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At first glance this epergne appears to be a marriage of many parts, however most,if not all metal & glass epergnes are.
The producers of these amazing items,either made glass or made the metal and not both.
It was the salesrooms & designers of these fabulous items that brought both together so as to provide an array of interior display possibilities for the public demand of the era.
It is always the glass itself which is the most desirable of features of these early 20th century epergnes,and here for your appraisal is a tremendous example of Uranium Opalescent glass, produced by one of the most important of all glass works in history: Thomas Webb, Stourbridge, England.
Thomas Webb, were responsible for some of the most historically important glass of all time. Their free-blown glass making skills were incredible and few factories could compare to their miraculous glass making achievements of the period,and this three flute epergne is no exception to that rule.
When I first purchased this piece,I was both fascinated and perplexed because once again I questioned the accuracy of the entire piece as a whole,particularly its center section,which again appears at first glance to be a metal leaf to disguise a space for a central glass flute,however before making my purchase I dismantled the item completely and as can be seen this central leaf simply forms a part of the metal decoration and has been there since date of manufacture,circa 1900-1914 at the very latest.
It can also be noted that upon most,if not all of these metal mounted epergne types,only odd numbers of glass flutes are used. Three or perhaps five glass flutes over and above say two or four are always more eye-catching and appealing together with overall symmetry of these incredible items.
Cost of production also played a significant role to the retailers who were the end sellers of these items,and so would have instructed Thomas Webb in this instance to produce a clear glass foot as opposed to one of opalescent glass,which is also not uncommon.
The provision of the clear glass foot,also allowed for this epergne to be better displayed upon a dark surface: a Dark Oak,Mahogany or perhaps an Ebony wood dresser or a table,for not only then does this piece display at its best,the dark background quite literally brings the remarkable qualities of the flutes themselves to spring into a life of their own...
... One must try to imagine this item as new,a hundred years or more ago. The metal branches & flute holders would have gleamed with a golden finish whilst the creeping leaves of ivy,using a darker metal (which I believe to be factually made from bronze) added a wonderful contrast.
Seldom if ever are these metal mount types maker or factory marked. Many were imported into England from foundry makers in Bohemia,Germany or France,however due to the quality of workmanship the metal mount in this instance would have also been produced by a factory of importance from its period.
I can substantiate the above with a certain amount of authority,having been fortunate enough to make numerous comparisons during many years of collecting and studying such works...
...There are no visible soldering/welding joints for example and the entire item flows with an almost Art Nouveau fluidity. Even the metal ring holders, have been cast in one piece to each of the branches,for example and not a single join is evident. This metal mount was made as a befitting statement indeed to support three opalescent glass flutes which were produced by inarguably one of the leading glass exponents in history: Thomas Webb & Sons Ltd, at their Dennis Glass Works,Amblecote, Stourbridge,England.
I will,if I may,describe just one flute,for each have been produced using the same demanding & exacting working process.
Each flute,meets its requirements exactly. Exactly to the designers brief: A flute without a glass frill to support it into to its metal stand... As frilled-glass epergne flutes were and still are,extremely vulnerable to damage.
Webb therefore produced 'a square peg to fit a round hole' (for want of better words.) Each flute is round, and yet each has vertical ribs of `wrythen' so as to support each with a vertical balance. They are also noticeably wider & broader than most equivalents, and the base thickness of glass acts as a counterweight,keeping each flute upright & stable.
To form these flutes by mouth & hand, with their flat vertical exteriors takes some doing,but not for Thomas Webb,a glass factory of pure genius & outstanding technical achievements,matched with exceptional quality.
Had one single vertical been out-of-line,then this entire epergne would not or could not exist,and Thomas Webb did not use press moulded glass techniques... ALL of their glass such as this item was free blown,and their Uranium Opalescent glass in particular is quite simply sublime.
English Opalescent glass is a `heat sensitive' glass,in so much as that in order to achieve its creamy-white graduation,carefully controlled bursts of heat verses coolness are applied to certain areas,resulting in the eventual creamy-white & golden opalescence,once the glass had completely cooled.
Upon moulded items of opalescent glass,the same working procedure can be simply stated as being easier to produce and to predict,due to the variations of thickness of the decorative elements upon a piece,but to achieve the same,by mouth & hand alone with such uniformed placement, takes the working skills of a master. It is not until this glass has cooled completely,that the resulting effects can be known or seen,and any slightest amount of deviation/misplacement of heat control,will have an obvious effect once displayed... To make just ONE of these glass flutes with such precision is an accomplishment beyond recognition. To replicate it,upon three uniformed items,takes the likes of the genius glass workers employed by Thomas Webb and other glass factories of historical importance,such as Stevens & Williams,for example.
Whoever it was who conceived this epergne as a complete,shall probably remain unknown,but whoever it was had the foresight to realise that by adding a clear glass base, to a stunning metal mount,would catapult this epergne into the very item that it is,the very moment that flutes have been added. The flutes quite literally hover motionless before our very eyes.
Apart from over one hundred years of age related wear to the metal mount, you will scarcely find a finer example as being offered to you here from my collection and exclusively at this shop. My photographs form the major part of this items description and I kindly refer you to pause for a while and study them closely,for you are presented with free-blown early 20th century English Opalescent Glass, at its zenith in terms of this three flute epergne...
Total height: 11 inches Foot diameter: 5 inches Flute lengths: 5.5 inches Top diameters: 4 inches Postage weight: *2k 600g *Postage Discounts are available for this item to overseas (outside of Europe) by request
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