Posted 4 years ago
It should be noted that the attribution of the Welz décor shown in this post that was being shown as Rückl on a website has now been removed from that website. My commentary regarding the application of techniques which result is quick attributions still stands, as that was the intention of this post to begin with. This post is far less about a single "mistake" on a website, and much more about hasty work posted as facts without the attention paid to details that should be, especially if one is claiming to be posting research to educate others.
This will be the first in what will likely end up as a series of posts, discussing my personal views regarding research techniques. The posts will examine in some cases, practices that I think should be avoided, and in other instances I will discuss techniques I have found both useful and productive in my own collecting and research. The intention of the posts is to hopefully provide to forum users interested in glass, useful methods that will help develop some of the skills necessary to evaluate glass in their own meaningful way, taking from these posts the information which is beneficial to them, and that makes sense.
These views of course, are my own personal opinions, as that is all any of us really have when it comes right down to it.
I find accurate and useful information to be of great enough value that I have spent thousands of hours of my own time researching and building a website which attempts to provide just that, while financially supporting the site on my own for the last 7 years also.
I also find unsupportable research posted as facts to be disturbing, as it seemingly shows, at least to me, little regard for those that may be misled by the information. I will always do what I can without getting personal, to present a different opinion when I think it needs to be presented.
One of the reasons I have spent over 8 years building a website for Bohemian/Czech glass is to try to provide collectors and sellers a viable source online where glass from multiple Czech companies can be attributed correctly. I am hoping to offer something that was not available to me at all when I was learning. As findings change, so have pages on my website. Fortunately, there has not been a lot of that, and most of the changes were to attributions made before I really started doing research.
What many people trying to learn about Czech glass are not all that aware of, is how difficult it can be to accurately attribute glass, especially in the absence of documentation to provide a foundation for the work. Documentation can be scarce to non-existent, and the experience and knowledge necessary to do the work correctly is simply greater than most people realize.
The inexperienced collector can easily fall prey to many pitfalls in this area of collecting, and do so unwittingly because they are not even aware of what they are not aware of, when it comes to this glass.
As an example of what I mean, in order to really evaluate a piece of glass with the intention of making a supportable attribution, one not only needs to acquire a reasonable level of knowledge in the specific area they are trying to study, but they also should have a pretty broad, and in many cases quite specific knowledge of other related styles and lines of glass.
I say this because in order for one to accurately assess and state what something is, they need to be at least reasonably aware of what it is not. Tracking things as simplistic as a couple of common colors and arriving at conclusions based on oversimplified methods causes cascading mistakes, and people trying to learn inevitably end up being misinformed.
It is for that reason that publicly posted research findings which are inaccurate are so irritating to me…. Not for the sake of a vase being mis-attributed, but for the litany of issues to collectors and sellers that result from what I generally see as avoidable impatience and in some cases, inexperience and a lack of knowledge.
First of all, I am using this example because it highlights poignantly some issues I continue to address regarding the need for posted research to be fully supportable.
So let’s take a look at a great example:
Image 1 above is a vase that was in my collection. It is a Welz décor, and the shape can be found in several other distinctive Welz décors also. In addition to being a shape found in other Welz décors, it is as importantly, a décor found on many other Welz shapes.
Image 2, the upper half, is an image of a vase that a good friend that lives in Las Vegas asked me about recently. These are his images. I actually handled and examined this piece of glass. I told him at the time that I did not recognize the shape, nor was the décor one I could put a maker to. In no way is this swirled décor claimed to be Welz, nor has it ever been. It is a decor seen on a handful of shapes, none of which has really been solidly linked to a maker. Versions of one of those shapes have been attributed to be Rückl in this forum. That specific shape is actually seen in a number of quite similar forms, and is a shape I did an article on in this forum a couple of years ago.
The lower half of image 2 shows a group of that shape of vase. This grouping is reasonably similar, yet at the same time distinctly different. This image is from the article I had posted here previously. I am of the opinion that there are actually several houses represented in this array. Several examples of these shapes have now been grouped together in the “Close Counts” strategy of shape evaluation. Don’t get me wrong…. There are “close counts” examples out there, but not with the definitive variations in form seen on this group of shapes. These examples would seem to represent a "Design Shift", or a similarly popular form as executed by several glass houses. This is a group of shapes, that if clumped together as one maker, will inevitably lead to a plethora of misinformation. Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that this is already being done.
Enter, stage left….. an attribution…. “Rückl”. That is the attribution now being applied on the internet to my friends vase in the top of image 2. Although I do not think the claim of Rückl production is supportable, this post is not about disputing the attribution, but about looking at the methods used to make the attribution in the first place.... methods which resulted in a distinctly different Welz decor being included in the decor group.
I am assuming that the attribution of the décor to Rückl was based on the “close counts” shape seen below it in image 2. The décor appears on the second vase of the top row in that grouping, and it becomes grouped with 3 other similar pieces in a similar décor on a website. The décor is named “Orange Yellow” and seemingly takes into consideration the colors used….
So here is where we find a huge issue with oversimplifying attribution methods. There is a 5th example shown in the mix of “Orange Yellow” by Rückl, and granted although it is both Orange and Yellow…. We shall see what the issue becomes….
Image 3 above is the example declared to be Rückl, and shown in a slideshow with 4 other examples resembling my friend’s vase. Since the decors are not in the least similar, I have to assume it is based on the same colors being used. It is included in a grouping declared to be 5 different shapes of “Orange Yellow” by Rückl. As I have stated before, in many cases the same color rods were available to, and used by many houses. It is also worth noting that certain color combinations were quite pervasive in Czech glass. Orange and Yellow were among those prolific combinations. In this case of common color combinations, the research supporting an attribution must rely on multiple shapes and those shapes should be linked to a common maker in several ways…. Small differences must be held in the highest regard, and not overlooked as simple variations and discounted as to validity.
The immediate problem with this grouping of 5 Orange Yellow "Rückl" shapes, is that the 4th of the 5 shapes, shown above in image 3, is actually a décor and shape by Franz Welz!
The 4th image above shows several examples by Welz in this décor. All of the above examples, with the exception of 1 can be linked to Welz through other decors on the shown shapes. The scalloped fan vase and the basket are actually shapes documented in Welz production literature from 1928. The shown example that cannot be linked via other examples in Welz décors is the rarest form…. the wall pocket. Luckily it is labeled…. FWK… Franz Welz Klostergrab. A documented label used by the firm.
So what it appears we have is a décor attributed to Rückl, seemingly based on a shape that is unattributed in most instances, and found in decors which have gone unattributed for years. It appears that we then make a leap to a different décor on a completely unrelated shape, and “find” it to also be Rückl. The only obvious similarity would be that the colors appear the same.
It is not the mis-attribution of a Welz décor specifically to Rückl that concerns me. Not at all. It is the presentation of unsupportable “facts” as just that…. Facts.
Sadly, in my humble opinion, we also see several décors which have stumped qualified researchers for a very long time, now being quickly and voraciously attribute to Rückl, using links with the same “close counts” type of shape groups…… all being done as if the answer had been so obvious...... and yet the truth remained mysteriously hidden from qualified people for decades…..
Fortunately for those trying to learn, the accurate answers will eventually come to light, but in the manner of “Powolny and Loetz Tango", I fear that the quickly and ill conceived “facts” will unfortunately “live” on the internet in perpetuity….
My approach and advice to collectors trying to learn is to always err on the side of caution. If an attribution is correct, more evidence will eventually turn up to confirm it..... It always has for me. If on the other hand an attribution is not correct, that evidence will appear also.......
For me at least, as a collector/researcher that posts portions of my research publicly, I would rather spend two years looking for evidence to make sure I have the right answer, than spend two years trying to correct a hastily made mistake.