The oldest glass products come from ancient Egypt. The very first
technology of glassmaking was the winding of glass threads on a form made from
clay. The oldest blown glass is believed to be made in ancient Fenicia and
Greece. While the early Egyptian glass was imperfect due to the materials used
(it was usually melted from fritted (porous) glass), ancient glass was already
fairly clear. In 3rd and 2nd century B.C., the glass making knowledge was
spread throughout the Mediterranean. Typical products made in
ancient times were decanters, carafes, bottles and simple goblets.
The oldest glass
findings (bracelets, beads) in Czech countries were probably imported from
Celtic regions, at approximately the 3rd century B.C. It is possible that some beads from the Great Moravia time period were of
local origin. Written documents
about knowledge of glass making in Czech countries come from the 12th century.
The oldest glassworks are found in archaeological and written findings of the
In the Middle Ages, the production of glass grew as never
before. Glassworks spread greatly at the borders of the country using the
richness of the forests (as wood was needed to heat the glass furnaces and
for the production of potassium). The richness of the community’s people
also assisted in the growth of glassmaking in Czech countries. Even though the
glass products were expensive, they were found in both the upper and middle
class households. In the towns populated in the Middle Age, there
were many archaeological findings of glass to support this.
The important role in the evolution of glassmaking was played by the
Czech glassmaking families who influenced the technology progress in all central
Europe. The melting of glass was a secret passed on from father to the
eldest son and that is why tradition was the key factor for the growth and
evolution. The biggest contributions made by the Czech glassmakers were for
example, the melting of blue cobalt glass by the Schurer family in Northern
Bohemia in the 16th century, the discovery of Czech crystal at Muller Glassworks
in Šumava region and the discovery of glaze and Hyalite glass by Mr. B.
Egermann in the 1st half of the 19th century.
Gothic glass had elements, which characterized the Czech production
for the next few centuries. Technology was perfected through the ages,
although the old traditions were continued and adjusted according to new
times. In this way, a new art style evolved called by specialized
literature "Czech Glass".
The Czech Gothic Glass was made from greenish glass mass called "Forest
In contrast to the
German glass, which was dark green, the Czech glass was light green, closer to
the later clear color crystal of later years. At the time, this type of glass was very popular and huge amounts of
glass were exported in the 14th century to not only Germany, but also France and
Flanders. The Czech glass was
characterized by the slender flutes and bulbous cups and decorated by molted-on
glass spiral threads and especially pearl shapes. These decorative techniques were invented in the Near East and spread to
Central Europe at the 13th century thanks to the Crusades. These techniques were adopted by the Czech glassmakers but were
customized to the Czech characteristic decorations.
At Renaissance, approximately mid 16th century in the Czech countries,
Venetian style enamel painting appeared (in Novohradske hory region). This
technique was quickly modified by Czech glassmakers to a more robust decoration,
in contrast to the fine and delicate Venetian style. Very often, the Coat
of Arms motif, figural scenes from daily life, and paintings depicting rulers
and monarchs appeared. The enamel painting spread quickly not only due to the
many possibilities of decorating but this technique covered small defects in the
glass. In this way the glassmakers could also use the second quality
glass. For this particular reason, Czech glass painting was influenced for
the centuries to come.
Except for the enamel
painting, much Renaissance glass made from greenish glass mass was decorated by
various molted-on techniques.
The epoch of the emperor Rudolf II influenced the art of the Czech
countries very strongly because he resided in Prague. At the end of the 16th
century and beginning of the 17th century, important attempts were made at glass
engraving. The pioneer of this glass engraving was Casper Lehmann
who was originally a diamond cutter. He was the first to create goblets
decorated with rich engravings. This technique predetermined the later Czech
After the Thirty Year
War, in Czech countries, clear glass called Czech Crystal began to be melted.
The character of this glass corresponded to the Baroque art style. The Czech
Crystal became a specialty and the demand at the beginning of the 18th century
was so large that the Czechs became the largest exporters of crystal in the
world. At this time, many new glass export companies were founded and they had
affiliations in many important ports, not only in Europe but in Asia and South
Czech engraved Baroque glass is defined by the perfection of the glass mass and
also by delicate masterful engravings. At the beginning, this masterful work was
exclusive for the Emperors and Kings, but soon after, many engraving factories
were established around the Czech countries and produced not only luxury pieces
for the upper class but also commercial glass for the middle class. The most popular motifs were allegorical and figural scenes, texts, names,
monograms and of course, dates. The advance of technology of Czech glass is
confirmed by various marginal productions that did not influence the style, but
are remarkable by its execution, for example double walled glasses.
At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th
century, the painting art was influenced by Rococo and Classicism, mostly
in the country of origin – France - but was also obvious in Europe. In Czech
countries, the glassmaking traditions were very strong and therefore the
influence was slower.
The production of the typical Baroque engraved glass decreased at the
second half of the 18th century and some of the glassworks experienced
difficulty selling the glass. In some regions, the production returned to
enamel painting especially glass for less wealthy people and ordinary
citizens. The crisis peaked at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The
important role among the glassworks was kept by Harrachov glassworks in Nový Svět
in Krkonoše. Somewhere between 1860 and 1869, the production of milk (opaline)
glass started and made the glassworks famous around the world.
After the Napoleonic Wars ended, the Czech market was overtaken by
English cut glass, which the Czech glassmakers attempted to imitate for a short
time. The first Czech to make the English cut glass was Pavel Meyr from
Šumava. These foreign patterns were soon pushed from the market by the
strength of the old traditions. Since the 1820s, the Czech glass
production began to rise. In the first half of the 19th century, in the
Novy Bor area, lived Bedrich Egermann, the "magician“ of glass
production. While Europe was trying to imitate the English cut glass,
Egermann was experimenting with colored glass masses. He invented a new
art style and opened new views on glass as an artifact. Thanks to him, it
was possible to overcome age-old opinions on the style of glass production
coming from clear glass only.
Egermann originated the idea of producing opaque colored glass masses and
decorating with glaze. These techniques inspired the glass production in the
second half of the 19th century and most importantly, art nouveau and modern art
mainstreams in the 20th century.
Innovations of technology were brought not only by B. Egermann but
also by many other Czech glassworks. Their productions enriched not only
the Czech markets but also all other markets around the world. Czech glass
once again, became very popular in the world markets. Compared to glass
making industries which developed in the second half of the 19th century in
other countries, countries which did not have such a long glass making
tradition, the Czech glassmakers were always able to maintain their top
For Czech glass of the second half of the 19th century, inspiration by
the Orient and imitation of various historical styles is typical. The new
principles of art nouveau style became popular thanks to the Czech
glassmakers. The glassworks of Adolfov and Annin displayed iridized
glass at the World Exhibition in Vienna. The glassworks of Lotz became famous
worldwide and in 1893 they were awarded a prize at the World Exhibition in
Chicago. The biggest triumph of Czech art nouveau glass was when it
received an award at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.
Since the Middle Ages,
Czech glass has had a special position in Europe. This stood as a measure of quality and brought technical improvements.
Thanks to the wide assortment and abilities of Czech tradesmen, Czech
glass could soon be found all around the world. The Czech glassmakers were working in many countries, helping to
establish glassworks, build glass melting furnaces,
train new glass masters, etc. All these aspects have helped to make a very
strong tradition, which is still carried on today.
It is difficult to say where mankind will go in the new millennium and where the
automation and evolution of technologies will lead us. It is plausible that most of the glass production will be automated but
there will always be a space for art and handmade works coming from the skilled
hands of glass masters. Exactly in
the strong tradition of art and hand made production is the potential of glass
making for the future.
In ancient times, 5 B.C. to 4 A.D., the crystal colorless glass used to be
melted. The glass mass was usually a bit cloudy and contained small dust
particles due to the low technical level of the melting process (especially at
the low melting temperatures). Sometimes the glass mass was slightly
greenish and only on exceptions could blue glass mass be found. The blue
glass mass was used mostly for decorating purposes.
The first period of growth of the production of ancient glass occurred between
the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. when the glass making spread from the Near East to
Greece and Italy and later to todays Spain and France. With the fall of
the Roman Empire in the 3rd to 4th century, the technical and artistic level of
glass making decreased. From the times of wandering nations, the few
simple types of glass connected with Germans were recorded. During the
Frankish times, 7th to 8th century, the glass production increased but only in
the limited area of the central Frankish empire. The glass products at this time
were only for the top ruling classes.
The center of the glass making industry moved to the East where it was developed
without interruption. Mostly due to the Byzantine Empire getting more and more
powerful, the Eastern glass became better than European glass. In
later times, it was from the East that the European glassmakers were getting
their inspiration and motifs. It was not just a coincidence that the
Venetian glass making had grown after Constantinople was overtaken by the
Crusaders supported by the Venetian Republic.
In ancient times, simple shapes were made which were mostly bottles, flacons and
carafes, and less often, bowls and goblets. Most of the shapes were
imitated from ceramics. The glass itself was very expensive and
represented the wealth of its owner. Bottles and flacons were used for
perfumed oils, perfumes, etc. while bowls were used to decorate the tables and
the small goblets were used to drink from. The ceramics were mainly used
and the glass was used only for special occasions.
The Oldest Glassworks
From very brief mentions in written documents from pre-Hussite
times (1350 to 1420) we know of about 21 glassworks (11 in Bohemia, 8 in
Silesia, 3 in Moravia) although according to archaeological finds of Gothic
glass made in Czech countries, there must have been many more.
Glassworks, whether from the Middle Ages, Renaissance or Gothic times, could
only be found in the deep forest. Around the glassworks sometimes, grew a small
village usually located by a stream in the valley. Glassworks not only used to be the center of glassmaking but also
independent economic bodies having its own agriculture and other kinds of
The center of Bohemian was the oldest colonized area and since pre-historic
times, the population was very dense. Therefore
there were not enough forests and that is why this area was not suitable to
build glassworks. Most of the
glassworks were established in the pre-border areas, which had dense forests and
steep hills, both in the North and South areas.
Glassworks needed huge amounts of wood, not only to heat the ovens but also to
produce potassium, the important
ingredient needed in melting the glass. According
to old documents, to obtain one kilogram of potassium, several tenths of
kilograms of good beech wood was needed. It
usually did not take much time to chop all the wood in the glassworks
neighborhood. As soon the wood area
became too far away for the wood to be carried to the glassworks, the glassworks
instead moved to the wood area. For
this reason, most of the Middle Age glassworks did not last long. In some regions during the 18th and 19th century, there was a prohibition
of chopping trees for the use of glassworks as the manorial nobility wanted to
preserve the wood for forestry.
Only from sporadic mentions and without other details, we know that in
the 14th and 15th century, there were glassworks in the Šumava region near the
villages Sklenářova Lhota, Skláře u Hořic, Pasečna, Prachatice, then in
Eastern and Northern Bohemia in Modava, Doubice, Chřibská, Sklenářice u
Vysokého, Dolní Krupá and Mnichovo Hradiště, and also in Českomoravská
vrchovina in the villages Skelné u Křižanova, Skelné u Nového Města na
Moravě, Skelné u Svitav and Jindřichův Hradec.
Glassworks Chřibská, whose logo shows the date 1414, is considered
to be the oldest glassworks in the world and was operated without interruption
for almost six centuries. The historical fact is that the oldest preserved
document mentioning the glassworks bears no date. It is assumed that the
document originated during the lifetime of Berka of Dubá, one of the most
powerful North Bohemian feudal lords, sometime between 1408 and 1428. Another
record, the Estate Rolls entry from 1457 mentioned the glassworks, but without
any further details.
The establishment date 1414 is derived from the testimony of the reeve
of Chřibská glass master Friedrich, who in 1514 sold this glassworks with the
farmyard, sawmill and flour mill, and with all freedom and rights with which it
was endowed one hundred years ago. From this testimony this particular
date is derived, even though from some of the latest archaeological finds from
around the glassworks, we can estimate that the glassworks may have already
stood there at the end of the 14th century.
The Archaeological Finds
There are several hundreds of fragments of Gothic glass in Czech
countries representing several different types and modifications. They are on
display mostly in museums and in specialized archaeological
The most important collections of Gothic glass can be seen in following
Západočeské museum v Plzni
Kopeckého sady 2
301 36 Plzeň
Muzeum hlavního města Prahy
110 00 Praha 1
Žižkovo nám. 1
390 01 Tábor
The Middle Ages
The oldest written document about a stained glass window in Bohemia is
from 1162. In that year, John the Third, bishop of Prague, ordered two stained
glass windows with biblical scenes. There are many reports about stained glass
windows from the following years. These documents testify to the fact that this
kind of art spread greatly in medieval Bohemia.
Except for stained glass windows, the glazing of windows with circular
glass panes fastened by lead stripes (or connected with lead stripes) expanded
in medieval Bohemia. These glass panes, also known as “see-through circles”
in period documents, represented a substantial part of the production of
glassworks of that time. In 1451 Cardinal Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (later Pope
Pius the Second) wrote that no other country in Europe has so many windows
glazed by circular glass panes or stained glass as in Bohemia, where you could
find glazed windows even in small towns and villages.
New inspirations to European handicrafts were brought by the Crusades
in the 13th century. Because of it, the technical and technological improvements
followed. Medieval glassworks did not produce merely greenish, so-called “Forest
Glass”, but also clear glass (unlike the other central-European countries).
Bohemian medieval glassmakers were also able to color the glass with various
metal oxides - blue with cobalt, red with copper, light green with iron. Colored
glass mass was used for decorative purposes mainly – knobs, ribs and also
stained glass panes were made from it.
The assortment of Gothic glass was relatively wide. Except for
circular glass panes, glass beads and pearls were produced. A stimulus to their
production was given by the Dominican order, who pushed the believers to use
rosaries. Rosary beads were made mostly in Šumava region, where this tradition
persevered until the 18th century. After 1430 the rosary beads (generally called
“paters” – as the name was derived from the first words of the Lord’s
prayer, Pater noster) were exported via Nuremberg to the whole Europe.
Medieval doctors, pharmacists, charlatans and alchemists required
various specially shaped glass vessels. Although the distillation crucibles,
flasks and other vessels of that time have not been preserved, they attained
considerable fame in Central Europe. Medical books written in those times,
explicitly preferred Bohemian glasses to any other.
In the assortment of glass, production of drinking glass prevailed
(goblets, cups, tumblers, bottles etc…). The tall, slender, flute-shaped glass
of the so-called “Bohemian type” can be considered the most typical product
of Czech Gothic glassmaking. Also very often, the glass with a bowl-shaped cup
and molted-on, pearl-like drops was produced. In the 13th century, another
vessel called “Kutrolf” became very popular in Europe. It was a
special bottle with a neck plated with two, three or four tubes. Even though
there existed many different shapes of gothic glass, they all were, by their
shape and decoration, characteristic for single homogeneous mainstream. This
gives evidence that the production of single glassworks, which were very often
far away from each other, was not isolated. The glassmakers communicated and
were well informed by the glass merchants they worked with.
In shapes and technology, the Czech medieval glass was related to the glass
production of the trans-alpine regions, although it had its own style of
decorations. The quality of glass mass was very high. Thin-walled products
surpassed all others and were very much sought after on the medieval markets.
Since 14th century, these products were exported to many other
The so-called Bohemian type glass
Is a slender, tall glass (40-60cm), flute or club-shaped, made
from greenish Forest glass, decorated with molten-on glass pearls,
zigzag glass threads and many other decoration techniques. It was made
from the second half of the 14th century until the second half of the
15th century. It is represented far more frequently in the findings of
the Bohemian regions than in the other European countries. Accordingly
to old paintings and archaeological finds, it was in standard use not
only for the ruler’s court and the tables of the noblemen, but also
for burgess households (archaeological finds in Plzeň, Ústí, Praha,
Most, Pardubice and many other towns).
The origin of the shape and decoration of this cup links with the Palestinian
art of the 13th century. It can be assumed that it was the
participants of the Crusades that made their acquaintance and mediated their
style to Central Europe. It is even possible that some Jewish glassmakers left
Palestine with Crusaders (because of the invasion of the Saracens) and brought pearl-like decorations to Bohemia.
The assumption of Palestinian inspiration is supported by the fact that the
oldest glasses of Bohemian type were found on the sites which had some relation
to the order of Teutonic Knights.
The Forest Glass
The Forest Glass is a name for the greenish glass mass used in Middle Ages.
Metal oxides, present in glass sand, cause this color and medieval glassmakers
were not able to get rid of it. Because the quality of glass sand varied
depending on the location, the colors of glass mass varied greatly in medieval
German sands contain a high percentage of iron admixtures (and also copper and
chromium oxides). That is why the German medieval glass mass was of a greener
color. In later times, the glass mass used to be artificially colored so that
the final color was dark green. These dark green glasses were very popular in
Germany at the time.
The Czech glass was much different though. Czech glass sands are incomparably
cleaner and Czech glassworks used
better technology in melting the glass mass. The Czech glass had a greenish
tinge and sometimes was rather clear (with a light-gray tinge). Accordingly to
the color of the glass mass it is possible to determine the origin of products.
This relatively clear glass mass served as a rudiment of later invented clear
The medieval glass mass was melted with high content of admixtures,
which “softened” the glass and also made it “longer”. The definition “longer
glass” means that the glass cooled down very slowly and it was possible to
work with it for a longer time without re-heating it. The glass could be
decorated with many sophisticated decorative techniques (for example molted-on
Analysis of the glass mass used at the time show, that
potassium-calcium raw material was used in medieval Bohemia, unlike the
Mediterranean glass which used to be made from sodium-calcium raw material. This
fact augured the later invention of “Czech crystal” in Baroque (as the main
substance of “Czech crystal” is potassium-calcium raw material).
Renaissance was not only a new art style, but also a new peoples’ attitude
to life, mundane and spiritual matters. It was a Renaissance, which happened to
be an important milestone of European glass making both from a technological and
an artistic point of view. Step by step, the new opinion of glass, its design
and use was formed.
The revolutionary change was brought by enamel-paint which was
invented in Venetia. Even the Venetian glassworks kept the way of this
production secret (any glassmaker who would try to escape from the glassworks
and reveal their secrets would be punished by the death sentence). In spite of
that, the technique of enamel painting soon got into Bohemia. The beginning is
not very clear. Accordingly to one version, this technique appears for the first
time in Novohradské hory region (in Rožmberská huť pod Vilémovou horou) and
the knowledge was brought there by one of the Venetian glass masters.
Accordingly to other documents, this technique is linked with the glassworks
that belonged to Pavel Schurrer, who in 1530 established a glassworks in Falknov
(today’s Kytlice). Another document declares, that enamel-painted glass used
to be produced in Northern Bohemia at Sloup estate. This technique begun very
popular and spread all over Bohemia during the second half of the 16th century.
Imitation of Venetian glass was very costly for Bohemian glassworks
because different glass used to be melted in Bohemia. The glass produced in
Bohemia was mostly with hot-shaped decorations. That is why the development of
enamel painting technique went its own way and was modified into the new,
original style. Since then, a struggle between the Venetian and the
Bohemian concepts of glass was waged in Europe. While the Venetian style was
based on fineness and precision but without essential change, the designs of
Bohemian glass were much more dynamic. The Bohemian glass industry was
able to absorb the demands of the market and at the same time was able to
produce cheaper and simpler products and make them affordable for middle class
– which played the key role in the future development.
A typical product of Czech Renaissance painted glass was the
so-called “welcome beaker”, capable of holding several liters and decorated
with enamel-paint, Coat of Arms etc. In addition, small cups decorated
with figural, less often floral compositions were made.
With the exception of painted glass, large amounts of greenish
glass decorated with various melting techniques were made. From Gothic, the
barrel-shaped beakers survived, (modified into various shapes) called “Krautstrunk”.
As a novelty, use of various stamps appeared. By using stamps, it was possible
to create regular decors – so called raspberries on the surface of the glass.
For the first time, the footed glass appeared. This shape was derived from
typical goldsmith production. The most popular product North of the Alps
was “Romer” glass. (or “Roman glass” – it was a glass originally
produced in Germany, which used to be called The Roman Empire at times, and that
is why the glass was called “Roman”). These “Romers” were popular even
in the 17th century.
The Renaissance gave rise to a number of new shapes such as tankards,
jugs, rectangular bottles and various goblets. Because of the playfulness of the
Renaissance, the glassworks produced various funny vessels – beakers with
threaded-on tinkling rings, vessels from which it was possible to drink only
with a straw or even beakers from which it was impossible to drink from at all
since the liquid spilled out onto the drinker through a hole in the glass.
The most important novelty was the use of colored glass mass. From
1570, blue cobalt glass was popular in the North Bohemia Schurer
glassworks, especially in the Owl Glassworks near Nejdek. The popularity of blue
cobalt glass (exceptionally decorated with enamel-paint) lasted until the
beginning of the Thirty Year War.
The stylistic and art basis of Baroque can already be sought in the mannerism of
the court art of the epoch of Emperor Rudolph II. As a style of art, it
was closely linked with reformation ideology, however, the Baroque asserted
itself in Central Europe only as late as in the second half of the 17th century,
after the end of The Thirty Year War and victory of Catholicism, represented by
the Hapsburg dynasty.
Peoples’ self-confidence and faith in their previous values were
shattered by chaos, discrepancies and suffering caused by the just ended Thirty
Years War. That was the environment in which the Bohemian Baroque art was born,
which made it its aim to stun with splendor and dazzle with exalted movement.
Except for ostentatious beauty, the Baroque compositions celebrating the Lord
and the saints reflected human feelings. All that, was reflected in its way and
also in the art of glassmaking. The completely new style was influenced by the
invention of glass engraving. Glass engraving linked up with the tradition of
the glyptiz (cutting or engraving in stone). It is assumed, that the glass was
engraved for the first time at the court of Emperor Rudolph II. The
masters from Netherlands influenced the shapes of early Bohemian cups. They
worked in Count Buquoy’s glassworks at Dobrá Voda in the Nove Hrady
estate in South Bohemia. They brought with them the shape of the spherical cup
on the tall, slender foot consisting of several successive nodes of Venetian
provenance, which was later copied in the Netherlands. While Venetian goblets
were decorated with colored glass using melting techniques, in Bohemia the
goblets were made from clear glass mass and were decorated with engravings. This
type of goblet was produced in Bohemia approximately until 1690 – 1700.
In the beginning of the 18th century, the shape of the goblets
changed. The actual cup was taller, more-like conical shaped, while the foot was
shorter, and very often decorated with facet cut (cutting of flat surfaces -
facets). Very often, the goblets were with lids (so-called “Balustroid goblet
style” ) and appeared for the first time in Sumava region in south-western
Bohemia. The diamond engraving made it possible. The line was very delicate and
deep which made the composition look more plastic.
In the second half of the 17th century, the goblets were usually
decorated with the late Renaissance compositions of birds or other animals
situated in a simple landscape (represented by simple geometrical shapes),
hunting scenes and less often figural motifs. Greater differentiation of motifs,
as well as the improvement of the quality of the engraved décor, took place
after 1700. The motifs known from the graphic works of Paul Decker, Leonard
Eysler and others became fashionable. The varied mythological, allegoric,
historic and genre motifs appeared. The decorations used the popularity of the
hunting scenes of the Renaissance; there were allegories with cherubs and
amoretti, portraits of rulers, figures of saints and even pictures of towns. The
resulting impression fully respected the Baroque artistic feeling with its play
of light and shade, excessive ornaments, folded draperies, and yet it was bright
and linearly clear. This style stayed popular until the half of the 18th
Glass cutting and engraving was concentrated in a few areas. The
biggest were located in North Bohemia near Česká Lípa in demesnes Sloup,
Libchava, Česká Kamenice, others were below Jizerské Hory mountains near
Jablonec nad Nisou and the third center was in Silesia.
Baroque art also brought new shapes of hollow glass. Apart from
standard glasses, bottles and beakers, there were also
representative pieces – conical or slender flute glasses. A boat shaped cup
was characteristic (intended for sweets) or various peculiar bottles. The
shape was actually very simple, in order to afford a maximum of surface for
exacting engraving and cutting. Cut engraved Baroque glass was not the
only type produced in Bohemian glassworks. Production of enamel-painted glass
continued and also attempts at the manufacture of colored-glass (especially ruby
glass) were periodically repeated. The production of double-walled glass is a
testament of the advanced technology of Bohemian glassmaking. The idea to make
double-walled glass was not new, having appeared already in the Antiquity. The
manufacture was described in some theoretical writings but it was brought to
perfection in so far unknown glassworks of northern Bohemia in the first half of
the 18th century. The principle of this difficult manufacture was to make two
vessels which were ground accurately so as to fit closely into one
another. Gold foil was inserted in between their walls, making an
interesting decoration. Another very interesting decoration
technique was the “Schwarzlot painting” (painting with black color)
characterized by a graphic character in its artistic expression.
The Rococo and the Classicism
In the second half of the 18th century, the production of glass in Bohemia
dropped steeply. The Rococo feel, unlike Baroque, was not splendor and
sumptuous, so only a few masters continued this tradition. One of the best glass
cutters and engravers of those times was the Lechner family in the estate on
Nové Hrady in southern Bohemia. A number of glass engravers and glass cutters
departed for other countries and their influence was markedly seen in the
appearance of products made in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and in
A specific way of development in the manufacturing of glass can be
observed around Jablonec nad Nisou, where so-called “Turnov composition“ was
invented in 1711 – glass mass imitating precious stones in appearance. It was
an ideal material for cutting and was later used for imitation of precious
stones. This production established a very famous tradition of manufacturing
imitations of costly jewelry in Jablonec nad Nisou. Cut glass pieces were also
used in another famous branch – the manufacturing of chandeliers. Glass
cutting (from which hundreds of families lived on) dispersed from the workshops
to the cottages. The household producers had their grinders at home and brought
the finished pieces to the agent from whom they received wages. This way of
manufacturing was very progressive and provided organizational backup for the
high volume of production and fair wages.
In the second half of the 18th century, the decorating with enamel
paints revived again. It was not however, intended for the wealthy strata of
population, but for the widest circle of customers both from rural and urban
areas. For many rich farmers, the possession of glass was a matter of prestige.
In Šumava regions, decorated snuff bottles and also painted brandy bottles were
The most famous glassworks of those times was the Harrachov glassworks
in Nový Svět in Krkonoše Mountains. From the sixties of the 18th century,
this glassworks produced milk (opaline) glass, which was very popular at those
times. The glassworks produced whole table sets, tea sets, and also decorative
boxes, bowls, cups, centerpieces and vases, applying precise enamel painting in
the spirit of the arising Rococo. The most frequent motifs were hunting and
gallant scenes with a suggestion of landscapes and architecture. Many of these
were inspired by the paintings of fashionable artists like F. Boucher and
others. Biblical motifs, figures of saints, allegories of virtues, elements etc.
were not absent, however. In the eighties, tender floral motifs with small
blooms were also added.
Napoleonic wars and the following blockade severely damaged the
Bohemian glass industry. The crisis did not cause merely sales difficulties. The
new artistic ideas of Classicism were for a long time strange to the Bohemian
glassmakers, who traditionally produced glasses engraved in the Baroque style.
For this reason, forced endeavor was often made to work in the Classicist
spirit. Most of the glassmakers were not able to develop the classicist
engraving into the full artistic style. There appeared artistically unexacting
engraved landscape compositions auguring the coming of Romanticism. It was only
at the beginning of the 19th century that timid attempts were made in the wider
application of figural motifs. Only a few workshops surpassed the average,
primarily in the places where the glyptic tradition remained alive. Together
with the Harrachov glassworks in Nový Svět, the enterprise in Karlovy Vary
also attained one of the foremost places in glass engraving and glass cutting,
who had regular customers in the visitors to this health resort of world
reputation (for this time, the beautifully engraved spa remembrance cups are
After the defeat of Napoleonic France, for a short period of time, the
English cut dominated on the European markets. The classicist diamond cut
in combination with engraved decoration soon developed into an original Bohemian
style, which however, did not last long. While European glassworks were
imitating the English cut, in Bohemia a new phase of glassmaking began, opening
new ways to modern glass art – applications of new colored glass masses, which
enabled the evolution of completely new decorating techniques (cased glass,
production of matt glass, etc…).
He was born on April 5th, 1777 and died January 1st, 1864. He
apprenticed in the trade of porcelain painter in Meissen. After his return to
Bohemia, he became a glass painter. He established a studio in Polevsko, famous
for its finely painted decorations on matt opaque glass. He was not only an
excellent technologist and a pioneer of new types of glass masses, but also an
artist breaking classicist lines, giving them, in the spirit of the Empire
predilection for minerals, a prismatic palette and a quite different style.
In 1820, already a wealthy entrepreneur, Egermann settled in
Nový Bor, where he began experimenting with red and yellow glazes and was the
first one in the world to manufacture. F. Egermann acquired a production
privilege (patent) for red glaze and it soon appeared in many other glassworks
not only in Bohemia, but quickly spread literally on all continents.
F. Egermann acquired even greater fame with his next discovery of
marble glass, imitating semi-precious stones called lythialin. He obtained a
privilege for the manufacture of lithyalin in 1828, but in spite of
that, lithyalin glass was soon produced in many other glassworks around
the country. Products from marble glass used to be thick-walled and decorated
The main source of inspiration of Art Nouveau became a synthesis of
contemporaneous naturalism, which was born in the second half of the 19th
century in various historical styles, with the remnants of the ideas of
Romanticism. The motif was the reality itself, realistic point of view and its
artistic transformation by means of formal characters – ornaments, allegories
and symbols. This artistic expression preferred linearity and subdued colors,
which exactly corresponded with technical possibilities of glassmaking. That is
why the Art Nouveau made such an impact on glassmaking.
French artist E. Gallé made the first attempts of the production in
this new style already in the eighties of the 19th century. Several years later,
the same tendencies asserted themselves in the work of one of the most
significant personalities of Art Nouveau glassmaking, L.C. Tiffany, living and
working in USA. They were both using metallic luster, iridescent elements,
hot-shaped decors from wound and combed fibers. This style was typical for the
later Art-Nouveau glassmaking.
The glass in the Art Nouveau style celebrated a real triumph at the
Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, where the number of prize winners also
included glassworks J. Loetz from Klášterký Mlýn, owned by Knight Max von
Spaun. The new style was enthusiastically acclaimed, and many artists and
producers started to imitate it. The production of Art-Nouveau glass required
good technical equipment and skilled glass masters. Bohemian glassworks were
well prepared and the Bohemian Art-Nouveau glass soon ranked among the best in
The glassworks J. Loetz in Klášterecký Mlýn, owned by King Max von
Spaun, occupied the leading position. The success of this glassworks was not
incidental. As early as in the nineties of the 19th century, they produced
iridized glass, for which they were awarded numerous prizes (at the exhibition
in Vienna in 1890 and in Chicago in 1893). Outstanding works were also produced
by the glassworks of Adolfov near Vimperk, Dvory near Karlovy Vary, Harrachov,
Košťany and Polubný similarly is the refineries in Nový Bor and Jablonec nad
Of key significance for the success of Bohemian Art-Nouveau glass was
the connection of production with the leading artists, especially the close
cooperation with the Viennese school of arts and crafts. Close cooperation was
also established with companies J.and L. Lobmeyr and Bakalowitz and Sons. The
Viennese Art-Nouveau attained an original expression of its own – it was
cultured, moderated in form and colors, and tented to develop ornaments in a
plane. It was this very concept that impressed to Bohemian Art-Nouveau glass,
its inimitable character, for which it was appreciated, together with the
technical quality of its execution, all over the world.
The wave of Art-Nouveau enthusiasm from the end of the 19th and the
beginning of the 20th century soon began to subside. The new trends
appeared in the art, concentrating on simpler and more practical designs. In
spite of that the Art-Nouveau glass sold well until the First World War, which
brought an end to this art style. After the end of the First World War, some
principles of the Art-Nouveau style developed into the new artistic style Art-Deco,
which however, never reached the success and popularity of older Art-Nouveau
Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
Crystal Online s. r. o.
Att. Ms. Katerina Silhova
Na okraji 335/42
162 00 Praha, Veleslavín