In 2004 I first visited the Harrach Glassworks (currently Novosad & Son Glassworks), and onsite Harrach Museum. I’d arranged permission with Mr Novasad to photograph the museum for research purposes prior to my visit, and I was able to video tape the entire museum display for future “virtual tours”. A glass works sample room turned museum provided a time capsule of work that escaped both Nazi and Communists invaders because it was hidden away in a secret room, out of sight and mind from foreign plunderers. There were multitudes of examples of glass that up to this point had either been unattributable, or mis-attributed to any one of numerous other glass works. This museum visit put perspective and context on the vast array of work Harrach produced. The “virtual museum tour” I brought home turned out to be exceedingly educational as I shared it with fellow researchers, collectors and authors.
When Lee Marples was working on his Phoenix Art Glass book, he wanted to meet with me to discuss Bohemian glass due to all the similarities between the Phoenix glass he shows in his book, and known examples of like Bohemian work. There were revelations for him as we watched the video of the Harrach Museum display. Up to this point, aside from a few pages of material in the PMC books, and the Truitt Bohemian glass book, very little had been written on Harrach. Everybody’s heard of them, but most people really didn’t know a lot about them, or their actual work, much of which had been attributed to any number of other companies. Amazing, considering they’ve been in continual production since 1712.
While on this trip, I also learned that Harrach had their original design books in their archives. Having had a keen interest in Harrach glass since mid 1990′s, I was highly interested in seeing the design books.
In 2006 I approached Debbie Truitt with a proposal to photograph and digitally archive the design books. Debbie had seen the design books with her late husband, Robert Truitt, on one of their visits while they were working on their Bohemian glass books. After Debbie mulled the idea over for a few weeks, she contacted me to say that she liked my idea, and accepted my proposal for the project. Over the course of the next year, we were able to contact the current owner of the Harrach Glassworks, Mr. Novosad, to propose our project, and gain permission, to take on what would turn out to be a monumental task. What we thought would be a three week project that we would knock out in one visit, turned out to be a six week project spread over two years. I photographed design books daily, 8-9 hours each day. While I was photographing the books, Debbie would triage them noting general content, customer data, dates, or other interesting bits of information, and also cataloged them. There are 288 design books, with over 30,000 pages of drawings. The design books are approximately 24″ x 18″ in size. They’re dirty, dusty, moldy, water stained, fire damaged, some are nothing more then paper fragments, so we felt it was important to archive them for future use.
Photographing the design books in their entirety was a facinating experience. The books contain a wealth of scattered information – production dates, customer details, including other glassworks who submitted their designs for production at Harrach. Ranging from blanks to fully finished goods (enameled, cut, engraved, etc), design numbers of the pieces at hand, some of the books have pieces shown fully decorated in color, yet others, show only shapes. Some pieces were named, most were not. There are many notes, unfortunately most are done in an almost dead old German language called Sueterlin, Altdeutsch, making them difficult and slow to translate. There were easter eggs abound while photographing the books, one of my favorites were encountering designs in color. Decorated with colored ink, water color, acrylic or oil paints, there are some beautiful examples of Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco art.
When I first saw this pair of vases for sale, I recalled seeing them in one of the design books. After some searching, I found the drawings in design book no. 288. I remember this design book well, as amazingly this particular design book is mostly done in either colored pen and/or water color paintings. Another fantastic bit about this particular book, is that it’s dated 1860!
It’s not often that I am able to match up actual examples with the design book drawings, and even less often that I can match them up to pieces in my collection.
The glass is an opaline type glass, with the exterior acid finished for a nice smooth matte finish. The vases are decorated with classic lyre-playing Muses, on classic Greek and Roman shapes, made to resemble ancient pottery.
They were available in a few different shapes as documented. There’s an alternate version shown on a different page with the Muse in different colored attire.