Glass in 17th – 19th-Century Europe

35 Centuries of Glass Galleries

This section of the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries presents a broad range of glass from the Baroque to the late Victorian periods.

The Baroque era was marked by the production, in German and Bohemian glasshouses, of Humpen (large vessels with a lid) and other thinly blown glasses enameled in many colors [Humpen, 57.3.54]. Guilds, hunting societies, fraternities, and important families had their own decorative schemes painted in enamel on these glasses. Elaborate Reichsadlerhumpen were painted with the imperial eagle and coat of arms of the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, examples of which are on view in this area of the Glass Collection Galleries.

In the 17th century, the glass industry was transformed through changing tastes and new glass formulas. Venetian glass remained popular throughout Europe, but north of the Alps, glassmakers found new ways to produce perfectly colorless glass. In the Netherlands, where much Venetian glass had been imported, local glasshouses created fine variants that were often finely engraved [goblet, 2009.3.103].

Since the late 17th century, and throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, English glasshouses made glass more brilliant by adding lead oxide, while the Bohemians achieved similar effects by adding chalk [Ravenscroft goblet, 50.2.2]. German glasshouses excelled in producing decolorized glass that, like Bohemian glass, was carefully cut and engraved, and they developed gold ruby, a deep red glass colored by gold chloride [ruby bowl, 2009.3.78]. In the effort to reproduce imported Chinese hard-paste porcelain, they also made an opaque white glass that imitated chinaware [‘porcelain’ glass teapot, 53.3.9].

Glassmakers exploited this new, brilliant glass by producing objects in more massive forms. These works were designed with the elaborate shapes and intricate decorations of the emerging Baroque and Rococo styles. Among the latter were Oriental designs (chinoiserie) that featured gilding, asymmetrical forms, unusual perspectives, and flora and fauna that were East Asian in appearance [vase, 2010.3.17]. This style waned during the 19th century, when tastes were influenced by other far-off places, such as Turkey, Egypt, and Greece.

Featured Objects of the Glass in 17th – 19th-Century Europe Gallery