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German Glass

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Along the Rhine in Western Germany, as early as the third century, glass of considerable artistic merit was being made; ancient glass factories probably built by the Romans have been excavated at Worms, Trier (formerly Treves), Cologne and in the Eifel mountains. Old Rhenish graves have preserved and disclosed a number of gilt decorated bowls and beakers of the fondi d'oro type; a process in which inscriptions, figures, and scenes were etched out of a layer of gold, and subsequently covered with a film of transparent glass. From the third to the fifth century, this type of glass and ornament continued, with the pictured legends gradually assuming more of biblical and religious tenor. And during these same years there came into being that unmistakable label of German glass, the prunt-a quaint little knob or boss which has persisted to the present.

With general world decadence under way in the fifth century, the German glass industry lay virtually dormant until the late medieval years, though it did stir occasionally with the appearance of bits of crude work.

First to reawaken before 1400 was the Hessian country where the hills and woods soon became spotted with crude glass furnaces, all of which were producing the green beakers of characteristic cabbage stalk appearance; relieved only by rough prunts, spirals, or bosses, not unlike some of the bossed beakers unearthed at Pompeii.

In 1548 the tall, cylindrical, enamelled welcome-glasses (humpen-willkomm glasses) appeared from German furnaces, having previously been imported from Venice. Coin cidentally the quaint old cabbage stalk beaker was evolving into the roemer wine glass, whose grace and utility apparently have given it everlasting popularity.

Following this, opaque enamel on hollow glass, a Venetian process, found a great reception in Germany. It was the decorative vogue well into the seventeenth century. At Nurnberg and Munich, frank and wholesale emulation of Venetian glass was attempted; even imported Venetian workmen, however, could not obtain the light, airy figures from the potash glass; so the production turned to German lines. Incidentally these two towns, Nurnberg and Munich, claimed the first famous German glass cutter, George Schwanhardt who was born in the latter city and worked at Nurnberg. Three men were chiefly responsible for the ascendancy attained by Germany and Bohemia in the glass markets of the world in the early eighteenth century. They were (1) Emperor Rudolph II; (2) Caspar Lehmann, and (3) Johann Kunckel, whose works were discussed under Bohemian glass.

After being supplanted largely by the English and Irish flint glass during the latter part of the eighteenth century, German glass opened the nineteenth century with new dec orations and designs which gave it about fifty years of fairly good business. In their new bid for popularity Mohn revived Schaper's translucent enamel painting; others tinted glass in the "metal" and some did striking imitations of Venetian ware, semi-precious stones, et cetera. Despite this display of technique, however, public whims and fancy soon veered from so much second-hand art and a decline set in.

About 1860 when Lobmeyr started rebuilding the Austrian glass industry, Germany fell in with his plan and established several state schools for art similar to those of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Professor Bruon Mauder's influence at the school in Zwiesel has been responsible for some of Germany's best achievements in the field of glass. Painted vases, jars engraved after the fashion of "Biedermeyer" and beautifully ground and engraved goblets are among the products.

"The shapes are marked throughout by a simple grandeur and the decoration is developed directly out of the shape and out of the nature of the material. The finishing of the glass is so carried out that it closely follows the design and by a fine working of the surface it enhances the entire effect. In the engraved glass it is principally the delicacy and transparency of the material which are stressed, while with the painted glass richer effects are obtained which lend to the articles at times a most charming fantastic character." (Albert Dresdner, Creative Art, Jan. 1930.) Hans Mauder, the director's son, has done some excellent figure decoration.

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