The Mahler Collection of Germanic Glass
The Mahler Collection of Germanic Glass spans three centuries of glassmaking in Northern and Central Europe with the earliest example dated 1580.
The collection contains exquisite examples by some of the finest craftsmen of the day give testimony to the splendor glass achieved in the German speaking areas of the Austrian Crown Lands, the states of Bavaria, Saxony, Brandenburg, Hesse, the Rhine Duchies and Hanover, as well as, a number of the Free Imperial Cities, including Nuremburg.
Developments of Waldglas or Forest Glass
The earliest documentation for glassmaking in Northern Europe dates to 1406 when glass centers in the Spessart Mountains near Hesse, produced glass for export. Fancy glass was imported from Venice, although, by 1500 many Italian glassmakers had been lured North to establish glasshouses, under the patronage of nobility.
Forested areas provided the ideal conditions and raw materials of sand, ash and wood for glass production. Wood fueled the furnace, the ash from the wood supplied the flux to lower the melting temperature of the sand used in the glass batch.
Many of the drinking vessels of forest glass (waldglaser) were simple forms, such as prunted beakers, which had been carried on from Syrian tradition. Other styles which dominated the Gothic to Renaissance periods, between the 15th to 17th century, were the Humpen, Stangenglas, Passglas, and later, the Romer. These were large ceremonial drinking vessels that were decorated in painted enamels. The Reischsadler Humpen with its Double Headed Eagle was a popular and important patriotic motif as a symbol of the Holy Roman Empire.
Stylistic Changes In The Late 16th – 18th Centuries
As the Northern glass industry gained strength other important stylistic developments took place. Diamond point engraving was practiced in various parts of Northern Europe well into the 2nd half of the 17th century. The finely incised line and delicate image was a more appropiate decoration for the smaller individual drinking vessel gaining prominence at the close of the Gothic Period.
Schwartzlot technique manipulated a diluted black enamel that was fired onto the surface of a clear glass vessel. It was used on a small scale by independent glass decorators in Bohemia and Silesia known as hausmalers. Daniel and Ignaz Preissler and Johann Schraper were among the masters of this technique during the late 1600’s to the first quarter of the 1700’s.
Baroque Glass: 17th – 18th Century
The robust style of the Baroque Period brought new glass shapes that were more massive with hollow balusters and knops on tall stems separated by mereses.
Copper wheel engraving, which had been used for gem cutting, became the dominant form of glass decoration until the end of the 18th century. Caspar Lehmann, employed by Emperor Rudolf II of Prague in 1607, was among the first of the lapidary engravers to apply his skills to engrave glass. In 1683, Bohemia created a colorless transparent glass that could be used for carving.
The rediscovery of a formula for producing gold-ruby glass in 1679, in Potsdam, by Jakob Kunkel, was another important development in shaping the glass industry.
The Embellishment of The Rococo Period
The Zwischengold technique had its roots in antiquity but was cultivated to a luxurious art in Bohemia between 1730 to 1750. Gold foil was elaborately engraved and placed between the walls of two glass beakers which were fitted together and sealed with a resin.
The delicate and elaborate engraving of Silesia, particularly the Warmbrunn area, epitomized the early Rococo period. From about 1720 to after 1760, cutting, engraving and gilding were all used simultaneously creating intricate surfaces richly covered with scrolls and strapwork, mostly by anonymous engravers. New shapes were developed such as the boat or shell-shaped sweetmeat dishes.
Neo-Classicism And The Biedermeier Period Followed Rococo
As the 18th Century drew to a close, a new style, Neo-Classicism, strove for purity and clarity of form bringing about simple linear structures influenced by English glass shapes. Ranftbechers or footed beakers and goblets with simple straight stems were readily adopted and decorated.
The ranftbecher was a suitable form for the painted transparent enamel decoration which characterized this period. These highly decorative, sometimes sentimental objects ushered in the Biedermeier style dedicated to the burgeoning middle-class. Among the master painters were J. Schufried, Samuel Mohn and his son Gottlob, and Anton Kothgasser who dominated the craft in Vienna.
Count Buquoy Glassworks, Bohemia, introduced Hyalith glass in red and later in black, by 1817 to rival ceramics produced during the period. By 1830, Friedrich Egermann’s studio, in Haida began developing a variety of glass formulas that he called Lithyalin to simulate agate in a variety of colors, as well as, adapting many of Kothgasser’s techniques.
The onset of industrialization and the demands to mechanize slated these endearing handpainted objects for quick obsolescence, replaced by styles which were more easily mechanized. Bohemia and Northern European glass gradually lost its primary position in the glass industry as mechanization and demands for newer exciting styles of glass increased.
The Mahler Collection represents Northern and Central European glassmaking at its height of artistic achievement and technical development. It summarizes three hundred years of masterful accomplishments and social history in the material of glass at its peak of aesthetic refinement.