Posted 3 years ago
So in the first two posts in this series about Rückl production I have examined part of the task of creating a library of what we can reasonably consider to be known Rückl shapes. As important as identify shapes can be, it is equally as important to be able to identify shapes that are similar, yet different enough that they should not reasonably be used as an example of a known shape for the purpose of an attribution.
Although there is ample evidence regarding the variation that occurs with shapes from one mold to another, and that wood molds changed visibly over a period of use with hot glass, extreme caution must still be used when using similar shapes as a link to attribute décors.
Where it is possible to use known décors to identify variations in the same shape from one house, those subtle differences in shapes must be established before they can be utilized as a shape for attribution. In other words, the shape to décor relationship is really not a 2 way street. If I find a shape in a décor which has been identified, and then over a period of time, I find several other very similar forms in the same, or other known décors, then I can reasonably conclude that they are small shape variations on a single form from a single house.
On the flip side of that, If I identify a shape in a known décor, I cannot conclude that the decors found on all “similar” form are all by that house that made the original one. Small differences can be taken into consideration as being variations on a form, but extreme caution should be employed if utilizing this practice. A couple of incorrect links using similar shapes can multiply quickly into a family of attributions built on as false foundation… A “house of cards” so to speak. I will provide an example of that in a different post.
When it comes right down to it, shapes should generally be found in multiple decors that are known, unless of course, the shape is simply so unique that it is quite unlikely that anyone else used or made it. Every house that produced glass, likely had an assortment of these. In some cases, the issue is identifying them if there is no known documentation.
There are two primary ways to approach similar shapes.
My use of them revolves around the evaluation of simple forms in a very critical manner, and if differences are found between examples, then those examples should be ruled out as being the same, unless their source can be confirmed based on known decors.
The methodology I have seen employed in regards to Ruckl attributions, and it has been done for some time now, is to "excuse" differences in similar shapes.... being explained away as a result of different molds and mold wear, thereby claiming those shapes are all variations of the same one. Personally, I see variations in shapes as being able to be evaluated in two possible manners.
One methodology, which I use, is to look for differences, and then uses those differences as a reason to find it necessary to prove they are the same before using them for attributions
The other methodology finds similar shapes, and then excuses the differences based on an unproven assumption of wear and mold differences for the same shape, without proving that the similar shapes are actually from the same house.
Although the difference may seem to some to be subtle, the long term effect on the reliability and accuracy of the resulting research is huge….
In image 3 above, I see 4 shapes being shown in silhouette to be at least 3 different shapes. Quite similar? Yes. When seen with different décors on these shapes, the differences in shape can be a little more difficult to differentiate. My take on these shapes would be that they are not the same, and can not be used as a common form to make attributions to a common house.
The first example, with a color image below it, is a form shown in the Rückl cases in the Tango Exhibition in 2011-12. The other three examples are all claimed to be the same shape as the Ruckle example, and as such, the décors found on the “similar” forms are all declared to be Rückl. The 4th example, is a form which is obviously different, and the image below it shows the décor on it. Although used on a website as an example of a vase in the same shape as the exhibition shape, and declared to be Rückl, the vase in fact is unidentified as to origins and the website is using an image from the internet that I actually took of the vase, as it is in my personal collection. I have tried unsuccessfully to ID it’s origins for many years now. In light of that, and an article in this forum addressing that issue, the vase and décor on the vase are now said through “research” to be a Rückl….. In my opinion, a false foundation which will lead to a cascade of erroneous attributions…. Part of a flimsy foundation for a house of cards.
So are décor attributions declared to be Rückl using such loose shape comparisons, going to stand up to long term scrutiny regarding their accuracy? Not in my opinion. Using methodology which has been successful identifying Welz, those attributions would not even be made in the first place.
A number of years ago in this forum I made a statement in regards to much of the Ruckl “research” which was being presented here. That statement was one that I still stand behind.
“It is very easy to say something is by a company. It is much more difficult to actually provide strong evidence to prove it in a supportable manner.”
So let’s look at variations in the same form from a single company.
The second image above is one that shows 5 forms that are quite similar. In the top section I have darkened the images and removed color to allow us to focus more on the forms than on the décors. In this case, the forms show some pretty noticeable differences. And yet are also quite similar. The shape is one that is not all that distinctive, and is likely a form quite similar to examples produced by many glass houses in many different countries. If these examples were seen in unknown décors, it would unsupportable to say they were all the same shape, and then make attributions to one company based on the shapes. In this case it would be necessary to determine the maker of each décor, and then decide if they are variations of the same form.
In this case, the shapes are shown in the lower portion of the image, and they are all identified Steuben décors. This is shape 2683 by Steuben, and it is a shape which comes in several different sizes. As evidenced here, the shapes are all quite similar, yet at the same time, different also.
It is hopefully becoming apparent to many, that although the use of shapes can be extremely helpful in glass research, it can also be a very tricky minefield to navigate, at least reasonably accurately.
As we continue to expand our understanding of shapes, it is important to recognize that in addition to the distinctly unique shapes that were produced by different glass houses, there are also families of shapes which are similar, and common to those same glass houses.
I think of the relationship of shapes to glass production, like I think of different styles to the fashion industry. What is popular sells…. And popular forms are mimicked by all. It is like bell-bottom jeans were to fashion in the 1960’s…. There were all types of flares, and all types of designs, and all types of materials used…. But the basic concept of the bell bottom jean was the same…. It was popular, so everyone made them….. Styles of cars, hairstyles, styles of cooking, fashion, TV shows, reality shows…. They are all copied… as were art glass décors and shapes that sold well.
In image 1 above, top row left, we see an example of a Rückl shape from the Tango Exhibition of 2011-12. We also see a similar shape next to it in the top row. Although the pictures are taken at different angles, and appear quite similar, I believe they are different enough that you can not say without additional evidence, that they are by the same house. On the Rückl example, there is a detail at the top of the foot where the stem terminates that is not seen in the other example. Is it possible that this missing detail on the second example is caused by mold wear from use? Sure it is possible…. But it is just as possible that this is a design difference, and an indicator that the pieces are from different houses. The example on the right also appears to have a slightly different height to width ration than the Rückl example on the left. Is it possible that this is an illusion created by camera angle differences? Sure it is….. With that in mind, one should not assume that these are the same shape, and therefore represent two different décors from a common house ….. thereby jumping to an unsupportable conclusion…… What needs to be done, in order to make that determination, is to patiently wait for an example to come to light that either confirms it to be mold wear, or confirms it to be by a different house, or simply a different mold.
Making the assumption that it is the same shape with mold wear, is simply an easy way to create a set of circumstances with which one can then say that the décor on the second shape is Rückl……. We have seen things like this in this forum relating to Rückl attributions, but I always believe that erring on the side of caution is always the best approach…. At least in my humble opinion.
The middle row of image 1 shows a number of similar forms from this same “family” of shape designs. I think that in this image of 8 vases, we see shapes, which may actually represent anywhere from 4 to 6 different production houses.
The bottom row of image 1 shows an additional two examples of what appears to be the same form. In this case it represents two different décors, and also shows the form with a lid on it. These two appear to be by the same house, but are both missing the detail on the foot of the Rückl example. The addition of the lid complicates the issue, as one has to wonder if the frogs on some of the pieces are additions as a result of lid damage, or if the shapes were made in two variations. 1 with a metal flower frog, and 1 with a lid. In reality, only time will tell, if it can be determined at all.
I think it is worth mentioning that at one point many of these shapes were on a Rückl website and declared to be by Rückl. They were then used to establish décor links to Rückl production. Later that was changed to state the grouping was of similar shapes and "included" some Rückl. As of late there is the posting of an example in this forum, which is declared by the same individual to now possibly be Kralik, with agreement that the shapes like this can be difficult to attribute.
This is exactly the type of "research" I object to, and the reason I am writing this series of posts.
The 4th image above is simply 3 of what are likely hundreds of similar shapes made over an extended period of time, both in Czechoslovakia, but also many other countries. A Loetz example, an unknown example, and another example which is Kralik, but was at one point declared in this forum to be Rückl.
I could write an extremely large amount on this subject, but will call it quits here…. I think that my general point has been made.
When using shapes that are not uniquely distinctive, extreme prudence must be used to insure one errs on the side of caution. My research in glass has proven time and again, to me at least, that it is best to keep décors and shapes as “unidentified” or “unknown” until they are solidly attributed.
The alternative is to make rushed and incorrect attributions, and then try to change them later. In the age of the internet, I find it very difficult to “un-ring that bell”. I also consider it to be irresponsible to post incomplete or unsupportable research, and change it later under the premise that “research advances”.
This forum has been a source of Rückl attributions that come and go…. Many disappearing under the premise that “research advanced”.
Making unfounded leaps in a “rush to judgement” to claim the origins of a piece of glass, is simply not sound research.
To me at least, there is a huge difference between “research advances”, and an individual’s own personal “knowledge evolving”. Knowledge evolves progressively and steadily if one studies, observes, and learns. An increase in one’s knowledge is not the same thing as advancing research.
Sound research does not actually change anywhere near as often or quickly as learning…….
At least usually…..