Posted 10 years ago
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, contrary to what they tell you - it may not necessarily be a duck!
The pieces shown here, the first group which belongs to me, and the second of which is borrowed from the internet, have the look and feel of classic Moser production. They are, however, from the little known bronze fabricator and glass refiner known as Franz Wagner, Ulrichsthal, Bohemia (now Austria).
As collectors of Bohemian glass, we can sometimes be at a disadvantage - so much of the production is unmarked, the number of companies producing and refining glass in the region was so numerous, and much of the literature is written in German. Some great books can be found, but unless you speak or read the language, disseminating the information can be a slow, tedious process.
Then, occasionally you find a piece (or two, in this case) with an original paper label, and research takes a leap forward! Suddenly, you have the name of a company and a location - enter Google, the ability to electronically search books (even in German) and translation software, and you're off and running!
Thanks to all these tools, I now know (and can share with those who care to know) the following facts:
1. Franz Wagner, Bronze Fabricator and Glass Refinery, was established in Ulrichsthal-Meistersdorf, Bohemia, in 1863 (source - Das Boehmisches Glas, Band III.56)
2. They exhibited their wares at the 1876 International Exhibition in Philadelphia - "Franz Wagner, Meistersdorf - Fancy articles of glass-wares mounted with brass. Some imitations of agates, in tabletops and boxes, are very good. Considerable fanciness is shown. The prices are very low." (source - Reports and Awards, United States Centennial Commission, by Francis Amasa Walker)
3. They received a Jury Selection certificate for the Second Order of Merit in the Glassware, Plain, Engraved, Cut, Etched, and Ornamental category at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880-1881. (source - Official record: containing introduction, history of exhibition, description of exhibition and exhibits, official awards of commissioners, and catalogue of exhibits, Melbourne International Exhibition (1880-1881) - Mason, Firth, & M'Cutcheon, 1882)
4. They were announced as an award winner at the Columbian Exhibition in 1893 (source - The Jewelers' Circular, Sept. 20th, 1893 - Awards for Glass and Glassware Officially Announced).
5. In Moderne Glaeser, by Gustav Pazaurek (1902), it is said that while it cannot be (the author's) task to enumerate the whole long series of glassworks in and around Haida and Steinschonau (paraphrasing a translated section), firms such as F. Valentin and Franz Wagner in Meistersdorf cannot be overlooked...
6. Waltraud Neuwirth in Das Glas des Jugendstils describes Franz Wagner as a firm who specializes in "luxury fitted colored glasses", and again later in the book, it mentions "vases in iridescent colors with silver overlay by Franz Wagner, Bronzeware Manufactory and Hollow Glass Refinery in Ullrichsthal" (again, translated)
So, from the ashes of history, we can resurrect this long forgotten company, and illuminate a couple of pieces of theirs that would have other wise been attributed to Moser or some other more well-known house. Most of all, we can jut appreciate the beauty of the glass, and wonder what it was like to be a part of that community of glass artisans in Bohemia in the time before the great wars tore the place apart.
In closing, then, I offer this excerpt from the book "A July Holiday in Saxony, Bohemia, and Silesia" by Walter White, 1857, which I think paints a vivid and wonderful glimpse into what it must have been like:
"Ulrichsthal was my destination; but here was no valley, only a slope. However, on inquiring at the last but one in the row of cottages, I found that I was really in Ulrichsthal, and at the very door I wanted.
I Once promised a Bohemian glass engraver, who showed me specimens of his skill under the murky sky of ugly Birmingham, that when the favourable time came I would find out his native place, and have a talk with his kinsfolk. The favourable time had come in all ways, for no sooner did I make myself known to the old man who was summoned to the door, than he took my hand and said, "Be welcome to my house." Suiting action to word, he led me into a large, low room, hot as an oven, where his wife and daughters and a sweetheart sat chatting away the dusk. At first they were somewhat shy; but when I brought out a little letter from the son in England, and the eldest daughter, having lit a candle, read it aloud, the mother, overjoyed at hearing news from "our Wilhelm," sprang up, gave me a kiss, and cried, "Only think, an Englishman is come to see us!" Here was an end to the shyness; and having shaken hands with all the lasses and the sweetheart, I became as one of the family."