Germanic Glass Vessels – Selections from the Mahler Collection

A superb collection of 16th - 19th century Germanic glass drinking vessels in the collection of Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass.

Engraved Footed Goblet with Portrait of Count Daun (1700) by Alexander Seifferd (Bohemian)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The Mahler Collection of Germanic Glass Drinking Vessels

Ernst Mahler was an Austrian chemist hired in 1914 by Kimberly-Clark Corporation in Neenah, Wisconsin.  In 1931 he purchased a collection of 253 drinking glasses in Vienna, Austria as a gift for his wife, Carol. Ernst and Carol Mahler played a significant role in launching the museum along with founder Evangeline Bergstrom. By 1994, the Mahler's entire collection of Germanic glass drinking vessels was given to Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass. 

Enameled Crested Beaker (Stangenglas) (1573) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The Renaissance

Ideas and styles from Northern Italy influenced much of Europe during the Renaissance period, including the glass industry. During this period, many new ideas and styles began to work their way north from Italy. By the end of the 16th century, vessels developed in Venice such as the Humpen, Stangenglas, Passglas and the Romer became popular in Bohemia. These large ceremonial drinking vessels were decorated with painted enamels.

Humpen with Double Headed Imperial Eagle (1646) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Enamel Painting

Enamel painting was widespread and popular because it offered many possibilities for decorating. It also covered defects in the glass, allowing for the use of “seconds” or glasses of lower quality. Enamel painting was the dominant form of glass decoration until the late 17th century when engraving became popular.

A Humpen is a large wide beaker with straight sides, a slightly projecting base and sometimes a cover. These ceremonial glasses were commissioned and used for special occasions by the nobility, and would have been passed among the group for all to use.

It would take almost one gallon of milk or close to eight pints of beer to fill this Humpen!

The decorations here were hand painted using enamel paints that were then baked onto the surface.

The vessel is adorned with symbols of heraldry, emblems and banners that represent both family and country. The Reichsadler (double-headed eagle), halos, heraldic details, cross, orb and other insignia all signified the Holy Roman Empire, and the 56 armorial shields represent the contiguous parts of the Empire.

The Reichsadler Humpen with its Imperial double-headed eagle was both a popular motif and a patriotic symbol of the Holy Roman Empire. The design was so popular that making one was a requirement of the glass apprentice before he would be considered a master.

Enameled Crested Beaker (Stangenglas) (1573) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

A Stangenglas is a tall narrow cylindrical beaker with a glass pedestal base and various styles of decorations.

This Stangenglas from 1573 has a wooden base which replaces the original glass foot.

It can hold about 3 ½ pints of beer or about one half gallon of milk!

Sometimes Stangenglas were used to celebrate the visit of a dignitary from another country or region and therefore, a visitors’ specific coat-of-arms would be painted on the glass.

Here, we have the coat of arms of Bavaria
along with the coats of arms for the Herberstein and Kolnitz families.

Engraved Footed Goblet with Portrait of Count Daun (1700) by Alexander Seifferd (Bohemian)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The Baroque Period

The Baroque period, starting in the early 17th century, was one of the most important times for glassmaking. The Baroque style began in Italy, influenced by the Roman Catholic Church with an interest in making art and architecture more dramatic and grand. Music and architecture of the period took on more dynamics too, creating an art movement that moved with sweeping curves and structures. As a result, during the Baroque period, drinking glass styles began to change in shape, size and decoration.

Glasses changed from simple-shaped green glass with crude prunts to goblets with tall, shapely stems that look like architectural columns. The stems are referred to as baluster stems and the tops were often decorated with finials.

Even the size of the goblets changed. Stems were now topped with drinking bowls that commanded an image of grace.

Covered Schwarzlot Goblet with Medallions of Vanity and Time (c.1680) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Schwartzlot is the name of a decorating technique whereby the artist applied a diluted black enamel to a glass surface, then scratched through it with a fine tool to create the picture.

Schwartzlot painting was mostly a cottage industry done by a small number of freelance decorators known as hausmalers, who bought undecorated ware from the factory and painted it at home or in their own studio. They were often superior to the factory’s own painters.

This goblet has three medallions around the surface which contain the symbols of an hourglass, skulls, and a crown hovering over clouds. In general, these symbols suggest the passage of time, probably a lifetime.

The passage translates: Oh man beware of vanity. Prepare for death. The joys of heaven follow.

The goblet cover was made for decoration, but also for sanitary purposes. It would prevent things from falling or flying into the drink!

Engraved Footed Goblet with Portrait of Count Daun (1700) by Alexander Seifferd (Bohemian)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass


Copper wheel engraving was a skill transferred to glass from the art of gem cutting at the beginning of the 17th century. It was fueled by the support and encouragement of artisans by Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and Ruler of Prague. During the rise of the northern glass industry, some important stylistic and technical developments took place that coincide with northern cities gaining recognition as cultural centers. The cities offered a place for scholars and craftsmen to prosper. Glassmakers and decorators were among those whose skills were highly prized and sought after. The nobility supported the production of luxurious glassware to grace the elaborate banquet tables of the courts. Newer developments in glass formulas offered cutters a clear substance which was free from impurities and more readily available. Engraving became the dominant form of decoration during the 17th and 18th centuries and the greatest contribution to the glass industry during the Baroque period.

Footed Sweetmeat (c.1730) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The detailed decorations on this vessel were engraved using a rotating copper wheel probably spun with a kick pedal. Liquid was continually poured over the surface of the glass to cool it while it was being engraved.

Engraved Footed Goblet with Portrait of Count Daun, Alexander Seifferd (Bohemian), 1700, From the collection of: Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass
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The discovery of wheel engraving coupled with new, clear glass formulas were the greatest
achievements of the Baroque period and led to more detailed, carved and engraved images.

Footed Sweetmeat (c.1730) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The Rococo Period

The Rococo style is characterized by a light, airy design quality—delicate and exuberant in its curvilinear forms. The style can be seen in some of the smaller engraved glasses, ornate stems and the delicate shell shaped sweetmeat dishes. During the 18th century, the Rococo style developed as Baroque artists moved away from the symmetrical style to a more fluid, ornate and playful decorating style. The robust forms of the Baroque period became small delicately engraved forms that were frequently inspired by nature. In fact, the name Rococo is a French word “rocaille" inspired by the shell shaped rock work used to cover grottoes. The Rococo shell shapes provided the main influence for many of the curvilinear patterns, while the light, clear glass characteristic of the period was a suitable surface for the engraving.

A Sweetmeat is a tall stemmed glass dish used in England in the late 17th to 18th centuries for serving various kinds of sweetmeats, or small desserts, such as chocolates, nuts, and candied or dried fruits, toward the end of a meal.

Sweetmeat dishes were intended to enhance the appeal of their contents, and were often made in boat or shell shapes as seen here.

Zwischengold Beaker (c.1730) by UnknownBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Zwischengoldglas is a double-walled technique of sandwiching gold leaf between two layers of glass.

To create Zwischengoldglas, the outer surface of an inner glass is decorated with cut gold leaf, and a bottomless second glass is made to fit exactly over it to protect the design; a colorless resin is then used to seal the two glasses.

Zwischengoldglas beakers were commonly decorated with hunting scenes, views of monasteries, Bohemian saints, and coats of arms, all delicately cut from gold leaf.

Zwischengold Tumbler with Monogram (1794) by Johann Josef Mildner (Austrian, 1764-1808)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The inspiration for the Zwischengold technique came from the Romans. Similar “sandwich” glass was found in Roman decorative medallions, and was probably used for luxurious tableware.

The medallion motif and luxurious nature are again apparent in this 18th century Zwischengold tumbler.

The Austrian glass cutter Johann Josef Mildner revived the Zwischengoldglas technique in 1787. Here, he used the technique to create
a gold-on-red coat of arms encased within a medallion.

Ranftbecher – L'amour et la Fidelite (c.1820-1825) by Anton Kothgasser (Austrian, 1769-1851)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

The Biedermeier Period

During the Biedermeier Period, drinking glass styles
reflected the tastes of a growing middle-class. During this time of the Industrial Revolution, there was an increased interest in botany, science, horticulture, zoos, and a close family life in cozy surroundings. This was a time between wars and the revolution and a time for friendship. For inspiration, Biedermeier glass looked to the past, present and future. Simple shapes supported decorations that reflected a more romantic and sentimental style, often depicting allegorical, humorous, political and virtuous themes. Glass designs of earlier periods were explored as well as new colors, formulas and techniques. Engraving and transparent enamel painting techniques were used to decorate these beakers or Ranftbechers, while colored, faceted overlays created a new standard of excellence.

The transparent enamel formula seen on this beaker was first used on 17th century stained glass windows. It was re-introduced by Gottlob and Samuel Mohn in Vienna, about 1810, and adopted by Anton Kothgasser. The colors were brilliant and translucent when fired.

Covered Transparent Enamel Goblet with Portrait Medallion (c.1817) by Gottlob Samuel Mohn (Austrian, 1789-1825)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

This is a masterful example of transparent enamel painting on glass. Between 1810 and 1830, Gottlob Mohn, Anton Kothgasser, Jakob Schufried, and Samuel Mohn were the most accomplished glass enamel painters during the period.

A dedication piece, this goblet features a portrait of a young girl. The inscription around the top translates: Dedicated to my beloved sister Clara, August 12, 1817. On the reverse, there is a neoclassical temple or church (probably Vienna), with hills, a row of poplar trees and five figures. The inscription on the gilt rim reads: The calm of the countryside. Love and friendship may crown you together with flowers of your friends. Mohn.

Ranftbecher – Friendship (c.1825) by S. N. Pindo, in the manner of Anton KothgasserBergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

A Ranftbecher is a footed beaker typically with a cogwheel foot. They were popular styles for decorating during the 18th and 19th centuries and were often commissioned as presentation pieces or sought after as souvenirs by visitors to spas and resorts.

These beakers became miniature canvases for both glass and porcelain painters, and featured landscapes, portraits from life, floral symbolism and allegorical scenes.

Anton Kothgasser, a professional porcelain painter for 27 years at the Royal Vienna Porcelain factory, was influenced by Gottlob Mohn to paint on glass. Kothgasser employed and taught many assistants to paint in his style.

Ranftbecher – Playing Cards (c.1825) by Anton Kothgasser (Austrian, 1769-1851)Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Often, these glasses were decorated with images that had hidden messages. This Ranftbecher depicts the three highest Tarot cards and includes a political message, as it represents the three monarchs who fought against Napoleon: Emperor Francis I of Austria, King Frederick William III of Prussia and Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Thus the translation, Their Unity is Our Strength.

In addition to the political symbolism here, the rider on horseback in the center card is said to be Archduke Charles, who held an important victory over Napoleon’s armies at Aspen.

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