This unsigned, engraved claret jug and stopper was made in Stourbridge, England during the late 19th century. Decorative arts of the Victorian period are characterized by the revivals of earlier, historic styles. This jug is covered with engravings depicting a leaping stag surrounded by woodland flora and fauna, naturalistic themes commonly found in 18th-century Rococo decorative arts.
Artists and designers during the second half of the 19th century responded to the industrial revolution and the decorative excesses of the Victorian period by developing new design theories. In 1873, Christopher Dresser (1834─1904), a well-known Scottish designer, stated his opinion about a claret jug, very similar in shape to this one, in his book The Principles of Decorative Design. He wrote:
"Somewhat elaborate efforts can be rendered in glass by very laborious engraving, whereby different depths of cutting are attained, but such work is the result of great labour, and rarely produces an effect proportionate to the toil expended upon it; and if a bottle so engraved is filled with a coloured wine, the entire beauty of its engraving is destroyed." (Christopher Dresser, The Principles of Decorative Design, London: Academy Editions, 1973, p. 134. [First published in 1873 by Cassell Petter & Galpin.])
Although Dresser’s opinions and theories greatly influenced the decorative arts of his time, high quality engraved glass, such as this jug, continued to be produced and enthusiastically collected through the end of the 19th century.
In his book, British Glass: 1800─1914, Charles Hajdamach attributes this claret jug to the engraver William Fritsche, who worked for Thomas Webb & Sons. However, because the jug is unsigned, further research into other engravers of the period is needed to verify the attribution.