All About Glass

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Historical Glassmaking Techniques

All About Glass

See glass scholar and artist William Gudenrath demonstrate historical glassmaking techniques.

Façon de Venise Goblet

Although in the 16th century the maximum penalty for a glassblower leaving Murano, the “glass island” of Venice, to work elsewhere was death, many did. The Low Countries became home to a number of immigrant workers who set up successful Venetian-style glasshouses in cities such as Amsterdam and Antwerp. This goblet has distinct characteristics that set it apart from glasses actually made in Venice during the same period; it may have been made by a transplanted Venetian glassworker tailoring his work to local tastes, or perhaps by a native craftsman carefully trained by a Venetian maestro.

Spanish Wine Glass

In 16th-century Spain, the design preferences and manufacturing process for drinking glasses was somewhat different than those in Venice, the usual supplier of fine glass in Europe at the time. The maker of this glass, probably a local craftsman carefully trained by a Venetian maestro, invented an exceptionally clever – and fast – way of making both the stem and foot from one bubble of molten glass added to the bottom of the goblet’s bowl. As few of this type of object survive in collections, the rather extreme and highly specialized skills required to make it probably died with him.

St. Augustin (Rouen) Goblet

This, perhaps, most beautiful goblet from the Middle Ages, exhibiting, possibly, the most unusual construction method devised by any glassblower prior to the 20th century, was nearly destroyed during WW II. The church of St. Augustin in Rouen, France, was badly damaged by bombs to such a degree that its demolition was begun in the late 1940s. Workers discovered the fragile glass walled-up in a niche. Records have been found that tell of a local tradition among %%stone%% masons of the time the church was built: a glass of wine was always hidden in the walls during construction. Miraculous!

Nuremburg Goblet

“Nuremburg” is the name given to goblets of this type because we know that the engraving was done in that city in Germany. Where the “blanks” were made, that is where and by whom the glassblowing was carried out, is unknown. The glass formula is northern European, distinct from Venice. The quality of the best Nuremburg is as good as any glass objects from any period. The level of difficulty for the glassblower is a staggering ten out of ten: amazing to accomplish today in a well-equipped studio with a gas-fired furnace—nearly unimaginable at a wood-fired furnace.

Published on December 1, 2011