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Detail pictures sof Thomas Webb & sons bronze vase (1878). Christopher Dresser, attr.

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    Posted 11 years ago

    (584 items)

    Here you have three more detail pics of the Webb vase.

    On the fourth picture you can see pages 337and 338 from the book "Paris herself again in 1878-9" by George Augustus Sala (1828-1895) on the subject of the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878 in which bronze vases by Webb were presented: "and a perfectly unique vase in what, for want of a better definition, must be technically qualified as "iridescent-polychromatic-crackle" but which, I believe, from the pattern of its decoration, will be more tersely christened the ' Scarabseus' Vase".

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    1. austrohungaro austrohungaro, 11 years ago
      I've found this text I want to share with all of you:

      IRIDESCENT GLASS OF ENGLISH ORIGIN ....................
      Most theories as to the conception of iridescent glass would lend to the belief it originated in Bohemia about 1863 with J & L Lobmeyr being the pioneers. However records show that at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, the Birmingham glassmaker Lloyd and Summerfield exhibited glass vases of such colouring that descriptions of them given in the official exhibition catalogue imply they had an iridescent surface. It is also recorded that Mr. Summerfield travelled extensively and had many chances to see European glass being made and to discuss glass with the makers.

      English iridescent glass, which was mostly, produced in the Birmingham and Stourbridge areas, and in vast quantities, leaves the task of identifying very difficult. If it were not for the English glassmaking techniques and design characteristics, the task would be quite impossible.

      Thomas Webb & Sons were possibly the first English glassmakers to enter the field of iridescent glass, around 1880. After some experimenting, they designed and made a glass they called Bronze Glass. This type of iridescent glass is regarded as one of the very best forms of such glass ever produced. They also continued to make other iridescent glass, but their Bronze glass pieces worth as many pounds as normal iridescent glass is worth pennies.

      How does one distinguish between Bronze and other iridescent glass? In most cases iridescent glass is always lighter in weight and the surface is very rarely mould decorated. Applied decorations are often found on iridescent glassware such as applied drops. These are found in many colours with some being multi-coloured. Webbs were renowned for a shell motif having fifteen points, which was used in a number of colours and on various pieces.

      The pontil mark is also another aid to identification. As the base of most iridescent glassware is rather thin, the original pontil scar is usually not ground out. Also, the top of the item may be wavy or straight but never ground flat. Both enamel and gilt decorations are not evident on much iridescent glassware and when used are mostly of a floral nature and generally depict common garden flowers such as the forget-me-not.

      These means of identification only apply when the colour of the iridescence is the same as Webb's 'bronze' glass. Webb's pattern book of 1878 refers to green as well as bronze and both being produced in plain and crackle effects. The type of crackling is unique, and it does not appear to be duplicated in any other glass. These marks are hair-like in appearance, usually close together and sometimes make the surface feel rough.

      Basically Thomas Webb & Sons produced three types of 'Bronze' at their factory.
      1) Plain surface
      2) Moulded surface
      3) Owl head surface

      Their plain surface was predominately used on shapes resembling Roman & Greek vessels and they were heavy and had thick sides. The moulded type was more decorative and very often the shell decoration was applied to this type of 'Bronze'. The final type was rather a humorous version, with an owl's head formed on the surface and the pieces nearly always had enamelled decorations. Although officially bronze and green were the only colours used by Thomas Webb & Sons for their 'Bronze' range of glassware, ex employees have said that most other colours were tried out.

      Nearly every English glassmaker is associated with the making of iridescent glass and techniques practised were very similar in each company. It was basically subtle differences in decoration of pieces, which allows one to identify glassmakers of any one particular item. The two most significant and prolific producers in the Stourbridge are, Stevens and Williams and Thomas Webb & Sons both had designers who specialised in this field of decoration.

      Stevens and Williams being very much associated with applied decoration of fruits and flowers. The cherry being one of the most used in this applied technique. One should point out that applied decoration is not solely used on iridescent glass pieces but it adorned may types of glass.

      With the lack of clear identification on glass items as to the manufacturer, it can be somewhat of a minefield for the collector in the first instance. However, as time passes, with the research into glassmakers of old, we see current glassmakers making amends and most art-glass producers now subscribe to identifying their creations. Many of the techniques used so many years ago are no longer used for many reasons, none so more so than the indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals and poisons, which through the advent of Health & Safety in industry has levied standards on such processes. Iridescent glass was produced by using such chemicals now forbidden and we find the new technique is to spray the molten glass with acids to achieve this much sort after effect.

      The iridescent effect clearly imitates the finish we find on excavated Roman Glass, which shows the sign of times being buried in the earth and reacting to natural chemicals such as iron oxide.

      With the success of Webb's Bronze glass, John Northwood, who working at this time for Richardsons was inspired to produce a similar style of glass. Richardsons iridescent is scarcer and eagerly sought by collectors. Most of Richardsons' production has a moulded surface and is very heavy. The glass itself is of green similar to Webb's but the lustrous surface reflection is a deep purple colour. Richardsons experimented with iridescent glass more than any other Stourbridge glassmaker. The result was a number of rare and special pieces. In many instances the surface is completely smooth, the colour being more slate than purple with a matt finish and all reflections are neutralised. The manufacturing difficulties incurred in the production of this type of glass must have been many for no evidence can be found of other Stourbridge firms producing this lustred glass with similar surface finish.

      Pearl iridescent glass was also produced by Richardsons, which involved coating their 'Opaline' or 'Alabaster' glass with crystal overlay and then to iridize the surface. This finished surface resembled mother-of-pearl and is often referred to as such by many dealers and collectors. Much of this pearl iridescent glass produced by Richardsons was decorated with applied glass snakes or drops, which were applied prior to the final iridising process of the piece. This type of glass, 'Pearl Iridescent', has been copied many times, nor more so than by Czechoslovakian glassmakers. Both were blown in a dip mould, the surface pattern, resembling a six-sided honeycomb, is raised and the colouring is identical.

      However, there is a difference, the Richardson type is very much heavier and a great many pieces have applied rings and drops in various colours. Also, the top is scalloped which, together with hand manipulation of the piece, intends to distort the pattern in the glass towards the top. The Czechoslovakian version of this ware does not have these characteristics and is much lighter in weight. These differences also tend to support the fact that English glassmakers made this type of glass with more emphasis placed upon perfection, whereas with Czechoslovakian glass we tend to see more massed produced items.

      Because, iridescent glass was so easy to make, the small one-man businesses know as 'Cribs' in England produced a fair amount of this type of glass. With so many pieces being made by the 'Cribs' this only adds to then difficulties in identifying pieces to specific glassmakers.

      In the first instance, glassmakers tried to mix the metallic lustering oxides with the glass batch, but it soon became apparent that the various oxides could be applied to the surface of the items. This also proved to be a cheaper and easier method of production. After the piece was formed it was placed in a chamber into which the fumes of various oxides were blown. The fumes attacked and attached themselves to the surface of the glass, which ultimately resulted in a very highly iridescent finish. Another factor in achieving the degree of iridescent finish was determined by the length of time the pieces were left in the chamber.

      Another common method used to produce similar results was to paint a lustering compound on the surface of the glass while it was being worked at the furnace mouth and was still in a molten state. The cheapest, easiest and most common method of iridising glass was to spray a metallic solution on the glass before it went into the 'Lehr'. (Annealing oven) However obviously the depth of the iridised surface is very shallow and after examining some iridescent glass made in Czechoslovakia, Frederick Carder of Steuben Glassworks was noted as saying; 'Rub it hard enough and the colour will come off'.

      Iridescent glass manufacture certainly highlights the fact that when comparing English with Czechoslovakian glass, the main difference is English glassmakers have always been 'production minded' whereas their Czechoslovakian counterparts have nearly always placed their emphasis on quantity rather than quality.

      One other English glassmaker of note in iridescent glass production was Lloyd and Summerfield of Park Glassworks, Springhill, Birmingham who manufactured a series of vases in the shapes and colours of onions and leeks with an iridised surface. Yes the same company who exhibited at the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition.

      Archive and History Library ~ Dudley
      Decorative Victorian Glass ~ Cyril Manley
      Philip & Ann Petrides ~ Great Glass
      Stan Eveson ~ Former Director of Thomas Webb & Sons
      Alden Jones

    2. cogito cogito, 11 years ago
      This is great, Austro! I really learned something with this vase of yours!
    3. vetraio50 vetraio50, 11 years ago
      I agree with cogito! The learning goes on. This site provides us with the ability to share resources and ideas. Making connections.
    4. vetraio50 vetraio50, 11 years ago
      WHB & J Richardson's examples of Bronze designed by John Northwood were the reason for the legal depute with Webb, weren't they? I've read that there are fewer examples of the Northwood examples and are more collectable.
      Supply and Demand rules!
    5. Londonloetzlearner Londonloetzlearner, 11 years ago
      Hi again AH. Can you tell us where the text comes from? Thanks!
    6. austrohungaro austrohungaro, 11 years ago
      Thanks cogito, Vetraio and LLL! yes, we've learnt a lot with this vase, in every aspect! In a way am even happy we missatributed at first so it ws the beginning of all this research. That make's me think of Charles R. Mackintosh's motto: "There is hope in honest error, none in the icy perfection of the mere stylist" (I don't want to say who the mere stylist is in this story, haha)

      @LLL - I took the text from this link:

      And by the way, just in case anyone's interested on the 1878 exhibition, here is the link to Sala's "Paris herself again":

      @vetraio, I had no idea about it... :/ I'm just a beginner.

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