Height: 31.900 cm
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Engraved glass ewer by the Cristalleries de Baccarat
Lorraine, France, AD 1878
A virtuoso piece made for the Paris Exposition Universelle
Following the success of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, major international exhibitions were regularly held in London and Paris during the second half of the nineteenth century. At these enormous and spectacular events, manufacturers from different countries created showpieces that highlighted their technical and artistic expertise. This virtuoso ewer, made by the leading French glassworks Cristalleries de Baccarat for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878, is a fine example of such a display piece.
Inspired by the exaggerated Mannerist style of decoration developed in Italy during the seventeenth century, the spout of the jug takes the form of the mouth of a sea monster, while the neck and shoulders are engraved to suggest the monster's scaly body. The idea of creating fantastic creatures in glass was intended to evoke the vessels carved in rock crystal, a transparent stone, for the princely courts of Europe in the seventeenth century. The French Royal Collection had many examples that provided models for Baccarat. The engraving, executed using a rotating copper wheel, perfectly complements the shape of the vessel. Baccarat was envied all over Europe for the purity of its crystal. The quality of workmanship on this particular piece is superb.
J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)