The Viennese company of Joseph and Ludwig Lobmeyr—founded by their father, Joseph Sr in 1823 and in family hands ever since—became widely recognised for its high-quality glass wares from the mid-nineteenth century.1
Large ‘crystal’ chandeliers, such as those that were manufactured in 1878 to 1881 for Herrenchiemsee Castle in Bavaria and much later for the Vienna State Opera House (1955) and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City (1966), testify to the large scale of objects made by the firm.
However, thinly blown and finely engraved glass gives evidence of its beautiful designs and meticulously executed detail-oriented production. Lobmeyr’s reputation for colourless table wares made its shop on the Kärntnerstraße a magnet for the local aristocracy and the well-to-do middle class.
The introduction of oriental patterns and enamel painting indicates especially Ludwig Lobmeyr’s (1829-1917) vision for and development of fashionable decorative styles. Orientalism is the name given to the nineteenth-century European revival of Islamic and Moorish decoration that had been introduced to Spain during the medieval period.
One celebrated colourless example of this tradition is a ewer with engraved decoration designed by Josef Salb about 1870-1880 in the Corning Museum of Glass. An identical object was part of an extensive gift from the Austrian chamber of trade and commerce to Crown Prince Rudolf on his wedding day in 1881.2
Two new acquisitions of the Corning Museum of Glass exemplify masterpieces of the exotic Persian and Arabian series produced by Lobmeyr in the late 1870s. They also manifest the success of Ludwig’s collaboration with renowned architects for the designs, and with highly talented glassmakers, enamellers and painters for their execution.
Rehländer, Machytka, and Schmoranz were architects who excelled in creating interiors in oriental styles for middleclass Viennese clients, and in making monumental architecture, such as Schmoranz’s building for the School of Applied Arts in Prague (1881-1884) and designed for Lobmeyr’s.
Persian series vase, 1878
The first acquisition, a large, well-proportioned two-handled vase from the Persian series of 1878 [2009.3.10], displays a type of enamelled decoration that had been employed for centuries in the Islamic world. In the nineteenth century, Ludwig Lobmeyr was the first Austrian glass manufacturer to adopt this technique, following Philippe-Joseph Brocard (1831-1896) in France.3
The design of this vase is attributed to Georg Rehländer.4 It makes use of vivid turquoise, orange, red and white colours, as well as thickly applied gilding, on translucent amber-coloured glass with brass mounts. This vase, which is probably the largest piece in the series, is closely related to several other Persian objects (including a smaller vase in the Corning Museum of Glass) and to design drawings by Rehländer in Vienna’s Museum für Angewandte Kunst.5
Arabian series plate, 1878
The second acquisition is a large plate in the Arabian series [2009.3.11]. Its design is attributed to Johann Machytka (1845-1885) and Franz Schmoranz (1845-1892), and it displays the qualities—oriental design and outstanding craftsmanship—that added to the Lobmeyr company’s prestige.6
The Arabian series was first exhibited by Lobmeyr at the Paris World’s Fair of 1878, including several plates of various sizes, typically between 39 and 45 centimetres in diameters, this plate being the largest size. The glass is of different colours, and it is decorated with light and dark blue enamel and with gold painting of twelve or sixteen oriental flowers, this plate featuring sixteen flowers. Almond-shaped leaves surround the stylised flower and thread work.
Lobmeyr’s glass objects reflect the stylistic influences of Orientalism, offer contemporary interpretations that fuelled the fashion for the exotic and the unknown, and typify sought-after artefacts that were originally made in small numbers.
1 Harald C Rath, Peter Rath, and Robert Schmidt, Lobmeyr: Helles Glas und klares Licht, Vienna: Böhlau, 1998
2 Peter Noever (ed.), J. & L. Lobmeyr: Zwischen Tradition und Innovation. Gläser aus der MAK-Sammlung, 19. Jahrhundert, Munich and New York: Prestel, 2006, pp. 82-83
3 Waltraud Neuwirth, Orientalisierende Gläser: J. & L. Lobmeyr, vol 1, Vienna: the author, 1981, pp. 79-81
4 Ibid., p. 72; Noever [note 2], pp. 112-113
5 Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Library, Lobmeyr-Werkzeichnungen, vol 16
6 Robert Schmidt, 100 Jahre osterreichische Glaskunst: 1823 Lobmeyr 1923 (Vienna: A. Schroll, 1925), fig. 13; Waltraud Neuwirth (ed.), Schoner als Bergkristall: Glas Legende Ludwig Lobmeyr (Vienna: Waltraud Neuwirth, 1999), p. 358