Identifying Loetz by Warren Gallé
A Bottoms Up Approach
So you have found a piece (or pieces) of art glass that you are interested in, and they appear to have been made by Loetz in Austria. They might even be represented as Loetz by the seller, based on their long years of experience as a dealer and/or collector, or on the advice of same. It is not wise to rely completely an attribution that is anecdotal. The goal of Loetz.com is to assist those who love, collect, buy, and sell Loetz glass in deciding for themselves.
All of the available means of finding information on Loetz production, whether online, in books, or by simple observation, are part of the methodology articulated by the Passau Glasmuseum (PGM); namely, "by comparison and analysis of the archive documents and the preserved glassware.”* (*Mergl, Loetz Bohemian Glass 1880-1940).
Outside of Loetz.com, there are several fine publications on the subject of Loetz glass. Some of these are out of print, but available in the secondary market, if one is diligent enough. Those will be referenced at the end of this article. I strongly suggest that anyone who plans on building a collection of this type of glass invest in some of these invaluable books to help them on their way.
We are fortunate that so much of the archived documents (paper patterns, invoices, catalogues, etc) have been preserved. There are still challenges, however:
- The paper patterns, a catalogue of line drawings of individual shapes by Production Number (PN), and other documents such as company invoices and sales records, are incomplete. Furthermore, only a portion of those available has been published. There are efforts underway to publish more, but unfortunately, some records have been permanently lost over time due to degradation, damage, and/or misplacement.
- Of the patterns that exist, not all decors created for a particular shape are noted on the corresponding drawing, or in references to it found on invoices. Thus, you may find Loetz decors on pieces that are not referenced to the subject PN.
- Some shapes are repeated under different PNs, in different sizes (that are not all documented), with different decors listed.
- Often in the “preserved glassware”, known Loetz decors are found on shapes that are not documented at all.
- Other makers produced glassware that is very similar in shape, décor, and methods to Loetz. This includes contemporary glassmakers that are using the old methods to produce art glass today.
- Misattributions in print and on line – misinformation, both intentional and accidental, are unfortunately common among auction houses, dealers, and collectors. The goal of Loetz.com and this article is to assist the reader in being able to independently arrive at a conclusion.
- Loetz marks and signatures have been widely reproduced. This will be the subject of other articles. One of the takeaways for this article is not to rely on any Loetz mark or signature as the sole source of attribution (or non-attribution).
Not all is gloomy! There are some things that have proven to be fun and reliable:
- Loetz.com – initially introduced in 1999, the site quickly became an invaluable resource to Loetz collectors worldwide. With the sale of the site in 2013, a new and expanded site was published, with dozens of previously undocumented decors and photo examples. Work is ongoing to keep the site updated, relevant, and as accurate as possible. This is great news for the community of Loetz enthusiasts, as much of the identification groundwork has been done and published in one easy to navigate website.
- The line drawings shown in the paper patterns are extremely accurate, and to scale. There is a bar in each line drawing that represents approximately 15 cm, or about 6 inches. This is extremely helpful in confirming shapes vs. glass examples.
- Other online resources - many sites, both commercial (eBay, various auction houses, and other antique venues) and non-commercial (Pinterest, Collectors Weekly, and individual collectors’ blogs and websites), are invaluable when it comes to finding photo examples of Loetz pieces that you may never see otherwise. Brush up on those internet search skills – they will serve you well!
- Museums and shows – There is no substitute for seeing the glass in person (and handling it, if possible) – and there are some excellent museums around the world that have the finest examples of Loetz glass. Additionally, antique shows and fairs are a great place to put hands on the glass of Loetz and other makers, so that over time you can learn to differentiate.
When out treasure hunting, whether in person or on line, a “bottoms up” approach is recommended. This may involve inspecting the glass physically, or asking an online seller for additional photos. Be wary of any seller that will not allow this.
Consider the beautiful pair of vases shown here:
Take in the vases as a whole. They certainly have the right look- high quality silver overlay, iridescence, technical difficulty – but there is a lot of glass out there that resembles Loetz. If the look is right from a distance, it’s time to examine closer.
“Bottoms up” means a bottom to top inspection. Turn the piece upside down – a view of the base of the vessel is imperative. First of all, it may or may not be marked, which might give an indication of whether the vessel is Loetz, or something else. Although there are many examples with marks and/or paper labels. However, most Loetz pieces do not have this. Those that are marked must be examined carefully – Loetz marks are often faked. Learn to spot the difference.
Another thing to look for is how the vases are constructed. Is there a pontil scar? If so, is it finely ground and polished? In the case of our vases with silver overlay, the rims are fire polished, and so they should also have ground and polished pontils. It is a common misperception that all Loetz vases have ground and polished pontil scars – this is not true. Factory ground rims are fairly common, and pieces with a rim of this type should have no pontil scar at all. If the top is ground (not fire-polished) at the factory, then in almost all cases, the vase should not have a pontil scar. Some Victorian-era pieces have factory ground rims and polished pontils, but those are rare exceptions. Generally speaking, if you see a ground rim on a piece with a ground and polished pontil, whether the vase is Loetz or not, you should suspect that the rim has been repaired. If the base is unfinished, ground flat, or has a broken pontil, you are almost certainly not looking at a Loetz piece.
Next, look at the color of the glass, also called the “ground”. The ground is the base color of the glass over which other layers or decoration are applied. Loetz colors are fairly well documented in books and online. The color of the glass in our examples is called “rubin” – a dark ruby red, which is also a known Loetz color.
Now, is the décor right? A seasoned collector will probably recognize this décor as an early Loetz Phänomen décor – Phänomen Genre (PG) 6893, characterized by silver iridescent threads drawn into a wave pattern over various colored grounds. A visit to Loetz.com will fairly easily confirm this attribution if you navigate through the Décor index to the page of Phänomen Genres, and find the index of PG 6893, which comes in several colors, including the rubin examples shown here.
Comparison – PG 6893 is a pretty common décor, but let’s say that after searching through Loetz.com, attribution is still uncertain. Other things you might search for are:
Matching paper pattern: In the published patterns (see link at the end of the article), there is a shape that matches our example. The décor (PG 6893) is not mentioned, but it is an important clue. Remember that not all decors found on documented shapes are mentioned in the production notes.
Same décor on another documented Loetz shape – shown here is an example of Rubin PG 6893 on a common shape that was made in a variety of Loetz decors.
Same shape in a different documented Loetz décor – the example below is the same shape and size, with the same silver overlay pattern. The décor is one of the most common of all Loetz decors – Candia Papillon:
We hope that Loetz.com will be your destination of choice for the most up-to-date comprehensive information on Loetz glass in all its iterations. Work is ongoing to keep the site as accurate, informative, current, and user-friendly as it can be.
Recommended publications – for a list of the books and other literature referred to in this article, check out our Publications link.