Loetz Octopus/Victoria and the English Connection

by Warren R. Gallé, Jr.
 

Octopus VaseOctopus Vase

Loetz in the time of Victoria

In the 1880s, the young owner of the Loetz glassworks, Max von Spaun, and his capable director, Eduard Prochaska, were introducing exciting, if not radical, new methods of colored glass production, particularly in techniques used at the furnace. This emphasis on furnace techniques was considered to be key to the firm’s future and, as history has shown, such was indeed the case. New patents were granted for Marmoriertes glass (made to imitate semi-precious stones), Intarsia (a marquetry technique patented and used more than ten years before Emile Gallé patented his version), and Octopus (an elaborate “air trap” technique that was something never before seen). All of these received worldwide notice and acclaim, thanks to von Spaun’s strategy of participation in all the important international exhibitions (Munich, Vienna, Brussels) in 1888 and in the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889.

 

Octopus

On June 21, 1887, Max Ritter von Spaun was granted the Austro-Hungarian privilege (patent) number 37/2566 to produce colored glass decorated in a specific way -- a decoration that was given the name "Octopus," owing to its tentacle-like features and coloring. The German-language text of that privilege is published in Loetz Austria 1900 Glass, by Waltraud Neuwirth. That text is translated below:

"1887 Privilege No. 37/2556  Production of glass objects adorned in different colors by Max Ritter von Spaun, Vienna"

 

The ornamentation, whose mode of production is the object of this invention, consists of a colored glass overlay with darker borders, applied to relevant sections of the glass object.

The colored ornaments with darker borders are produced by coating the glass parison (the base layer of the decorated object) after it has reached the desired size, by a layer of glass in a different color. Then it is blown into a metal form, which on its inner surface features a relief form of the final decoration. Its sharp edges cut through the colored layer. The relief ornament in the metal shape is extended cuneiform against the expanding vessel, so that in the process of blowing the glass in, the cut-through parts of the colored glass layer are spread outward. In this way, as can be seen from the included specimen, the colored layer acquires a darker outer border or frame.

The object of this new privilege is:

1. The production of glass objects ornamented in different colors by coating the glass parison with a layer of differently colored glass and by blowing it into a metal form, whose inner surface features the ornament in relief with sharp edges, extended cuneiform against the expanding vessel, so that the colored glass layer is cut through by sharp edges and shifted in these places, resulting in the creation of dark borders to the ornament.

Vienna, June 21st, 1887

 

Coincidentally (or perhaps not, as we shall see), another very important event was happening in Europe on June 20 and 21, 1887: the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in England, an occasion marked by a large family dinner, with fifty foreign kings and princes in attendance, followed by a ballroom celebration and fireworks.

 Queen Victoria (source: Wikimedia Commons)Queen Victoria (source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Loetz in the English Market

It is probably no coincidence, then, that a particular ornately decorated version of the "Octopus" glassware by Loetz was given the variation name "Victoria." Octopus and Victoria glassware was an important achievement of the Loetz factory, and the method of manufacture, smartly, was protected by patent. It is probably also not a coincidence that on July 1, 1887, pattern 76057 was registered with the English government for glassware with the Octopus/Victoria decoration. This registration number is found inscribed on the bottom of some Loetz pieces made in this manner, which has prompted some researchers to theorize that Octopus may have also been produced in England. Research into the design archives has shed light on this. It is also worth noting that some pieces are marked "Patent 9159," which was surmised to have been a patent of the German Reich. A search of the worldwide patent database has not turned up the answer, as the patents numbered 9159 (in either Germany, Austria, Great Britain, the U.S., or any other country) have nothing to do with glass manufacture or decoration. But we do have an answer for the matter of the English registry number.

English Registry number engraved on Octopus vaseEnglish Registry number engraved on Octopus vase 

 

 Wittmann and Roth, et al.

In 1852, Phillip Adolphus Wittmann established a wholesale and retail company based at 42 Great Marlborough Street in London. He was later joined by Sidney Adolphus Wittmann, Herbert Frederick Wittmann, Richard Charles Wittmann, and Augustus Daniel Roth, and the name of the company was changed to Wittmann and Roth. This partnership was dissolved in 1896, and the name was changed to Wittman & Co. It was the firm Wittmann and Roth that registered the pattern design for Octopus glass on July 1, 1887. This effectively, for a five-year period, made their firm the exclusive distributor of Loetz's Octopus and/or Victoria glass in England. Their timing could not have been better, as it coincided with the beginning of the month-long celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. What better time to market "Victoria" glassware?

 Registry document for 76057 showing photo of Octopus vaseRegistry document for 76057 showing photo of Octopus vaseRegistry document for Rd 76057 - National Archives, England Registry document for Rd 76057 - National Archives, England


The registration of designs to be offered in the English market was a serious matter, as evidenced in an injunction filed by Mssrs. Wittmann and Roth against a Mr. William Oppenheim and his agents to stop them from dealing in merchandise that were imitations of a design registered by the plaintiffs in August of 1884. (See The Law Times Reports of Cases Decided in the House of Lords, The Privy Council, The Court of Appeal, et al., Volume 50, from March to August 1884). This publication is in the public domain and is available on Google Books.

While the merits of that particular case are not the subject covered here, one topic of interest in reading the case was that of the procedures used by Wittmann and Roth when registering a design executed by a commissioned party –- no doubt an industry standard practice:

“The china goods in which the plaintiffs dealt, including the lamps of the copyright design, were manufactured for the plaintiff at a factory in Thuringia in Germany, and it was the plaintiffs’ practice as soon as they registered a design to get a metal die made in this country bearing the mark mentioned in the certificate of registration and to send the same to the German manufacturers with instructions to stamp with it all articles made according to the design to which it is related.”

This is important, because failure to apply the marking would cause the copyright to cease, as referenced in sections 50 and 51 of the Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks Act of 1883:

Section 50 (1):

            When a design is registered, the registered proprietor of the design shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, have copyright in the design dating five years from the date of the registration.

Section 51:

            Before delivery on sale of any articles to which a registered design has been applied, the proprietor of the design shall cause each such article to be marked with the prescribed mark, or with the prescribed word or words, or figures, denoting that the design is registered, and if he fails to do so the copyright in the design shall cease, unless the proprietor shows that he took all proper steps to insure the marking of the article.

While Loetz held the patent for the method of producing Octopus glassware, the pattern design was registered by the English firm that commissioned the work from Loetz. This is not surprising, considering a contemporary account published regarding the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in Munich (J. Macht, Kunstgewerbliches aus Oesterreich, in: Chronik München 1888: S. 1749):

«The specialties of Spaun's included the British "Octopus" designated glassware, vessels whose multi-layered walls are ornamented with air-filled (tendril shaped) cavities; then also the "Intarsiaglas"; crystal with different colored marquetry motifs and also even engraved tendrils.»

According to this account, it is possible that the names «Octopus» and «Victoria» may not have even come from the Loetz factory directly, but «designated» so by their British customer, who provided the design pattern for Loetz to execute in a manner invented in Klostermühle.

As it existed, the firm of Wittmann and Roth disbanded in 1896, as shown in the notice found in The London Gazette on January 24, 1896:

 

 

The follow-on firm, Wittmann & Co, would continue operating until the early 20th century, and remained a Loetz customer, ordering glass from the usual assortment or commissioned from Loetz in Klostermühle its own designs, at least through 1900. (Lněničková.- Loetz Series II – Paper Patterns for Glass from 1900 to 1914).

Acknowledgements:

I would like to especially thank Andy Jelcic for assisting with translation of German documents into English. Thanks also to my wife, Anita, for providing editorial expertise. Appreciation also goes out to my colleagues in the Loetz.com Advisory Group (Deb Fitzsimmons, Tony Ellery, Andy Jelcic, Kai Hasselbach, and Dave Littlefield) for their ongoing advice and encouragement.

For further examples of Loetz Octopus and Victoria glass, see the décor pages on Loetz.com:

http://www.loetz.com/decors-a-z/octopus

http://www.loetz.com/decors-a-z/victoria 

Sources:

Loetz Bohemian Glass 1880-1940 (Mergl, Ploil, & Ricke for Neue Galerie New York)

Loetz Austria 1900 Glass (Waltraud Neuwirth)

Loetz Series II – Paper Patterns for Glass from 1900-1914 (Jitka Lněničková)

The Law Times, Vol. L, March through August 1884 (Public Domain)

Records Copying Department, The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU

Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

The London Gazette, January 24, 1896 (Public Domain)

(Glass photos are of items from the author’s collection)

Additional information