Do you know that Czech crystal is not just glasses, vases, bowls and decanters, but also jewelery and various accessories?
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Hand cut glass in the history of the Czech lands
We talked about the path of glass development in the territory of Czech country in the article Fragile Art, Strong Tradition, but now we will focus on hand-cut glass in our territory. What preceded the creation of the most beautiful and traditional cuts? We will talk about this in this article, which we have prepared for you.
Glass engraving at the dawn of history
Glass engraving has given root to deep-cut glass as we know it today. In our territory it dates back to the time before our era, in the La Tène Celtic times. They dug into glass beads and small objects with a flint tip or emerald spade. This method allowed simple lines around the perimeter of the objects.
The Přemyslids and the Luxemburgs
The glass art used in the territory of the Czech Republic was developed during the reign of Přemyslids and the Luxemburgs, in the 13th - 14th centuries. At that time, a huge number of buildings were built that needed windows. Tall goblets, also called whistles, were also made. If decorated with a shallow engraving, a slightly more sophisticated mechanism was used - a disc that spun using a string drive. An abrasive was applied to the wheel - mostly sand mixed with water. The ornaments were plant, geometric and figural.
At the court of Rudolf II.
The real boom was recorded in glassmaking during the Renaissance, more precisely during the reign of the Emperor Rudolf II. The emperor was a great supporter of arts - including glassmaking - and he was fundamentally responsible for its development. Thanks to his support, Czech glass also surpassed Venetian production, which meant that it reached the world's top.
The turn of the 16th and 17th centuries was a revolutionary period for glass cutting. Until the 16th century, glass was cut only shallowly (by engraving). The glass decorations were assembled from simple basic cuts so as not to disturb the thin-walled glass. At the end of the 17th century, the production of thick-walled glass began and glass cutting could move deeper. Literally. The decorations thus gained in plasticity. The cutters could play with the gloss, matte, shapes and figures, as the thick-walled glass was an ideal canvas. At first, new techniques were used on glass plates, which were then inserted, for example, into the window filling. Later also on other subjects. There was a constant effort to find an adequate substitute for mountain crystal, whose deposits were limited and whose price was constantly rising.
Lehmann's iconic works, source wikipedia.org
Lehmann - father of deep-cut crystal
Caspar Lehmann was the court artist of Rudolf II. He has worked as a cutter of glass, mountain crystal and precious stones not only in Prague, but also in Vienna, Linz and Dresden. The most famous work is the so-called Lehmann goblet Potestas, Nobilitas and Liberalitas from 1605. It is the oldest signed and dated glass object. The goblet was discovered at the end of the 19th century in Hluboká nad Vltavou, and since then countless very diverse works have been found, which vary greatly in both quality and style. From simple engravings of glass with anatomical inaccuracies, through cut crystals of precious stones and mountain crystal, to masterpieces far surpassing other cutters of his time.
But one thing is for sure - Caspar Lehmann was the first to use a diamond to cut glass. And he is therefore considered the father of cut crystal. He was the first to cut deep into the glass, which gave the glass the basic foundations. Lehmann left behind not only immortal works, but also a completely new generation of glass cutters, who continued to spread his legacy.
He also improved cutting machine so it could go deeper. It was based on an engraving machine, which was very similar to today's less modern stone cutting machines. It was powered by pedaling or water propulsion. Sandstone sludge was used as an abrasive.
After the Thirty Years' War - Baroque
The Thirty Years' War buried a number of glassworks and significantly slowed down glass development. After the war, however, peace came and the development of glass continued where it left off. Baroque is a period of rich decorations, illusions and miracles - which is also reflected in the deep-cutting of glass. Czech glass ends and the brand Czech Crystal is established - a dignified and amazing substitute for mountain crystal.
There is no unused area in the Baroque art piece. Iconic crystal chandeliers with cut pendants, convex and concave vessels on high legs are created. Glass cutters use games of light, shape and mirroring. Baroque opened the door to fantasy and fascinating planes, which develop the deep-cutting and design of glass by leaps and bounds.
illustration photo - iconic crystal chandeliers
And how was it going further?
Glassmainkg is once again in decline and only the region of Silesia retains its quality, where Rococo styles are slowly appearing - allegorical ornaments, portraits, urban scenes. Faceted cut cups, gondolas, bottles, teapots are produced. Glass merchants associate in companies. And the Czechia is once again sitting on the glass throne.
At the beginning of the 19th century came a sales crisis, where the Czechs managed to overcome by the production of surface colored and internally colored crystal objects with a rich decor. It also uses the properties of the colored layer crystal, which has both a colored and transparent layer, and the cut acquires a new dimension.
In the second half of the 19th century, glass cutters gave up this profession because it stopped paying off. There are several smaller workshops, which are beginning to be influenced by Art Nouveau. Rather, surface ornaments are used and, apart from deep-cutting, it is richly sandblasted. Incidentally, iridescent glass is also created. And Mr. Ladislav Prostředník from Dobruška is grinding the PK500 pattern for one of his works for the first time. He thus contributed to the creation of the most famous and best-selling glass decor, which became the tradition and face of modern glassmaking in the Czech Republic.
legendary decor PK500
Modern history and glass deep-cutting no longer offer any revolutionary changes. Apart from the ever-improving and more efficient cutting and grinding tools, the technique remains the same - nothing can replace the golden human hands of Master Glassmakers with decades of experience. Manual deep-cutting of glass - despite great grinding tools - is still a time-consuming and talent-intensive art. And that art requires a firm hand, precision, perseverance, strength of spirit and body and most importantly - a sense of beauty, imagination and love of craftsmanship.
These days Czech glass production focuses on consumer machine production as well as on manual and artistic production of studio quality. The great pride of Czech glassmaking is layered crystal, which can still be produced only by hand, which is why it is also the most valuable and most demanding to produce. It goes through an incredible number of hands before it gets to your house. We have prepared an article for you about its whole journey.
We believe that after reading this article, you will also be little more in love with hand-cut glass. It contains great value, tradition and energy, which we are happy to help pass on.