Remarkable French and Chinese Glass

The French made the Venetian styles of glass and have no particular distinction. The French glass making began to develop in the eighteenth century. Luneville, at Baccarat and a factory by the Cristallerie de St Louis, in Lorraine, were the two famous glass factories in French during those days. And under the Emperor K’ang Hsi a glasshouse was started but there has been enough information about the details of their productions, styles, etc.

The French were the most noted makers of stained glass for windows, and this was not only for their own churches but was sent abroad. Domestic glassware, as elsewhere, was of Venetian style and of no particular distinction. Nevers and Rouen had works at which were made small figures in colored and white glasses; some of them date to as early as about 1600 but many surviving specimens are later. Most of them have little individuality with which to establish their exact provenance, as they were made also in Germany, Italy and England.

It was at the end of the eighteenth century that French glass making began to develop, and factories were opened to make glass ‘in the manner and quality of England’; whence had come much that had been imported. A factory at Baccarat, near Luneville in 1765, was followed two years later by the Cristallerie de St Louis, in Lorraine, and others who have remained less renowned came and went. The method was invented of enclosing white ceramic medallions in clear crystal, which gave the former an attractive silver appearance; paperweights, goblets, and other pieces were made with this type of ornamentation.

At the two factories mentioned above, and at a third in Clichy, were produced the paperweights of clear glass decorated within with colored ‘canes’ of the same material. Specimens with dates between 1845 and 1849 are found, and some are marked additionally with ‘B’ for Baccarat, ‘c’ for Clichy, and ‘SL’ for St Louis. It should be mentioned that the dates on such examples are never set centrally, but always to one side and even than are often scarcely noticeable. Within the last few years much attention has been paid to paperweights from these factories, and their value has greatly appreciated. A very scarce specimen has fetched over $3,000, but less exotic ones can be purchased for a few dollars. It may be noted that they have been faked extensively. Commonplace copies with blurred colored ‘canes1 inside and centrally placed dates are easily recognized, but during the last ten years some extremely clever copies of rare specimens have been made.

While glass was known in China from the fifth century A.D., little is known about what was made and no early specimens have been identified with certainty. A glasshouse was started under the Emperor K’ang Hsi and again there is little positive information about the productions, but a number of pieces of experimental types have been assumed to date from that time. Later, in the reigns of Yung Cheng and Ch’ien Lung (together covering the years 1723 to 1795), pieces were made of opaque tinted glass. These pieces are noticeably heavy in weight in comparison with European examples, and the colors are distinctive and pleasing. Vases were made in the shape of monochrome-glazed porcelain of the periods, and with the surface polished on the wheel. Snuff-bottles and other pieces are found imitating remarkably closely the colour and texture of jade and other hard-stones. The Chinese mastered the technique of copying onyx and other layered stones by making articles of two layers of glass
, cutting through one to reveal the contrasting colour of the other. Clear glass snuff-bottles were decorated in the nineteenth century by the tedious process of painting them on the inside surface by introducing a brush through the narrow neck opening.

French glassmakers decorated the glass with colors from within. The glasses of this country were marked and they would fetch high prices. While the French made paperweight the one the Chinese made were heavy in weight. And they have distinctive and pleasing colors.

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