The Dutch Wine Glasses of Pieter Claesz
For this post I decided to take a closer look at the wine glasses painted by Pieter Claesz. I have extracted 25 wine glasses from 21 different paintings. These paintings span a 30 year period from 1623 to 1653. I picked paintings from images that had reasonable resolution. I have rotated any wine glasses that were shown on their side or turned over. For this post I am analyzing the glasses outside the context of the painting. In subsequent posts wine glasses from other Dutch, Flemish, and German painters will be analyzed and compared against actual glasses in museum collections.
Pieter Claesz (1597/87 – 1660) was born in Berchem, which is a village near Antwerp. He was married in 1617 then moved to Haarlem around 1621. He lived here his entire life. He became renowned for his table-top pieces. He was a prolific painter who died in 1660.
Haarlem is both a municipality and a city. Lying 12 miles west of Amsterdam it is the capital of North Holland. It is an old city first mentioned in the 10th century. There is a long history of development and destruction both by siege and fire. After the Spanish left in 1577 the city council attracted workers for the traditional trades of brewing and bleaching. It also promoted the arts and history and showed religious tolerance. The population grew from 18,000 in 1573 to 40,000 in 1621. In 1632 the first tow canal, Haarlemmertrekvaart (Harlem’s Tow-Canal) was opened between Haarlem and Amsterdam. This canal was solely for passenger traffic and no commercial freight was allowed. The city became renowned for its linen and silk and in the 1630s it became a major trading center for tulips.
There are three types of wine glasses featured in Pieter Claesz’s paintings: the popular Roemer, the squat Berkemeyer, and the tall flute.
A Römer or Roemer is a type of wine glass made from green waldglas (forest glass). The name stems from the Latin Roma for Rome. A common Roman glass was barrel shape with prunts (molten blobs of glass) applied to the surface. The use of the prunts originally indicated the type of wine the glass contained. Eventually the prunts lost their meaning and became purely decorative or functional. The Franks made glasses using forest potash and sand with impurities. This green colored glass became known as Waldglas. A Roemer glass features a round bowl, a hollow stem with prunts, and a foot. The prunts were often stamped with fireproof clay or a metal form to impart a pattern. The foot was made from a single thread of glass spun around a wooden form. The prunts provided grip for greasy hands.
A Berkemeyer is a wine glass with wide conical bowl and a thick, hollow stem. These also appear to be made from waldglas. It is similar to a Roemer but has a different bowl, smaller foot, and is shorter. Berkemeyers were originally wooden beakers with lids carved from a berkemei (branch of a birch tree).
The flute is a tall, thin wine glass. The bowl is conical with a small, hollow stem, and a flat foot. The glass is typically colorless and made in the Netherlands. The glass was made in the same manner as the Venetian glass.
In my gallery of 25 wine glasses there are sixteen Roemers, six Berkemeyers, and three flutes.
The sixteen Roemer glasses were painted between 1624 and 1653. Twelve of the glasses are halfway full of wine and four are empty. The filled glasses contain white wine poured to the level of the widest part of the bowl. Of the empty glasses, three are standing and one is on its side. The bowls from 1624 and two from 1628 are more oval in shape than spherical. The two bowls from 1627 and those from 1630 and later are spherical and are almost the exact same shape. Where the bowl meets the stem only the glasses from 1642 and later, along with the undated “Still Life with With Glass and Silver Bowl” Staatliche Museen have a beaded ring. All other glasses have a smooth ring. All of the prunts, except for 1624 and 1653, area applied blobs of glass. The prunts from 1624 and 1653 are the only raspberry stamped prunts. The longer stems allow for more prunts. All of the glasses feature more irregularly patterned prunt locations.
The six Berkemeyers glasses were painted in 1624, 1625, 1630, 1639, and 1642. I cannot make out the date in the image for the remaining glass. Of these glasses only two are filled with wine and four are empty. The two filled glasses are at least half-way full of white wine. Of the remaining four glasses, one is standing up, two are on their sides, and one is upside down. All glasses feature a smooth ring where the bowl meets the stem. All of these glasses feature alternating columns of two prunts. Five of the glasses feature prunts that are just applied blobs of glass. The more recent glass from 1642 features raspberry stamped prunts.
The three different flutes were painted in 1623, 1625, and 1653. Each flute holds at least half a glass of light red or rose color wine. The earliest flute is short with a medium width bowl and a very elaborate stem containing much application. The second flute is short with a wide bowl and a proportionately long stem. The third flute is the tallest with the narrowest bowl and a stem that is similar to the first but without the applications.
At this point it is hard to draw any conclusions from this small sample of moderate resolution images. The Dutch loved their sweet, German white wine. With Rotterdam lying at the mouth of the Rhine there was ample trade alone the Rhine valley. Perhaps they followed tradition and served their white German wine in Roemer glasses. Perhaps the red Italian wine was served in the Venetian-styled flute.