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What's In Store: Glassware

Two-handled sugar bowl and plate, flint glass, cut and moulded, Waterford, c.1820

Visitors to the What's In Store? gallery can explore Museum collections normally kept in storage. Read more on the collection of glassware featured in this gallery.

Pugh Glassworks, Modern & Contemporary

The history of glass manufacture in Dublin during the late 19th Century is linked to the Pugh family. In May 1863 Thomas Leetch and Thomas and Richard Pugh took over the Potter’s Alley glassworks on Marlborough Street from the firm of Irwins. A wide range of domestic and industrial glass was produced. They employed the workmanship of some of the leading artisans living in Dublin at that time. Under the auspices of the Pughs’ business, the great Bohemian glass engraver Franz Tieze developed a highly individual and elegant style ranging from naturalistic to neo-Celtic motifs. Tieze and other engravers, such as Joseph Eisert and William Hieronimus Fritchie, achieved success in the Irish industrial exhibitions of the late 19th Century for the quality of their craftsmanship.

With the closing of the Potter’s Alley glassworks, c.1890, no flint glass manufacture occurred in Ireland until the opening in 1947 of Waterford Glass (now Waterford Crystal) at Ballytruckle, Waterford. With the input of capital into the enterprise during the early 1950s, Waterford Crystal has since established its name at international level as a brand synonymous with Ireland.

In more recent times contemporary Irish Glass Art has emerged. Influenced by the founding of the Studio Glass movement in the United States during the 1960s, contemporary design in the real sense (work produced by an artist from concept to finished article) has existed in Ireland from the early 1970s. Simon Pearce in Kilkenny founded the first glass studio in this country. Today there are around 350 people involved in glass studio-based activity. Some of these artists represented in storage include Paul Devlin, Bob Frazier, Alva Gallagher, Elaine Griffin, Deirdre Rogers, Karen Scally, Shirley Steadmond, Suzannah Vaughan and Catherine Wilcoxson.

Archaeological Glass, Venetian Glass

Glass from the Roman area of conquest dates from the second Century BC and was manufactured throughout that empire. Two methods were used in production. The first utilised a mould, from which imitations of cameos and intaglios were produced and then applied to furniture, metalwork or glassware. The second method involved blowing a vessel of glass into a mould. The resulting type of moulded flasks are referred to as ‘unguentaria’. A series of parallel ribs, either applied or moulded onto the outer surface of the glass, is a characteristic form of decoration. Roman glass from the National Collection was found in such geographical locations as Mount Carmel, Jerusalem, Herculaneum, Hebron, Tyre, Nazareth, Sidon, Beth Gibrin, Cyprus and Cairo.

The Venetian glass collection dates from the 17th to the 19th Centuries. Well-known categories of Venetian glass include enamelled and gilt; colourless transparent (cristallo); crackled or frosted; millefiori (fusion of different coloured glass canes); and schmelz. This last method was produced in imitation of various precious stones and marbles, thereby giving a veined and mottled effect of bluish green and purple tints. The most renowned technique associated with Venice, and Murano in particular, is Vetro di Trina (lace glass). By 1830 - 1840 this method was revived, and consists of introducing fine threads of coloured or white (Latticinio) glass into the body of an object.

18th and 19th-Century Irish Glass

The appearance of high-quality Irish flint glass was brought about through the enactment of three laws affecting glass manufacture and trade during the 1770s and 1780s. With the lifting of restrictions, business-minded individuals considered the production of glass in Ireland a viable opportunity. A period of prosperity in glass making would develop until the imposition of trade restrictions (the Irish Excise Act) in 1825. It has been remarked by some commentators that one characteristic of late 18th/early 19th-Century Irish glass was an increased use of metal in the glass content, thereby leading to particular designs associated with the period. It was at this time that a pinnacle of industrial glass manufacture was achieved in the cities of Waterford, Cork, Belfast and Dublin.

In 1783 George and William Penrose established flint glass manufacture in Waterford; that same year, the Cork Glass Company was founded by Messrs. Hayes, Burnett and Rowe. In 1776, Benjamin Edwards set up a glassworks at Ballymacarrett outside Belfast. The principal names associated with glass manufacture in Dublin were Richard Williams & Co. (1764 - c.1827) and Charles Mulvany (1785 - 1846).

There are several objects on show exhibiting shapes traditionally linked to Irish glass. Examples include the bowl with turned-over rim; the covered jar whose lid sits on an upturned flange; the kettle-drum bowl which contains a centre well for the collection of drained juice; the ewer with curved handle noted for its aesthetic quality rather than practicality; and the dish/plate renowned for the variety of its shapes and sizes.

Persian & Indian, Art Nouveau, Continental

The Persian and Indian glass of the National Museum of Ireland was mostly purchased during the late 19th Century, within a few years of the Museum opening. The majority of this collection was contemporary at that time, and an example of the wide-ranging collections’ policy adopted by the young institution. The most important Persian glass objects on show are tall-necked scent sprinklers and wine bottles. Some were blown into moulds, which lead to the manipulation of their neck ends. These were either given a flat spreading lip or bent over. In some instances bouquets of flowers have been built up on the bottom of the interior.

The Indian glass collection bears distinctive opaque colouring with characteristic broad spreading lips drawn down on each side of a vase. Glass in India has traditionally been associated with the north of the country, centred on Delhi.

The collection of Art Nouveau glass is quite geographically varied, and of both European and American representation. Art Nouveau as a style of decoration was current during the 1890s and early 1900s. It was particularly adapted to glass by Emile Gallé and Louis Tiffany (both represented) by using such relief and enamel ornamentation as floral patterns with elaborate tendrils. Other important Art Nouveau adherents on show include François-Eugène Rousseau, Ernest-Baptiste Léveillé, Loetz, Wennerberg and Lobmeyr.

Continental European glass in the collection ranges in date from the late 17th to 19th Centuries and encompasses namely four countries: France, Germany, Spain and The Netherlands. Of these, German glass is renowned for its high quality engraving and enamelling, the most aesthetic of which represented here dates to the 18th Century.

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