- Museum number
Tazza; free-blown glass, engraved and applied decoration, the bowl and foot in a pale sea-green, the air-twist stem in a contrasting brighter green; the bowl engraved with four gannets flying above a web-like wave pattern in trailed deep-green glass; the engraving has been carried out on the underside of the glass before the application of the trailed pattern, which has then been acid-etched to produce a matt surface in selected areas; the wave pattern is also applied to the foot; the double-series air-twist stem comprises a multiple-ply spiral band outside a fine spiral gauze or multiple spiral.
- Production date
- 1902 (designed;pre)
Height: 21 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. no.236.
The Whitefriars Glass Works were purchased by James Powell, a wine merchant, in 1834, as additional employment for his three sons, Arthur, Nathaniel and John Cotton. Nathaniel's son Harry (1853-1922), a man of extraordinary talent as designer, historian and scientist, entered the firm in 1873 and together with his cousin, James Crofts Powell (1847-1914), developed radically new forms, colours and decorative techniques, as well as creating special industrial glass for scientific uses.
When the factory closed in 1980 the surviving archive was presented to the Museum of London. Among an overwhelming array of design books, sourcebooks, notebooks, order books, photograph albums and trade catalogues, Wendy Evans of the Museum of London has located material relevant to the cataloguing of the following items and is here acknowledged for her invaluable help. The exhibition which she organised at the Museum of London during 1989 contained many items which will be referred to in the following entries. Powell & Sons' glass never bears a factory mark and rarely any other information.
Seven of the pieces catalogued here ('Decorative Arts 1850-1950', Cat. 234-5, 237-41) were presented to the British Museum by Messrs Powell before the removal of the works to Harrow in 1923. The Museum's 'Book of Presents' has the following uninformative entry under 3 February 1923: 'Glass made at Whitefriars since 1870; seven specimens, three of them imitations of the antique. Given by Messrs Powell & Sons, Whitefriars Glass Works, 26 Tudor Street, Whitefriars, EC4'. A further clue as to how the glasses came to be acquired by the Museum is provided by a notice in the Daily Graphic of 17 January 1923 (reference supplied by Wendy Evans):
'Who would think that the guardians of our London Museums were so enterprising and up to date. Within a few hours of having seen in THE DAILY GRAPHIC, yesterday, the photographs of the Whitefriars Glass Works, which will be demolished in a few days, an expert arrived at the works from the British Museum with a request that the proprietors would give the Museum some specimens of their glasswork, so that they could become a permanent exhibit in the museum's collection.
Not long afterwards, word came from the Victoria & Albert Museum that they, too, would like something to put on show.'
The museum records do not reveal who made the choice at the Whitefriars factory, though it may have been William King, who was then in charge of ceramics and glass. It appears to be a somewhat random choice of pieces that happened to be in the factory; the three pieces copying eighteenth-century models ('Decorative Arts 1850-1950', Cat. 239-41) had direct relevance to the Museum's collections, and the soda-lime vase (Cat. 237) was perhaps seen as an example of the revival of the use of soda glass, but the glasses designed by Webb (Cat. 234) and Jackson (Cat. 235) can have had little relevance, other than as typical examples of Whitefriars production, for the Museum was not at that time systematically collecting nineteenth and twentieth-century material. Since many Whitefriars models remained in production for decades, the items from this group have been catalogued in order of design date, but their date of manufacture could be at any time between the design date and the beginning of 1923.
An identical tazza is illustrated in The Studio, 1902, 256, in an article on the English section at the Turin Exhibition, described as 'tazza clouded with colours and engraved with sea-gulls. Designed by H. Powell. ..'
The Powell archive holds, among the drawings of this period, a sketch for this tazza by Harry Powell showing the waves on the bowl and annotated 'fine threading, green and white to look like waves', the stem annotated 'new air twist'. Next to it is a sketch for one of the flying birds labelled 'gannet' (Fig. 19, Harry Powell's source notebook, ref. 80.547/3251/1), The reverse of the sheet on which the tazza is drawn has designs for glasses annotated 'Glasgow 1901', suggesting that the tazza sketch was done about this time. In addition a photograph of the tazza is pasted into this book, with the caption 'Engraved sea-gulls, streaked bowl, air twist leg: sea-green'. It is difficult to tell from this description whether the tazza was ever executed with green and white threading as suggested in the sketch. No other examples of this tazza have so far been recorded, so this may be the one exhibited in Turin. In general Powell & Sons showed standard production pieces when they participated in exhibitions, both in England and abroad. They did on occasion make specially designed exhibition pieces, of which further versions were made if orders were received. At the most, two or three examples might have been made of such an elaborate piece.
The photograph in Harry Powell's notebook shows a clear glass body; thus The Studio's description 'clouded with colours' is probably inaccurate, especially as the photograph is the same as the illustration in The Studio. The photograph is further annotated 'book', indicating that it was used in 'Glassmaking in England', published in 1923 after Harry Powell's death; Powell illustrates the tazza as fig. 32 in his glossary of technical terms, with the caption 'air twist in leg, fine (modern)', characteristically omitting to acknowledge the tazza as his own design.
Harry Powell joined the firm in 1873 and from 1880 the firm's production came under his direct control. Although he devoted much of his energy to copying glass of earlier periods, he made several highly original designs c.1900 which were an important contribution to the Art Nouveau style. This tazza illustrates his preoccupation with Venetian and Venetian-style glass in the shape of the bowl and the tapering stem with its sharp merese at the top. The air-twist stems, derived from English eighteenth-century models, are especially characteristic of Harry Powell's designs of this period: the Powell archive includes a design for a goblet with similar air-twist stem dated 1899. A contemporary photograph shows a tazza with white enamel opaque-twist stem and shell-threaded foot and bowl. Shell-threaded decoration occurs in another design of 1899 for a tazza with plain tapering stem.
There are no other designs with comparable engraved decoration as early as 1902. The style of the engraving looks forward to Powell's engraved pieces of slightly later date such as the goblet with engraved fish (The Studio Yearbook, 1909, 114) or the blue glass bird and fish bowl of 1909 (shown in the exhibition of Whitefriars glass held at the Museum of London in 1989). Powell & Sons' chief engraver at this period was T. Hillebauer; little is known about him, but the fact that he is frequently acknowledged in contemporary literature (for example the catalogues of the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society, 1896, 131, no. 553; 1903, 76-7.no. 179; 1906, 34,no. 87; TheStudio 37,. 1906, 223; and The Studio Yearbook, 1909, 114) suggests that he was highly regarded and may well have engraved this tazza. Alongside Hillebauer, Tommy Smith receives frequent mention as Whitefriars' master blower.
This tazza, with its innovative use of engraving and of threaded decoration, incorporating an apparently unique use of matt-etched areas, is among the most original examples of English glass of the period.
Additional text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection'. 2nd ed. 1994. Addenda.
Jeanette Hayhurst has drawn my attention to a description of this tazza in The Collector's Magazine XXVIII, vol.III, April 1905, 115-17, in an article on 'Modern glass for collectors' which illustrates and describes six pieces of Powell glass. The tazza is shown next to a goblet with cobweb threaded work and is described as 'an illustration of another kind of thread ornamentation producing a most curious and interesting effect. The thread in this instance is in the first place so fine, and afterwards so completely incorporated into the metal, which is then shaped so that the thread becomes scarcely more than a hazy shadow, that it is difficult to realise that such marking can be produced by the simple addition of a thin thread of precisely the same material at a certain stage. Such, however, are some of the possibilities of glassmaking'. If the description of a 'hazy shadow' refers to the matt areas within the trailed green pattern, this suggests that they were achieved during the shaping and not by etching.
See also the essay by Judy Rudoe, '"James Powell & Sons and the Continental Avant-Garde before 1914l' in 'Whitefriars Glass. The Art of James Powell & Sons', Woodbridge 1996, pp 54-65. (catalogue of exhibition held at Manchester City Art Galleries and the Museum of London 1996-97). Fig. 154.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994 22 Sep-1995 22 Jan, Italy, Turin, Società Promotrice delle Belle Arti - Viale Diego Balsamo Crivelli, Torino 1902 - Le arti decorative internazionali del nuovo secolo
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number