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The Estonian Glasshouse of Hüti, 1628–1664

All About Glass

Before his death, Maks Roosma, Professor in the Department of Glass, State Art Institute, Tallinn, Estonia, sent a brief article summarizing the results of his research into the history of the most important early glasshouse in Estonia. Professor Roosma had conducted an archaeological excavation on the site in 1958-1961. His conclusions are summarized.

The Estonian Glasshouse of Hüti, 1628–1664

One of the earliest glass manufactories in Estonia was founded by Jakob de la Gardie, a Swedish entrepreneur, on the Isle of Hiiumaa. The Hüti glass factory (1628-1664) location was chosen because of access to deposits of clay and sand, nearby forests for fuel, cheap labor, and proximity to water transportation for the finished product.

Professor Roosma's excavations on the site uncovered three major periods of construction. The first oven was presumably built in 1628 by glassblower Jost Wentzell, a German who worked at Hüti from 1628 to 1632. In 1634, two more ovens were built by glassblower Pauell Gauwkunkell, a Swede who worked at Hüti from 1634 to 1648. In 1648 or 1649, the new glassblower, Jürgen Kelpien, who was also a Swede, added the one-pot ovens. The last glassblower, Wilhelm Breidenstein from Bohemia or Germany, worked at Hüti from 1651 to 1664 but did no building.

Most of the glass produced at Hüti utilized the local sand and is similar to the German "forest glass." Chemical analyses of the window glass fragments found during the excavation show that the formula was consistent in spite of the primitive methods then in use. Most of the early glass seems to be of inferior quality with many bubbles and striations and a greenish or brownish tinge. The later glass includes quartz and is of much better quality. The fragments of vessel glass show much Venetian influence especially in the addition of applied threading and similar decoration. German and Dutch influences appear in some of the shapes, notably octahedral Passglases and dark green Römers.

Painted window fragments which date from Jost Wentzell's time were found. Seventy-five percent of the nearly 4,000 excavated fragments were of decorated glassware. Unfortunately, all were too small to permit reconstruction of forms. According to the archives, the Hüti glasshouse made bottles, laboratory vessels, apothecary and medical glasses, and many other types.

Perhaps the general economic depression, which was a result of long-lasting wars, impeded the spread of glass usage, particularly in the first half of the seventeenth century. However, in spite of numerous obstacles, the glass production at Hüti attained both a high artistic level and a variety of form. In its prime—about 1644—it was one of the largest glass manufactories in northern Europe.


This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 19 (1977), 183–184.

Published on March 21, 2013