Loetz Art Glass
Loetz Art Glass is glassware created at the Loetz factory in Bohemia between 1851-1940.
The Loetz (or Lötz) factory was founded by Johann Baptist Eisner in the village of Klostermuhle, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1836. Johann Loetz bought the company in 1840 and after his death in 1851 his widow, Susanne Gerstner Loetz, and later his grandson, Max Ritter von Spaun, transformed the glassworks into one of the foremost art glass manufacturers during the Art Nouveau period at the turn of the twentieth century (1890-1920).
Since the Loetz factory was famed for patenting innovative techniques in order to produce ever more striking glassware, Loetz glass was particularly prized among members of the burgeoning middle classes, who sought to decorate their homes with beautiful, affordable items.
Glass patents owned by Loetz included a technique to produce a deep blue or gold metallic lustre. Another decorative feature characteristic of Loetz glass is the “oil spot”: small spots of silver that were applied in order to give the glass a special shine. Contrary to popular opinion and despite the often organic appearance of the glassware, most Loetz glass was not free-blown. In fact, up to approximately ninety five percent of Loetz glassware was blown using moulds.
Several, highly skilled, mostly unknown artists worked for Loetz during their premiership. Marie Kirschner, the principal artist of the firm, remains the most prominent. Other notable Loetz artists include: Moser, Prutscher and Powolny.
At the Paris International Exhibition of 1889, the Loetz company exhibited a range of glassware named “Onyx”, winning first prize in their category and increasing their popularity throughout Europe. Following a difficult period punctuated by a factory fire (1929) and several bankruptcies, the Loetz factory closed in 1940.
Colour, craftsmanship, condition, form and décor are key concerns for Loetz collectors.
Coloured glass is produced by introducing chemical impurities such as iron and copper oxide into the glass making process. Different metals and metal oxides produce different colours and, while copper and iron oxide remain fairly stable during the glass making process, creating green coloured glass, more exotic oxides (which duly create more exotic colours) can become unstable when exposed to very high heats.
Green glass was the most commonly made and is therefore least covetable, while pieces made from unusual or multiple colours are a great deal rarer and more valuable.
Since time was of the essence, fewer of the richer forms were produced and are therefore inherently more collectible than simpler ones, which were created on mass. Folded, fluted, flared, pinched, ruffled, trimmed or threaded rims, as well as evidence of a finely filed “pontil mark”, or dimple, are signs that the piece has gone through more labour intensive processes. However, plain rimmed pieces bearing pontil marks generally achieve the highest sums at auction.
Pieces of Loetz without a pontil mark will normally have a ground and polished rim which ought to have a smooth, highly polished factory finish. However if the piece does have a pontil mark, the rim should be fire finished. A piece of Loetz glassware bearing a pontil mark with a polished rim is usually the result of damage having been filed down and collectors should therefore be wary of investing in such examples.
Loetz is famed for its diversity, having made approximately 40,000 different designs. Yet they are known for maintaining an extremely standard of quality across all of their ranges. Loetz’s heyday coincided with the Art Noveau period, so pieces exhibingt Art Noveau characteristics and detailing are the most sought after.
Many popular forms were re-produced with rim variation. As a general rule, purer plain rims achieve more at auction than ruffled rims.
The experimental Phanomen/Phenomenon decorative style is the most highly prized among Loetz collectors, the last Phanomen example to come to market, for example, sold to a collector in Germany for almost $30,000. There are numerous variations of this style, however. Attribtion to a particular artist also positively impacts upon price.
Loetz decoration is thought to be complex, innovative, and among admirers of Loetz glassware, often sublime.
The price of Loetz glass varies according to colour, craftsmanship, condition, form, décor and whether or not the piece can be attributed to a particular artist.
A rare Loetz Perl glass vase designed by Otto Prutsche sold in 2005, at Sothebys in Amsterdam for $59,000. An unattributed, iridescent Art Noveau Cytisus vase, dating back to 1902 sold in Munich at Quittenbaum auctioneers for $28,000.
Common, green Loetz ware can be found for anything between $25 and $500 (although rarer models have been known to fetch significantly more) while slightly more exotically coloured or decorated examples might achieve up to and above $5,000 at auction.
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