An American original
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|Written by Alfredo Villanueva-Collado, Ph.D.||
Photos © Abersio Núñez
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Alfredo Villanueva's Dugan collection
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|My interest on Dugans
"Japanese/Pompeian/Venetian" glass stems from its appearance on two art glass
sources as "Unidentified Bohemian production." Collectible Bohemian Glass I,
141: 2, shows an amethyst rose bowl from an unidentified private collection. Das Böhmishe
Glas 1750-1950, Band IV, shows three pieces on 227: IV
400,401,402, belonging to the
collection at the Passau Museum (hereby referred to as PMC).
My curiosity was exacerbated when a piece appeared on e-Bay as "rare Loetz," at the startling opening bid of $1,200 (it remained unsold).I recalled seeing and examining similar pieces at New Yorks 26th St. Flea Market. I was sure they were not Loetz, not even Bohemian, but did not know where they had been made. I even suspected they might be Eastern European or even Chinese imported glass! Then, at a Pier Show in New York, Donna and Andy Schilero identified for me a Dugan piece they had on display. I bought two reference books they suggested, which I have used as sources for this article and, coincidentally, started on a new collection.
Carl Burns, in
his book on Dugan Carnival glass, points out that Thomas Dugan was producing mold-blown,
iridescent art glass as early as 1904. He explains the process: "The molten glass was
collected on the gathering rod and then rolled in "frit", very finely crushed
glass. The frit became embedded in the molten glass. When the piece was hand shaped and
"warmed in", this frit would oxidize, resulting in the silver/gold
He illustrates the "Venetian" line with the picture of an aqua-blue vase ( photo 1 ).
Venetian vase 01
|Several facts were readily established.
According to the HMW, "there is ample evidence from Thomas E A. Dugans
notebooks as well as other sources to indicate he was experimenting with iridized
techniques as early as 1902" (121), though Dugans iridescent lines are produced
from 1905 to 1907. Thus, they precede Imperials "Art glass," appearing
about 1910, by five years, becoming probably the first mass-produced, mass marketed
"poor mans Tiffany" in America. In a 1906 Sommers catalogue, vases from
the "Pompeian" line are described as "art vases, of exquisite Tiffany
glass" made "to appeal to the most educated tastes" ( HMW 51 ).
Second, Dugan iridescent was produced in a deliberate effort to compete with foreign, imported glass, particularly Webb and Loetz ( HMW 52 ). In a 1906 Butler Brothers catalogue, pieces denominated "Venetian" were described as "exact reproductions of the expensive imported vases" ( HMV 50 ) and in a Sommers catalogue from the same year as "perfect imitations of relics found in the buried cities of Italy" ( HMW 51 ).
Third, to judge from the advertising in trade catalogues for 1905 and 1906 (HMW 50-51), and later 1907 and 1908 catalogues (HMW 68), it was impossible to distinguish between "Japanese," "Pompeian" and Venetian," since the drawings did not allow for careful differentiation between lines. At that point, I only had two pieces of identifiable Dugan iridescent glass, which did not resemble each other except in color - both were amethyst. They had (a) no pontils and (b) quite visible mold marks, both facts enough to dismiss any Loetz attribution.
Among the first pieces I acquired in order to continue my research were a light green celery vase and a dark green honeycomb rose bowl. Neither can be classified strictly as belonging to Dugans iridescent lines. Nevertheless, they both point to their eventual development. The celery bowl ( photo 2 ) - see also HMW 82: 172B - was made from a mold used for Venetian and Opaline Brocade, 1898-1900. It appears as part of an "Oriental Assortment" in a March, 1901 G. Sommers and Co. catalogue, item 9, listed as a "Celery Stand - 6 inches tall, fluted top; assorted green, blue and rose coraline glass."
|1902 celery vase, 1898 design 02|
The optic vertical ribbing and the "opal frit" (white glass specks) appear in the Dugan iridescent lines, but so does the "polka dot" optic pattern, covered by amber/gold frit, and called "stars" by dealers. The honeycomb rose bowl ( Photo 3 - see also HMW 94:389 ) may be the iridescent antique green mentioned in Dugans notebook and dated January 4, 1903" ( 94 ). Mine has surface golden frit bands ( looking like applied glitter) over the honeycomb pattern, creating, in effect, "vertical ribs."
|1902 green iridescent bowl 03|
V.1a consists of clear or colored glass first rolled in finely crushed
glass and then mold blown into pinched and twisted shapes, giving a grainy texture to the
vessels surface ( Photo 4; see also photo 1 and HMW 50, " Our
Venetian Vase Asst." ). There is no vertical ribbing and no glittery
frit. The yellow piece in the middle has probably been cut down; notice its flat rim as
opposed to the blue pieces rough and irregular rim. It ought to measure 6 ¾ inches;
instead, it only measures 6 ¼ inches. But measurements can be approximate.
The vase on photo 5 is the largest among Dugans iridescent lines. It appears listed as being 9.5 inches/24.2 cm ( HMW 50 ) but mine measures a full 10 inches (25.5 cm). I think it shows the extent to which Dugan successfully appropriated the gracefulness of the best Bohemian art glass production by means of dimples, twists and asymmetry of shape.
Three vases variant 1a 04
|The same grainy texture appears in vases
with particular types of decoration such as "hexagon buttons" (V.1b, photo 6-
see also HMW 50, bottom advertisement from a 1905 Butler Brothers catalogue).
The "Stippled Estate" decoration (V.1c) is characterized by a pattern of irregular crisscrossed lines and seems to appear in only one shape and size (photo 7-see also HMW 51). Colors include blue-green, commonly called "aqua,"and created by rolling light blue glass on amber frit; green, yellow and amethyst. I have not run across any rose bowls in this variant, but have seen a cobalt blue piece recently for sale on E-Bay.
|Largest Dugan iridescent: 10" 05||Variant 1b: buttons decoration 06||Variant 1c: stippled estate 07|
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