,000 people were employed in the manufacture and decoration of glassware.*

Bohemian luxury glass was exported mainly to England, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Bohemian glass decorators took their skills to other countries, notably England, France and Germany. In England young engravers came for short periods although a few remained and contributed to the success of English engraved glass in the second half of the century. Bohemian overlaid and stained glass influenced changes in England and France at that time. This brief catalogue is intended to present a few pieces from my current stock which give some idea of the range of designs produced during this influential 19th century period.

A red cased christening beaker

A red cased christening beaker with five cut to clear panels at the base and five engraved panels, one with the name Albert Schmidt, the others with beneficial symbols: health, luck, joy and faith. Circa 1830-40. The engraving and cutting are very finely executed.

Height: 10cms
Diameter of bowl: 7.5cms
Diameter of base: 5cms

The four panels engraved with symbols of a good life for the child. HEALTH, represented by the rod of Asclepius, the symbol of healing and medicine. LUCK, represented by an overflowing cornucopia, a sheaf of corn and a full bag. JOY, represented by a book of music and a guitar in front of abundant fruit. FAITH, represented by a communion chalice, a cross and the Bible, these symbols being used because the prevailing religion in Bohemia at the time was Christianity.

Amber bowled goblet

A goblet made about 1840. The bowl is deep amber in colour on clear glass that extends to the foot which is cut and polished into twelve petals, six clear and six amber. The whole glass is composed of six cut and polished panels which direct the eye from the amber bowl to the bi-coloured foot that creates a flower head. A masterpiece of apparent simplicity, which required great skill to produce.

Height: 16cms
Diameter of bowl: 8.5cms
Diameter of foot: 8cms

White cased beaker

Made between 1840 and 1850, this white cased beaker demonstrates quite interesting design skills. The bowl is cut with bobbin shaped windows and bands of circles and stars. The base is cut with a band of joining S forms. The design is very precise, the body of the glass being reversible. If it is inverted the base becomes a turban.

Height: 12.8cms
Diameter of bowl: 8.7cms
Diameter of base: 5cms

This is another glass which appears simple but is, in fact, very carefully thought out. Some later versions of this sort of work produced in the 20th century can seem quite heavy and crude in comparison.

Red stained goblet

An impressive red stained goblet cut with an arrangement of seven circular windows through which can be seen a single flattened oval panel very finely engraved with Hansel and Gretel comforting each other in the forest.

Height: 16.7cms
Diameter of bowl: 10.5cms
Diameter of foot: 8.6cms

The quality of this engraving suggests the work of Karl Pfohl (1826 –1894) who was one of the recognised great engravers of this period.

Glass bell pull handle

A glass bell pull handle made between 1860 and 1870. The red stained decoration is very complex.

The loop that holds a fabric band which connects to the bell to summon the servants is stained red on the outside which is the normal convention but the handle is stained on the inside with panels of flowers and leaves and a man with a walking stick. To make this handle took great skill and time. It would have involved several clear glass casings. Such an object would have been very expensive and may well have graced a rich Vienna or Prague apartment.

Length: 17cms
Width: 12.5cms

Historismus schwarzlot covered goblet

A baluster covered goblet made about 1880 in the style of the beginning of the 18th century.

The schwarzlot decoration (using black enamel drawings) is a good example of historismus work produced at the end of the 19th century. It illustrates different aspects of a boar hunt which seems to be based on a 17th century painting. Each rim is heightened with gilding.

Height of goblet: 17.8cms
Diameter of bowl: 8cms
Diameter of foot: 10cms

This sort of work is typical of the style of Josef Lenhardt who worked at Steinschhoenau from 1880.

Floral decorated cup and saucer

A red stained cup and saucer with gilded rococo panels on which flowers have been built up from tiny flakes of enamelled glass. Triangular green handle with traces of gilding. Moser produced this sort of glass in the 1880s

Diameter of bowl: 5cms
Height of cup: 8cms
Diameter of saucer: 12cms