Throughout time individuals have attempted to surround themselves with the beauty of nature, particularly flowers. Flowers often have religious and symbolic meanings and even have their own language, called floriography. The Victorians sometimes gave small bouquets of specific flowers to send secret sentimental messages. Whether used for decoration, their symbolic meaning, personal adornment, or scientific study—flowers abound in glass. Some of the loveliest examples in the Museum’s Collection date from the mid to late 19th and early 20th century, when the study and exaltation of nature strongly influenced decorative arts.
- ArtworkRoses, poppies, and chrysanthemums are among the luxurious sprays adorning these Baccarat vases. Jean-Francois Robert, who had been a painter at the Sèvres porcelain manufactury, executed the fine gilt and enameled decoration. He set up a separate workshop in Sèvres where he could use his patented polychrome enamels on opaline glass from Baccarat and Saint-Louis.
- VideoTo create realistic renderings of flowers on glass, artists often use a process called enameling. With this technique, the artist decorates the glass, then must heat the object so the colors adhere to the surface. This is different from cold painting, where the artist paints on the surface, but the object isn’t reheated.
- ArtworkIn the mid 19th century there was a movement toward naturalistic decoration. In many cases, the artist wanted the decoration on the glass to reflect the use of the object. That is indeed the case here. The realistic water lilies that surround the body of the vessel let us know that this is a water jug.
- ArtworkThese delicately enameled festoons of roses were executed by Jules Barbe (b. 1847). He was a French master enameller and gilder who moved to England in 1879. He worked for Thomas Webb and Sons in Amblecote until 1901, when he started as an independent glass decorator in Stourbridge. Part of the beauty of this object is the juxtaposition of the floral motif with the diaphanous appearance of the coldworked surface.
- ArtworkLeopold Blaschka and his son Rudolph created glass models of invertebrates and botanical specimens for museums and universities. They fashioned their models by flameworking—heating and softening glass tubes and rods—and also used other materials, including paint. This bouquet of hyacinths, forget-me-nots, bleeding hearts, and other delicate flowers is believed to be an example of Leopold’s early experiments in forming glass flowers. The botanical specimens later made for Harvard University are now famous and are appreciated by audiences from around the world.
- VideoTo get an idea of how flameworkers create intricate, realistic models, watch contemporary artist, Paul Stankard, make botanical elements for his paperweights. Keep in mind that the Blaschkas used earlier versions of this equipment and also incorporated different materials in their work.
- CMOG ExhibitionThe Museum’s former exhibition, Botanical Wonders: The Story of the Harvard Glass Flowers, provides more information about the Blaschkas, how they created their amazing models, and how conservators are trying to preserve them. Also featured are some of the Blaschkas’ original watercolor drawings, hundreds of which are housed at the Rakow Research Library.
- ArtworkGlassworkers often used the millefiori (thousand flowers) technique in mid-19th century paperweights. Many slices of different flower-like canes could be placed side by side to create a rich carpet that looked like a meadow of wildflowers. Characteristic patterns help collectors identify the makers of paperweights. The famous Clichy rose was made with flattened pink and white rods and was one of the company’s trademarks.
- VideoTiny slices of cane, called murrine, were used to create the Clichy paperweight, as well as many other objects in our Collection. This video will explain how these decorative flower-like bits of glass were made.
- ArtworkThe organic, flowerlike concept of this sculptural vessel is characteristic of the stile floreale, or stile Liberty, the Italian interpretation of Art Nouveau. In 1910, the Venetian designer Umberto Bellotto (1882’1940) was awarded a patent for his “marriage” of iron and glass. The metal was forged in his shop, while the glass, decorated with pieces of mosaic glass canes and irregular shards of color, was made by Artisti Barovier.
- VideoIn this video, you’ll see how slices of cane, called murrine, can be used to form and decorate vessels. The second section shows murrine used as a decorative element in blown vessels, as in the Barovier flower.
- LibraryThe Rakow Research Library is rich in material related to flowers. This watercolor painting of dandelions was created as a design drawing and is stamped Tiffany Furnaces. The artist’s signature, A. C. Gouvy, appears in pencil on the front. Alice Gouvy and her female colleagues created paintings directly from nature to be used as references for the design and production of Tiffany’s Art Nouveau objects.
- CMOG ExhibitionOne of the Rakow’s previous exhibitions, Tiffany Treasures: Design Drawings by Alice Gouvy and Lillian Palmié focused on the work of these two women. Tiffany’s employees worked in anonymity. The important role women played in creating Tiffany’s luxurious wares has only recently come to light.
- ArtworkIn the late 19th and early 20th century most stained glass windows were made for churches. Tiffany, however, used stained glass to bring the beauty of nature into homes. Here hollyhocks, clematis, and trumpet vines frame a view of the Hudson River. Artists have not painted on the glass; rather they carefully chose pieces of colored and textured glass to create the scene.
- ArtworkIn contrast to the flowers we’ve seen, this bowl’s decoration is very subtle. The Dorflinger luxury glass firm introduced the Kalana line in 1907. By using a combination of cutting and acid etching, they hoped to produce less expensive but still elaborate glass for the high-end market. It was made in a variety of floral patterns including poppies, lilies, and geraniums, reflecting the Art Nouveau emphasis on nature.
- ArtworkLoretta Yang’s sculpture is inspired by traditional Chinese and Buddhist philosophy. According to Yang, this glass peony, which was cast in one piece, “inspires reflection on the Buddhist teachings of impermanence, as the blossom is most vibrant just before the flower begins to fade.”
- ArtworkDebora Moore is one of an increasing number of contemporary artists whose work in glass is inspired by nature. Host IX–Epidendrum depicts a star orchid that Moore hot-sculpted at the furnace. In nature, the pale, delicate flowers—seemingly fragile and luminescent—hang from the dark trunks of the trees on which they thrive.