Jane Shadel Spillman joined the Museum in 1965 and in 1978 became the Museum’s curator of American glass. She retired from this position in April 2013. Spillman has published numerous articles and...
Roses in Glass
Roses have been domesticated for many centuries, and they exist in thousands of varieties. Gardeners have been fascinated by this beautiful flower since antiquity. Roses were known in ancient India, were mentioned by Confucius in China, and were found by Columbus in the New World. Poets and artists have celebrated the rose since the Middle Ages. No other flower has inspired so much poetry. In civilizations around the world, this colorful blossom has had symbolic value in alchemy, in religion, and in politics. It has represented youth, beauty, innocence and purity, erotic love and passion, blood and war. A wilting rose might symbolize the transience of life while a rosebud might signify life yet to come. Both red and white roses have been associated with the Virgin Mary for centuries. Rose water has been used for perfume and for flavoring. In both realistic and stylized representations, the rose has been used to decorate glasses for hundreds of years.
Because the rose is our national flower and 2002 has been officially declared the Year of the Rose by Congress, we have selected a variety of European and American pieces from the last three centuries that are decorated with roses or associated with them. In this exhibit, we see images of them pressed into glass, painted on glass, engraved on glass and enclosed within glass. Shapes varying in size from punchbowls to beads may be found. No other flower has been used so frequently by glass craftsmen.
During the so-called Biedermeier period (about 1825-1850), roses featured prominently in interior decoration in Continental Europe. At that time, Venetian seed beads for needlework were made in a wide range of colors. The woven beaded decoration on beakers and other glass wares was the leisurely work of educated women. Most of these objects were romantic gifts, intended to display the skill and creativity of their makers. Bohemian vases with rose decoration continued to be fashionable throughout the 19th century.
Rose Water Sprinkler
Rose water was used for flavoring food, especially in the Middle East, and for its pleasant scent. Rose water sprinklers were popular in Mughal India and in most Islamic countries. The form shown here was made in Europe for export to the Near East. It was also produced in India and Iran.