Posts Tagged ‘Georg Flegel’

The Mystery of Georg Flegel’s Serpentine Wine Glasses

Georg Flegel self-portrait, 1630, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, Image from Wikimedia

In my earlier posts on the wine related paintings of Georg Flegel I commented on a particularly beautiful serpentine wine glass in Still-Life with Cherries, 1635 and curly cane with stamped prunts wine glass in Still-Life with Stag Beetle, 1635.  These paintings caught my attention because I had not yet come across this style of wine glass while researching for my Dutch series of posts.

Serpentine wine glass from Still Life with Cherries, Georg Flegel, 1635, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

Georg Flegel produced over one hundred works of art.  In reviewing approximately 40 paintings I have come across only two true serpentine glasses and two glasses with a stem of three or four curly canes adorned with stamped prunts. In addition to the two paintings described above a third painting features a serpentine glass, the undated Still-life with Strawberries on a Plate, see Christies, Lot 56, Sale 5944, 14 April 1998.  A fourth painting features a curly cane stamped prunt, which is Kerzenstilleben (Candle still-life) 1636.  The three dated glasses were painted in 1635 and 1636.  Several other paintings from the same period feature facon de Venise glasses but these have bulbous stems to which curved canes are symmetrically attached thus forming wings.  I have excluded them because the canes attach to the stem and do not form the stem itself.

Tabakstilleben mit Kerze, Georg Flegel,1636-1637, Wallraf Richartz, Museum

I should remark that a rather curious wine glass appeared in Tabakstilleben mit Kerze, 1636.  The bowl is attached to a hollow toroid, adorned with two, winged curly canes with stamped prunts, the bottom of which is attached to a stem. There must be hole connecting the bowl and toroid for it appears to contain the same yellow wine!  I quickly became curious about the appearance of four of these five elaborate wine glasses in the years 1635 and 1636.  Why do they appear in such a short time span?  Where did they come from?  What is the history behind the two serpentine wine glasses?

Wine glass from Still-life with Stag Beetle, Georg Flegel, 1635, Wallraf Richartz Museum, Cologne

This style of wine glass originated with the Venetians who remained masters at producing them from the 15th through the 17th centuries.   Having first produced a colorless glass known as Cristallo the Venetian glass makers went on to gild the glasses, apply molds for decoration, apply canes, engrave them with diamond-points, and finally assemble a single glass made from these various components.  These luxurious glasses were in demand all over Europe.  The Venetians were so successful at controlling the knowledge required to produce these glasses that glass factories were created throughout Europe in an attempt to recreate these glasses.  These imitation glasses are known as facon de Venise.

Wine glass from Kerzenstilleben, Georg Flegel, 1636

One trait of Venetian glass is the use of canes.  Canes are rods of glass which have color in them.  Opaque white canes were particularly popular.  Known as vetro a filigrana there were three categories: vetro a fili (glass with threads), vetro a retorti (glass with twisted threads), and vetro a reticello (glass with a small network).  In the late 16th century canes were used to produce elaborate glasses which were both symmetrical with wings and jaws (dragon-stem) or even clearly serpentine.  Known as vetri ai serpenti they became a popular Venetian export and were extensively produced in German and Netherlandish glass factories.  These intricate glasses were collected and given as gifts, often being stored in a cabinet.

Serpent-stem goblet (Flugelglas), The Netherlands/Germany, early 17th century, D151-1977, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Georg Flegel moved to Vienna in 1580 and it is here that I initially thought he might have purchased or received these glasses.  It was not uncommon for Baroque painters to include older objects in their painting and certainly not for Georg Flegel.  The Bartmann jug depicted in two of his paintings would have been approximately 100 years old at the time of painting.  Therefore it is reasonable that he might not paint glasses he obtained in Vienna until some 50 years later.

The Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria collected Venetian glass and in his Kunstkammer (cabinet of curiosities) he had an entire cabinet dedicated to glasses.  Not only did he purchase glass from the nearby factory in Hall but he installed a glass making workshop in his imperial court at Innsbruck.  The later is quite fascinating, Archduke Ferdinand became increasingly frustrated with the quality of glass coming from the factory in Hall.  He negotiated with the Venetian ambassador for a temporary loan of Venetian glass makers who would make glass for his court and not for commercial use.  The use of soda ash and some necessary tools required for such quality work had to be negotiated with the Venetian government.  The workshop was productive from 1570 to 1591.  During this time the first glass makers received salary, room, and board but this was changed to remove the salary and allow the glass makers to sell glass made during their own time.  At a cursory level it is reasonable to assume these glasses might have been available for purchase during Georg Flegel’s residency.

Francofurtum, Topographia Hassiae et regionum vicinarum, Martin Zeiller, Frankfurt, 1655

Georg Flegel moved to Frankfurt in 1593 when the Counter-Reformation began to take effect.  Though Germany became caught up in The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) there was initially a minimal effect in Frankfurt.  It is possible that he acquired these glasses in Frankfurt.  German glass factories produced facon de Venise and might have had the technical capabilities to produce serpentine glasses in the 1630s.  For in 1612 Antonio Neri, who was a citizen of Florence and a glass maker, published the famous book L’arte vertraria (The art of glass).  This book describes the entire body of Italian glassmaking knowledge and was one key factor in the decline of the Venetian monopoly on high quality glassware.  Two decades later the plague devastates Venice in 1630-1631 killing off large numbers of master glass makers and scattering others.  Though the government authorized all members of the Venetian mainland to apprentice at the guilds, the glass makers were exempt.  The reduced Venetian exports combined with the increase of glassmaking factories in Bohemia, England, and France shifted the demand to local facon de Venise.

L’art vertraria, Antonio Neri, 1612, Image from The Corning Museum of Glass(

Swedish troops marched into Frankfurt in 1631 where they were garrisoned for several years.  In 1635 the plague arrived at Frankfurt killing thousands over two years including a fair number of troops.  Such was the concern for the plague that the annual book fair was cancelled for 1635.

Still-life with Cherries, Georg Flegel, 1635, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

It is during these plague years that the datable serpentine wine glass and other intricate glasses appear in Georg Flegel’s paintings.  In fact the Bartmann jug also appears in Still-life with Stag Beetle, 1635.  The same jug appears in the Metropolitan Museum’s undated Still-Life.  Under Provenance it is noted, “Wolfgang J. Müller. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. January 26, 1949, dates it ‘with some certainty’ to about 1630.”  Could it be that Georg Flegel purchased these facon de Venise glasses during the plague years, perhaps from the sale of a devastated family’s goods?  Perhaps the presence of the Bartmann jug isn’t just an example of “prolonged ‘active life'” as described by David Gaimster in “German stoneware, 1200-1900” but a reminiscence of Frankfurt before the plague and Swedish occupation?  I shall pursue this mystery further in a subsequent post.

In the mean time  I recommend the following books:

  • Campbell, Gordon. The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Volume 2. Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Edwards, Geoffrey. Art of Glass: Glass in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Macmillan, 1998.
  • Lanaro, Paolo. At The Centre of the Old World. Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2006.
  • Page, Jutta-Annette and Domenech, I. Beyond Venice: Glass in Venetian Style, 1500-1750. Hudson Hills Press, 2004.
  • Weidhaas, Peter, Gossage, C., and Wright, W. A History of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Dondurn, 2007.

The Bartmann Jugs of Georg Flegel

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Detail from Still-Life with Stag Beetle, Georg Flegel, 1635, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

I must admit I knew nothing about Bartmann jugs until yesterday.  The Bartmann jugs or “bearded man” jugs were produced primarily during the 16th and 17th centuries in the Rhineland.  Produced from salt-glazed earthenware they were often used to hold beer and wine.  Common amongst the various styles are the bearded face which adorns the neck.

Bartmann Jug, Frechen, Germany, 1600-1650, Victoria and Albert Museum, C904-1925

German potters perfected earthenware by the mid-14th century.  In the 15th century it was discovered that salt thrown into the kiln would produce a tight glaze with an orange peel character.  Cologne originally produced large numbers of jugs but city official became concerned about the fumes and fire risks.  With increased restrictions and taxes in the mid 16th century many potters left for the nearby town of Frechen.

Bartmann Jug, Koln, Germany, 1525-1550, Victoria & Albert Muse, 780-1868

These rugged jugs were used for both daily use, storage, and transportation.  The Dutch East India company bought these jugs both for transporting goods but also to sell.  These Bartmann jugs have been found all over the world including Jamestowne, Virginia.  This piece is unique in that it bears the arms of a Tuscan family.

Bartmann Jug, Frechen, Germany, c1600, Historic Jamestowne

With English potters unable to produce earthenware of the same quality these jugs were imported large numbers for many centuries.  The Cologne merchants established a trading post in London called the Steelyard.  Between the 14th and 16th centuries most of the stoneware was sold through this post.  By 1600 some 100,000 pieces a year were imported into London!  By the end of trhe 17th century earthenware production had matured in England.

Detail from Still-Life, Georg Flegel, Met Museum, New York City

The Bartmann jugs painted by Georg Flegel contain oak leaves and acorns which are typical of pieces from Cologne.  Professor David Gaimster, Director Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, has dated this piece to 1520-1545.  This is before the Cologne potters left for Frechen.  For additional information on these pieces please refer to the Victoria and Albert Museum along with the Rhenish Ceramics Project.

The Wine Related Still-Lifes of Georg Flegel

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

My series of posts about the 17th century Dutch history of wine illustrates the popularity of sweet German wine through images of Roemer and Berkemeyer wine glasses.  Assuming that Baroque paintings often included objects found in the painter’s everyday life I decided to look at the wine related still-lifes of German Baroque painters in comparison with my Dutch posts.  This post contains an over of still-lifes painted by Georg Flegel.  Georg Flegel (1566-1638) was born in Moravia, in 1580 he moved to Vienna before settling in Frankfurt in 1593.

In the seven paintings included in this post there is a mixture of Roemer, Berkemeyer, and fluted wine glases.  There Roemer and Berkemeyer are similar to Dutch images I have posted on.  In this small sampling of images most filled glasses, including flutes, contains white wine except for a single instance in what appears to be a wine cup with a lid in Still-Life with Parrot.  This covered glass contains a light red or rose wine.  In The Dutch Wine Glasses of Pieter Claesz I found that his fluted wine glasses contained a light red or rose wine.

The two glasses which I find particularly interesting were both painted in 1635.  The tall Venetian flute in Still-Life with Cherries has complex stem like a coiled serpent.  The wine glass in Still-Life with Stag Beetle has a two part stem containing a ribbed bulb supported by curly cues adorned with stamped prunts.  Amongst the various wine pitchers we find two images of a similar Bartmann jug with pewter lid bearing both oak leaves and acorns topped with the face of a bearded man.  The Cupboard provides two fascinating objects, a wine decanter, perhaps exceedingly dark green with a long-neck, a base surrounded by glass roping, and a prunt bearing the portrait of a bearded man.  In front of this decanter there is a wine-filled Roemer glass attached at its base to an elaborate, gold holder.

In future posts I will attempt to compare these beautiful objects with other paintings and actual images.  In the mean time, please enjoy these made pictures available from the Web Gallery of Art.