Posted 4 months ago
I was reading a humorous post in facebook the other day, and simply had to post something about it. It will also be for the purpose of discussing research, and what is believable, and what is not.
In 2020 I wrote an article about Welz basket production which was published as the feature article in "All About Glass", which is the quarterly publication of the West Virginia Museum of America Glass. The article represented the first time that glass that was not produced in the U.S. was the featured article, and also the first time that foreign production adorned the cover of an issue.
The post I am responding to was a comical critique of my article about Welz baskets, and declared: “This information is so fake it's not even funny.” That claim is made based largely on statements made here that a Welz basket, found in a Harrach case (case 65) in Passau, is actually Harrach because of it’s placement there.
So the first question that one should ask, is if the placement in that case is a guarantee of some kind that the basket is in fact documented as being Harrach. The answer to that question is actually NO. The conversation that occurred on the post did of course rail on regarding my claims that Passau has made mistakes, to include putting Welz in incorrect cases, and that a very similar basket is in a Harrach case in a décor which is Yellow, orange and black. At one point a claim is made that the three Welz baskets in this additional vitrine are Harrach because they are in a Harrach case, but in reality, the case is not Harrach, and the case contains baskets from a variety of sources, Some of which actually appear to be Romanian production from the last 40 years or so.
So let’s start at the beginning of the claim regarding the basis of the article being based on “fake research”. In the article when discussing Butler Brothers as an importer of Welz production, I also discuss the fact that a 1912 Hosch catalog shows Welz production, and I make mention of one other ad. In my article I clearly state, and I quote:
“There are also known basket ads from an 1893 C.M. Linington catalog that appear to possibly show some Welz forms.”
That statement in my article is misconstrued to claim that I am stating that Welz made Linington Baskets in 1893. A partial response to my article is this:
“The research on this basket ad I've been covering for years and have proven not only does the Passau Museum have a particular basket shape from the ad on display as Harrach, but there's records of Harrach winning GOLD at the 1893 Columbian World's Exposition in Chicago which is the same year and location as the C.M. Linington advertisement. There is no record of Welz ever attending the fair or proof of knowing exactly what Welz was producing in 1893. The only proof of Welz making baskets is from the 1920's, that's it, folks.”
So the miscues here are that I did not say that Welz made baskets in 1893, although they had been in business producing glass for over a century at that point, so Welz producing baskets then is not really a stretch. Somehow my statement about the ad also seems to infer, according to my greatest critic, that Welz was at the 1893 World’s Fair. Although I know of no records indicating they were there, they were exporting large amounts of glass to the US by 1885. Actually, there is proof that Welz produced baskets prior to the 1920’s as shown by the Welz production identified in a Hosch Catalog which is said to be a 1912 catalog. Let’s be serious here folks. None of this has much of anything to do with the credibility of my Welz article in All About Glass in 2020. All I actually said, as quoted above, is that Welz “possibly” made some baskets in an ad I did not even include in the article.
So let’s analyze this, because it is being claimed to be research which proves a Harrach attribution. The basket’s presence in a Harrach case does not prove it to be Harrach. I am not saying it isn’t Harrach, but I am also aware enough of mistakes in the Passau to not simply take at face value an attribution based on a piece of glass in a case.
The Passau contains, unidentified Czech glass in a Loetz case. It is not a Loetz piece or décor. That is now known. The Kralik cases in Passau contan examples of some Japanese glass which is said to be Kralik. The Kralik cases also contain some glass which is actually Welz production, to include examples in their known production literature. It is also worth noting that the Kralik and Welz cases do both contain some pieces which are provably Welz. The cases in Passau which are declared to be unidentified or unknown Czech production contains some glass which can now be identified. The same cases include examples of Dugan art glass, an American firm. And I could go on and on with mistakes in their museum, but that is not really the point here. The point is that seeing a basket in in a Harrach case does not guarantee it to be Harrach. What is does represent is that when the vast majority of the collection was curated in the 1990’s and earlier, those placements were the “best knowledge at the time”.
Image group 1 above shows an image of the Welz basket in Harrach case 65 on the bottom shelf. I have several Welz baskets in my personal collection in the same décor as the basket, and also in the same shape. Image 1 also shows the same basket in the Orange Yellow Black décor. This basket is important to keep in mind for future context in this post. Image 1 also shows a Vitrine in Passau which shows an assortment of baskets, to include 3 Welz baskets on the back of the third shelf. Two in a décor with Red, Yellow and Black on a clear ground, and a basket in the same shape as the case, but with an orange lining with the Red Yellow, and Black décor.
The claim at this point is that that basket is Harrach, due to the same shape being n the Harrach case in a different décor.
The second image above is the Linington ad which I referenced in my article as possibly being Welz…. The ad was not included in my article. Using the assumption that the blue basket in the Harrach case is Harrach, the post presents 20 baskets of the same form in different decors. Of those 20 baskets, at least 6 of them are decors which can be solidly linked to Welz, and to date, the only “proof” of them being Harrach is the claim based on Passau.
The thing I find the most humorous is that if I were to make such an unsupported claim about a Welz piece, a small crowd of my most devout critics would lose it…. But folks that have watched my research on Welz evolve, are aware that I would not make a claim such as that based on a single piece of glass in a Museum case. It take much more than that to provide robust and supportable research.
It is also quite humorous that my critic likes to ridicule among her friends that I refer to research as being robust and supportable..... I guess when your claims are not, the only path left is to ridicule that kind of stated research. LOL
As part of the conversation regarding the Harrach baskets misidentified as Welz, the OP presents 2 basket images taken from my website. 1 showing the clear ground, and one showing the orange ground but in the same shape. In my article I discuss how one particular Welz basket mold contains 16 vertical lobes. By assuming the basket is Harrach due to the case it is in, and then extrapolating that to mean that the Red Yellow Black baskets in clear and orange grounds are thereby Harrach, and my decade long research project is “fake information”….
One of the things that is extremely important I research is “attention to details”… In more general terms, one cannot make assumption without actually making sure it is accurate, and then build upon that.
The third image above is a collage of most of the baskets which have been identified as Welz production in the shape of the final image, which is also in the Harrach case that started all of this. These baskets use the same basic mold, and are then finished with a variety of handles, and also varying rim crimps.
The last image above was presented in the critique of my article based on the misinterpretation of a single sentence in my article… A sentence which did not say what the critique said t did. In this last image we see a basket presented as the “coup de grace” example of how it is not Welz but Harrach.
A close study of the image reveals that there is a partial label on the bottom of that basket. The last image has added to the right of the basket images, an enlargement of the label on the underside of the “Harrach” basket…. And a label from another piece of glass, a Welz biscuit barrel. The label is a definitive label with the initials FWK, indicating the source of the glass to be Franz Welz Klostergrab…… I guess wen declaring the basket to be Harrach based on an unfounded assumption, the small detail of a Welz label was missed.
I would add a general comment here about viable and supportable research and the techniques used to undertake it. First of all, if one wants to research, they had best have the ability to stay focused, and also employ great amounts of patience. Some answers take years to formulate.
I am of the opinion that most people see research as the seeking of a fact or truth, and once arrived at, the "task" is complete.
My methodology, as I am sure it is the same with some other researchers (not all), is that once I have arrived at a conclusion which seems supportable, I will then spend a reasonable amount of time and effort looking for things that would disprove my conclusion(s). I do so before I publish what my research has revealed or identified.
An example of this would be that once I determined that the 16 lobed and ribbed basket form was a Welz design, I then spent a huge amount of time looking for indications like marks, labels specific decors, etc, that would solidly link the form to someone else also, or to a different maker entirely. To this point in time, that evidence has never presented itself. It is that search which allows me to state confidently that some Welz baskets are displayed incorrectly as Harrach at the Passau.
Early on in my research, I identified a line of product that appeared in many ways similar to a Welz decor. It was not a perfect match, but was so very close it seemed to be the right attribution. I located an image of a similar vase on display in the Passau, but in a Kralik case. That did not bother me too much, because there are quite a few examples of Welz production displayed at the Passau as Kralik. I could never quite bring myself to put the couple of pieces on my website as Welz, and I kept looking for the thing that would disprove what I thought.... and it showed up out of the blue one day.... The glass with a "Made In Japan" label on it, and given that lead, I identified others. In the attached image, the bottom row, last 3 vases are Welz. The remainder are Japanese production. This is just one example of many that could discuss.
I guess the point I am attempting to clarify for those that have never really thought about it, is that when a responsible researcher explains something they have found, know that many of them have already done a huge amount of work in an attempt to disprove their own claim, before stating it publicly.
Lastly I would address one last point. A common theme voiced in Bohemian/Czech glass by some is that many companies produced similar wares, and I agree with that claim. For some, the claim is used to rationalize that glass makers cannot be determined because of those similarities. I absolutely disagree with that claim.
You had similar designs developed due to market preferences in aesthetics. You had similar designs due to the movement of gaffers between some firms. A great example of that would be the migration of Czech gaffers to Denmark to produce glass for Aarhus ca 1905. That glass is regularly attributed to Kralik, and most collectors are not even aware of Aarhus production. There is documentation on Aarhus production, and the differences between their work and Kralk's similar production can be seen.
That being said, here is my experience with the "problem", as some refer to it. Similar designs by different companies can be, in almost every case, differentiated through small but consistent differences in the decor, execution techniques like pontil work, and variations of shapes the decors are found on. It is also my experience that the differences can be observed if one is patient. The Japanese glass above is a good example. Another good example is the Pepita decor, which for a long time was thought to be a marker decor for Rindskopf. My research indicated that a quite similar version of the decor was also produced by Kralik, and using shapes as a guideline, I was also able to differentiate many of the Kralik and Rindskopf versions of the decor.
One last example I would discuss is a line of glass by Josephinehutte which bears a strong similarity to the Welz lines and spots decor, but in a more translucent glass. That line is Vinetta Kristal, and for the longest time I suspected it could be Welz production. My research proved to me it wasn't Welz.
My position, based on my own personal research, would be that in the majority of cases, similar decors from different houses can be differentiated from each other if one is patient and develops a methodology to observe and note the differences in those lines of glass
All in all, vetting the credibility of claims made by folks is important, if one is trying to learn actual facts about the subject.
Edit 6/9/21 I have modified image 1 to show a group of baskets which appear to be quite similar to some of the baskets in the Passau vitrine shown in thhat image. The image group I added is of Romanian production baskets.