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All About Glass

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Elias Palme

All About Glass

The firm of Elias Palme, one of several companies started by members of the Palme (or Pallme) family, was founded in Kamenický Šenov, Bohemia, in 1849. Most of the Palmes were glass cutters and engravers, and chandeliers were their principal products. Catalogs show table- and floor-size bronze and glass lighting devices, as well as wall-mounted sconces. Like most of the other 19th-century Bohemian glass companies, Elias Palme made much of its glass for export to the rest of Europe, the United States, and the Near East.

In 1894, the firm received an order for a large set of cut glass furniture for one of the palaces of the nizam, the ruler of Hyderabad in southern India, who was then the richest man in the world. The order is documented by an account of Harry Palme, the son of the factory’s owner.1 It is unknown why this order was placed with the Palme company and not with a much larger and better-known firm such as Osler or Baccarat. It is possible, however, that the customer was familiar with Palme-made chandeliers. At that time, Palme had no experience in the design and manufacture of cut glass furniture, but the firm's directors2 concluded that the prestige attached to such an order would make it worth their while to try to fill it.

Fig. 1: Bed made for the nizam's palace, Hyderabad, India. Elias Palme, about 1895. Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.
Fig. 2: Settee, table, and two chairs made for the nizam's palace, Hyderabad, India, Elias Palme, about 1895. Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.
 
Fig. 3: Swing made for the nizam's palace, Hyderabad, India, Elias Palme, about 1895. Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.
Fig. 4: Dressing table made for the nizam's palace, Hyderabad, India, Elias Palme, about 1895. Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.
 
Fig. 5: Etagère made for the nizam's palace, Hyderabad, India, Elias Palme, about 1895. Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.
Fig. 6: Armchair made for the nizam's palace, Hyderabad, India, Elias Palme, about 1895. Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.
 

Having produced a table and a chair in a month-long trial run, they were prepared to sign a contract that called for several rooms full of furniture, including large and small tables, desks, sofas, armchairs, stools, dressing tables, double beds with canopies and night stands, tables with fish glasses, room fountains, one- and two-seat swings, narghile (hookah) sets, low smoker tables, and balustrades to separate rooms. The only designs offered by the nizam were some pictures of wooden furniture that he wished to have copied in glass. Some of the pieces were to be equipped with music boxes, and several were to be set with jewels supplied by the customer.

This order occupied most of the factory's employees for almost a year. Some of the items had to be ordered elsewhere: music boxes from Switzerland, silk for the chair covers from Liberec, embroideries for other decoration from a school in Sarajevo, and glass fountains from another company in Bohemia. In addition, the jewels obtained from India required special security arrangements that the glass factory was not designed to provide on its own. Nevertheless, the company was able to surmount these difficulties and to complete the order. Its success is attested by photographs that show some of the pieces (Figs. 1-6). Because the nizam died the following year, no additional pieces were ordered, but he is said to have wanted a carriage made of glass.

Fig. 7: Chair. Elias Palme, about 1895-1900. Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul Turkey.
Fig. 8: Chair detail showing glass uprights and finials. Elias Palme, about 1895-1900. Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul Turkey.

One side chair matching those shown in the photographs is now housed in the Glass Museum in Kamenický Šenov. It is elaborately upholstered in beads.3 A second example is in the collection of the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul (Figs. 7 and 8). This may mean that the Hyderabad order has been dispersed, but it may also indicate that Palme filled other orders for this type of furniture. Like Coalbourne Hill, this was a relatively small company, and it took considerable pride in the successful completion of the staggering Hyderabad order. However, it did not make furniture after 1900.


Jane Shadel Spillman, Curator of American Glass
This article was published in European Glass Furnishings for Eastern Palaces, 2006, pp. 129–133.


1. Die Bilanz meines Lebes, part 2, Palme manuscript no. 1378, Národní Technické Muzeum, Prague.

2. The company was owned by three Palme brothers. Franz and Adolf were the firm's designer and treasurer respectively.

3. This chair, along with other glass furniture, was shown at the Paris International Exhibition of 1937 in a "Boudoir de verre," located in the Czechoslovakian section.

Published on April 12, 2018

Jane Shadel Spillman
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 books, including European Glass Furnishings for...
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