fig. 1 
English, engraving Netherlandish

During the sixteenth century, glassmaking in Europe underwent a significant change, which coincided with the vast political and social changes that were sweeping the continent. Venetian glassmakers working on the island of Murano had long enjoyed a monopoly over the manufacture of luxury glass for both the domestic and the international market, but in the seventeenth century their dominance weakened considerably. Part of the reason for this shift in economic supremacy was that many other countries in Europe had by this time begun producing quality glass of their own, employing émigré glassblowers from Italy who were skilled in the production of the Venetian-style glass that came to be known as façon de Venise.

The situation in England, following the discovery of lead glass by the entrepreneur George Ravenscroft in the third quarter of the seventeenth century, presents an area of significant debate to historians of glass. This article will discuss the influence of Venetian glass in England and will examine our understanding of the term Anglo-Venetian, in order to argue the case for an English attribution for a goblet in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, a piece that has often been labelled Netherlandish.

The Gallery is fortunate to be in possession of this very fine ceremonial goblet, which comprises a bucket-shaped bowl with a cover terminating in a ringed finial and is decorated with calligraphic script engraved by means of a diamond-point burin or stylus (fig. 1). The bowl of the goblet is supported by an elaborate stem comprising two hollow quatrefoil knops set between collars of glass known as mereses. The foot of the vessel is flat yet slightly folded. Apart from crizzling (clouding) in the finial and the cover, the goblet is in excellent condition. However, as will become clear, this crizzling in fact helps us to date the work, and thus proves of critical importance to our argument.

Establishing the origins of the calligraphy on the cover and bowl of the goblet is a relatively straightforward matter. There is little doubt that the engraving was carried out in Holland, by one of the many amateurs practising the craft of diamond-point engraving during the late seventeenth century: the elaborate style of calligraphic inscription and associated flourishes found on the Melbourne goblet was practised in Holland, and virtually nowhere else in Europe, during this period.1 Diamond-point engraving, and more specifically the use of calligraphic script, was practised by the well-educated, most likely within their own homes, and vessels thus decorated were given to friends or associates as gifts (for the art of Dutch engraved calligraphic script on glass in the seventeenth century, see E G. A. M. Smit, ‘Uniquely Dutch: Seventeenth- Century Calligraphy on Glass – A Preliminary Catalogue’, 1989, Peterborough). The Latin engraving on the cover reads LIBERTATIS ET RELIGIONIS (Liberty and Religion), while that on the bowl reads Salus Patriae et Ecclesiae (Wellbeing of Nation and Church). Mottoes of a moral and often nationalistic nature were frequently engraved on glass in the seventeenth century, particularly in Holland.

While reaching conclusions about the calligraphy is relatively unproblematic, identifying the origins of the vessel itself is more difficult. Central to the question of attribution is the fact that the goblet reveals Venetian characteristics – and that during the late seventeenth century both the English and the Dutch were producing glass that exhibited similar features.

The case for an English attribution begins with the fact that façon de Venise was the preferred style in England, among discerning buyers, well before the first Dutch glass-producing centre was established at Middelburg in 1581. We know that a Venetian glassmaker named Giacomo (Jacopo) Verzelini (1522–1606) arrived in London from Antwerp as early as 1571 to work at the famed Crutched Friars glasshouse, which had been established in 1568, by French émigré glassmaker Jean Carré (d. 1572), to produce Venetian-style glass. The Crutched Friars product during Verzelini’s period of tenure was a Venetian-style soda glass, an extremely lightweight and brittle ‘metal’ that was used to make vessels resembling Venetian prototypes, both in chemical composition and in design. Verzelini and his followers would secure a monopoly over the production of façon de Venise glass in England, subsequently benefiting also from a prohibition on the importation of glass, a restriction that remained in effect for more than twenty years.2 See D. Klein and W. Lloyd (eds), The History of Glass, rev. edn, London, 1991, p. 91. Glass imitative of Venetian glassware was soon being manufactured in England (most notably in London), for domestic consumption, at less cost than that of the imported Venetian product.

By the seventeenth century, a number of factors were in place for the development of an English glass industry that would eventually dominate glassmaking throughout Europe. Chief among these was the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, an event that sparked a major revival in local industry and trade. George Villiers (1628–1687), the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, was a key figure in the English glass industry during this period, producing glass for a period of fourteen years after being granted the necessary patents by the monarch. Buckingham is known to have employed Venetian glassmakers, and in doing so he continued the production of façon de Venise glass in England, the tradition begun by Verzelini almost a century earlier.3 For a brief biographical note on the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, see H. Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Glass, London, 1977, p. 52.

Another important moment in the history of English glass was the formation in 1664 of the body known as the Glass Sellers’ Company. Two members of the Company, John Greene (d. 1703) and his business partner Michael Measey, subsequently entered into a collaboration with the Venetian glass dealer Alessio Morelli, whereby Greene would send Morelli designs for glass vessels to be made in Venice and supplied to the English public. According to Truman, letters and drawings sent by Greene to Morelli reveal a distinctly English taste in their preference for vessels with bowls that were ‘conical and flat based conical, set on short stems with plain or ribbed knops’.4 Truman, English Glassware to 1900, London, 1984, p. 9. The correspondence between the Glass Sellers’ Company and Morelli, which is preserved at the British Museum, London, includes Greene’s drawings of the vessels favoured by English clients. A number of the vessels illustrated in the Greene–Morelli correspondence (fig. 2) resemble the Melbourne goblet.

The term Anglo-Venetian, then, has several meanings. Firstly, it describes the imitative façon de Venise glass produced in England from the mid sixteenth century onward by émigré Italian glassblowers using Venetian models. Secondly, the term refers to glass produced as a result of the exchange of ideas and influences late-seventeenth-century between English and Italian glassmakers (exemplified in the Greene–Morelli correspondence). This glass, unlike the façon de Venise ware, was less imitative than innovative, combining Venetian influences with a decidedly English idiom. And finally, the scope of the designation ‘Anglo-Venetian’ may be broadened to include a new kind of English glass that came to prominence in the mid 1670s, when the English entrepreneur and glass dealer George Ravenscroft (1632–1681), experimenting with the amount of lead in glass, found that an increase hi lead oxide reduced the likelihood of crizzling (a cloudiness caused by chemical imbalances occurring while the glass was in a molten state).5 For Ravenscroft and his lead glass, see G. Wills, English and Irish Glass, London, 1968, pp. 12–14; Truman, p. 10; C. R. S. Sheppard & J. P. Smith, Engraved Glass: Masterpieces from Holland (sale cat.), Mallett’s, and Sheppard & Cooper, London, 1990, p. 9. At the same time, the additive increased the light-refractive qualities of the glass. The result was a glass of high quality, recognized also for its density and strength, which permitted it to be engraved with the wheel. Wheel-engraving, a decorative technique popular throughout Europe from the seventeenth century onward, had been impossible to use with the brittle Venetian soda glass.

Ravenscroft’s lead glass may be described as Anglo-Venetian on two counts. Made by glassmakers who were heirs to the façon de Venise tradition, it was fashioned into the same kinds of forms that had characterised the ‘Greene glasses’ of a few years earlier. Ravenscroft himself, moreover, no doubt brought his own experience of Venetian glassmaking to bear on the production at his manufactories: during the early 1670s he had been a dealer in glass in Venice as well as in England.6 See Newman, p. 257.

Ironically, the brilliant and robust lead glass, so indebted to Venetian traditions, precipitated the demise of soda glass, which had once been highly prized for its ductility and for the elaborate designs it permitted. By the late seventeenth century, trade in Venetian glass was in serious decline throughout Europe, while in the British Isles there was a boom in glassmaking, as the new lead glass was produced in ever-increasing quantities to meet the growing demand for luxury glass throughout Europe.

The echoes of the Anglo-Venetian Greene glasses found in the design of the Melbourne goblet – most notably in its bucket-shaped bowl and in the use of quatrefoil knops in the formation of the stem – support an English attribution. Although quatrefoil knops, which represent a modification of the ribbed knops popular in late seventeenth- century Venetian glass design, were also a characteristic of soda glass vessels produced in Holland,7 See P. C. Ritsema van Eck, Glass in the Rijksmuseum, Catalogues of the Decorative Arts in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, ed. R. J. Baarsen, vol. 2, trans. L. Croiset van Uchelen-Brouwer & R. de Jong-Dalziel, Zwolle, 1995, nos 63–67. In his description of vessels sharing this characteristic, Ritsema van Eck refers to quatrefoil knops as ‘four-lobed’ balusters. they were a particularly popular feature in the manufacture of the more elaborate vessels produced in England.

More compelling evidence for identifying the goblet as English is to be found, however, in the testimony of the glass itself. The goblet is relatively heavy, an indication that the glass contains a high level of lead oxide. It therefore becomes quite reasonable to speculate that the vessel was manufactured in England. Even more convincing evidence is provided by the presence of crizzling (particularly in the ringed finial), an instability in the glass that suggests a date of manufacture around 1680, when lead glass was still in its trial stages – in English glasshouses experimenting with Ravenscroft’s new glassmaking formula.8 Charleston maintains that a group of ceremonial goblets similar to that in Melbourne were produced in the Netherlands (R. J. Charleston, ‘Dutch Decoration of English Glass’, Transactions of the Society of Glass Technology, vol. 41, 1957, pp. 229–43). Charleston’s argument appears to be contingent on the glass in these goblets showing heavy crizzling, a characteristic he takes as an indication that they were made in the Dutch Republic, at a time when the use of lead in the production of glass was in its infancy. However, in the view of the present author it is more likely that the presence of crizzling in the vessels described by Charleston in fact indicates an English origin, given that most experimentation in the use of lead oxide in glass production was concentrated in England in the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

If the goblet was indeed made at one of Ravenscroft’s glasshouses, the Venetian characteristics in the overall design of the vessel, especially the shape of the bowl, the cover and the stem, might be attributed not only to the prevailing Venetian influences within English glass manufacture generally, but also to Ravenscroft’s own knowledge and awareness of the practices of the Murano glassmakers.

In his work on the goblet, Ebbott attributed its production to Ravenscroft’s Savoy glasshouse, established in 1673.9 R. Ebbott, British Glass of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, National Gallery Booklets, Melbourne, 1971, p. 6. Ebbott’s observations were no doubt based on the goblet’s Anglo-Venetian characteristics and, even if it is not possible at this stage to identify the specific glasshouse responsible for the vessel’s manufacture, it is clear that there is validity in his claim for an English attribution.

Despite these various considerations, the Gallery’s goblet has over the years been labelled ‘Netherlandish’.10 For the most recent description of the goblet as Netherlandish, see G. Edwards, Art of Glass: Glass in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1998, p. 96. The fact that quatrefoil knops were widely used in the production of Dutch glass is one reason for this attribution. Another important factor, no doubt, is the diamondpoint engraving on the bowl and cover of the vessel. It is therefore not hard to see why the goblet has for so long been described as Dutch. However, the assumption that a vessel engraved in the Dutch Republic must also have been produced there may not necessarily be a valid one. Most surviving examples of calligraphic script engraved on Dutch glass are executed on soda-based glass and not on glass containing significant levels of lead oxide (as does the Melbourne example). Before we draw a definitive conclusion about the origin of the goblet, however, we must address the question of whether there is a possibility that the use of lead oxide in the production of glass in the Dutch Republic in the late seventeenth century was significantly more advanced than has previously been thought.

What is known about the use of lead oxide in Dutch glass is that ‘crystal glass’ in the English manner was produced in earnest in the Netherlands only in the eighteenth century. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, some English-style lead glass was being made in glasshouses at Ghent, Namur, Liège, Middelburg and ‘s-Hetogenbosch,11 See Charleston, pp. 238–40.but little is known of the quality of this early Dutch lead glass. Until the eighteenth century, then, the glass produced in the Republic was primarily soda-based in composition, with the vessels themselves often having plain, conical bowls and hollow baluster stems (fig. 3). In England and Wales during the same period there were quite possibly twenty-five glasshouses producing glass using the Ravenscroft method.12 See H. J. Powell, Glass-Making in England, Cambridge, 1923, p. 39.

Typically Dutch in design, this goblet made of soda glass comprises a conical bowl supported by a hollow baluster stem on a flat, slightly folded foot. This kind of vessel was  favoured by exponents of diamond-point engraving, like Willem Jacobsz van Heemskerk.

Prior to the more widespread inclusion of lead oxide in glass manufactured in the Republic, lead glass would have been available to Dutch consumers almost exclusively via importation from England. Indeed, commerce between England and Holland during the late seventeenth century may hold the key to how the Melbourne goblet came to be engraved in Holland. By the middle of the century, trade to and from the Dutch Republic was well advanced, with trade routes extending throughout Europe and Southeast Asia.13 For the economic might of the East India Trading Company and the West India Trading Company, which competed with the English and Portuguese trading interests in Europe and the Far East, see G. Atwater, The Impact by the Dutch East India Company on Seventeenth Century Netherlandish Art, 2 vols, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1995; see also J. I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Greatness and Fall 1477–1806, Oxford, 1995, pp. 307–27. The formation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 positioned the Dutch as trading rivals to the English, while the explosion of Dutch shipbuilding at the turn of the century ensured that both military and trading interests were entrenched in the mindset of the Republic’s political hierarchy. Naval vessels were seen by the Dutch population as the embodiment of economic and military power, sparking a painting genre that glorified the naval supremacy of the Dutch and was exemplified by the works of Hendrick Vroom (c.1563–1640) (see M. Russell, Visions of the Sea: Hendrick C. Vroom and the Origins of Dutch Marine Painting, Leiden, 1983). Despite the Anglo-Dutch wars, which began with the death of William II in 1650, travel between England and the northern provinces of the Netherlands did not cease as a consequence.14 See The Orange and the Rose: Holland and Britain in the Age of Observation 1600–1750 (exh. cat.), Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964. Treasure stresses that the Dutch were leaders in international trade and had led Europe out of recession (G. Treasure, The Making of Modern Europe 1648–1780, London, 1985, pp. 78–9). We can speculate, then, that mercantile interests within the two warring factions were responsible for the importation of a great many objects into both nations. English lead glass, which was already universally admired by other glass-producing nations, may well have been a prized commodity in the Republic. It is therefore possible that the Gallery’s goblet made its way into Holland as part of the cargo or personal belongings of a Dutch burgher, who later had the vessel engraved by a local craftsman.

Although it cannot be proved beyond doubt that the Melbourne goblet was manufactured in England, if we are to reach a viable conclusion about the origins of this piece we need to consider what is known about the manufacture of glass during the late seventeenth century, and to couple this knowledge with an awareness of broader socioeconomic factors. What is certain is that in the last quarter of the century – when the Gallery’s goblet was undoubtedly produced – glass made in the Dutch Republic was largely soda-based in composition. Vessels of lead glass were manufactured primarily in England, where they were greatly influenced by Venetian designs. Given the infancy of Dutch experimentation with lead oxide at this time, it is difficult to argue that the Gallery’s fine example of a lead glass goblet was manufactured anywhere but in England. Moreover, it is important to bear in mind that, despite war and dispute between England and the Republic in the last quarter of the century, the period was one of intense trade and cultural exchange. It is highly likely that the Dutch, with their keen enthusiasm for exotic wares, would have sought to acquire objects made from the much-prized English lead glass. The acquisition of objects such as the Gallery’s ceremonial goblet would not have been difficult, given the well-established trade routes between the two nations.

Vinvenzo J. Piscioneri

Acknowledgements

For their assistance with the preparation of this article, I would like to thank Geoffrey Edwards, Director of Geelong Art Gallery; Sonia Dean, Garry Sommerfeld and Michael Watson at the National Gallery of Victoria; and Dana Rowan, who edited the text and provided a number of useful suggestions. I am also grateful to Reino Liefkes at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; to Aileen Dawson at the British Museum; and to H. C. van Vliet in Amsterdam.

Notes

1     Diamond-point engraving, and more specifically the use of calligraphic script, was practised by the well-educated, most likely within their own homes, and vessels thus decorated were given to friends or associates as gifts (for the art of Dutch engraved calligraphic script on glass in the seventeenth century, see E G. A. M. Smit, ‘Uniquely Dutch: Seventeenth- Century Calligraphy on Glass – A Preliminary Catalogue’, 1989, Peterborough).

2     See D. Klein and W. Lloyd (eds), The History of Glass, rev. edn, London, 1991, p. 91.

3     For a brief biographical note on the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, see H. Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Glass, London, 1977, p. 52.

4     Truman, English Glassware to 1900, London, 1984, p. 9. The correspondence between the Glass Sellers’ Company and Morelli, which is preserved at the British Museum, London, includes Greene’s drawings of the vessels favoured by English clients.

5     For Ravenscroft and his lead glass, see G. Wills, English and Irish Glass, London, 1968, pp. 12–14; Truman, p. 10; C. R. S. Sheppard & J. P. Smith, Engraved Glass: Masterpieces from Holland (sale cat.), Mallett’s, and Sheppard & Cooper, London, 1990, p. 9.

6     See Newman, p. 257.

7     See P. C. Ritsema van Eck, Glass in the Rijksmuseum, Catalogues of the Decorative Arts in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, ed. R. J. Baarsen, vol. 2, trans. L. Croiset van Uchelen-Brouwer & R. de Jong-Dalziel, Zwolle, 1995, nos 63–67. In his description of vessels sharing this characteristic, Ritsema van Eck refers to quatrefoil knops as ‘four-lobed’ balusters.

8     Charleston maintains that a group of ceremonial goblets similar to that in Melbourne were produced in the Netherlands (R. J. Charleston, ‘Dutch Decoration of English Glass’, Transactions of the Society of Glass Technology, vol. 41, 1957, pp. 229–43). Charleston’s argument appears to be contingent on the glass in these goblets showing heavy crizzling, a characteristic he takes as an indication that they were made in the Dutch Republic, at a time when the use of lead in the production of glass was in its infancy. However, in the view of the present author it is more likely that the presence of crizzling in the vessels described by Charleston in fact indicates an English origin, given that most experimentation in the use of lead oxide in glass production was concentrated in England in the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

9     R. Ebbott, British Glass of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, National Gallery Booklets, Melbourne, 1971, p. 6.

10     For the most recent description of the goblet as Netherlandish, see G. Edwards, Art of Glass: Glass in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1998, p. 96.

11     See Charleston, pp. 238–40.

12     See H. J. Powell, Glass-Making in England, Cambridge, 1923, p. 39.

13     For the economic might of the East India Trading Company and the West India Trading Company, which competed with the English and Portuguese trading interests in Europe and the Far East, see G. Atwater, The Impact by the Dutch East India Company on Seventeenth Century Netherlandish Art, 2 vols, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1995; see also J. I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Greatness and Fall 1477–1806, Oxford, 1995, pp. 307–27. The formation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 positioned the Dutch as trading rivals to the English, while the explosion of Dutch shipbuilding at the turn of the century ensured that both military and trading interests were entrenched in the mindset of the Republic’s political hierarchy. Naval vessels were seen by the Dutch population as the embodiment of economic and military power, sparking a painting genre that glorified the naval supremacy of the Dutch and was exemplified by the works of Hendrick Vroom (c.1563–1640) (see M. Russell, Visions of the Sea: Hendrick C. Vroom and the Origins of Dutch Marine Painting, Leiden, 1983):

14      See The Orange and the Rose: Holland and Britain in the Age of Observation 1600–1750 (exh. cat.), Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964. Treasure stresses that the Dutch were leaders in international trade and had led Europe out of recession (G. Treasure, The Making of Modern Europe 1648–1780, London, 1985, pp. 78–9).