Antique Bristol Glass Vase, Victorian Hand Enameled Botanical Art
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Hand blown in the late Victorian era, circa 1880, this tall, semi-opaque glass vase is known as Bristol glass. Bristol was an important glassmaking center in England in the 1700's and 1800's, and although this vase is a distant relative of the painted milk glass made there, collectors have nevertheless adopted the name. The piece was probably made in Bohemia, known for the fine quality and large quantity of their glass that was exported to America.
One of the reasons Bristol glass is appreciated is for the delicate hand enameled decorations, some of which are simple and amateurish. The more desirable and valuable pieces, like this vase, are skillfully and complexly painted, like miniature works of art. This vase is also gilded, both with bands around the mouth rim and below it, the neck and base and also as fern fronds among the flowers. The flowers are lovely, realistically painted in the predominant colors of blue, white, brown and green on the face of the vase. On the reverse side is a simple brown floral motif with a tracery of gilt.
This glass is referred to by Bristol glass collectors as "clambroth," this shade a mushroomy greenish taupe. (If you Google "clambroth glass" the different definitions will give you a headache.) While it appears completely opaque in some light, it also has a fiery glow when lit from within (see our photograph # 6). The pontil mark on the bottom has been polished smooth and it has a handwritten "16." in black, typical on many Bristol glass pieces, possibly identifying the shape or the artist. This is a large vase measuring 12 1/2 inches tall, with a 4 1/2 inch wide mouth, a 16 inch circumference at the shoulder and a base 4 5/8 inches in diameter. It weighs 1 1/2 pounds and is in remarkably fine condition. There is wear to the gilt, primarily on the bottom band on the stepped base and a few bubbles in the handmade glass. It displays beautifully and is impressive as a stand alone vase or as part of a collection.