European glass pre-1880

A seventeenth-century römer bearing the stork emblem of The Hague; a standing cup showing a detailed picture of a huntsman and a man fishing; a goblet adorned with a skilfully depiction of music-makers – these are just a few examples of the pieces in the Kunstmuseum's wide-ranging collection of European glass from the period between 400 and 1900. The collection includes not only elegant glass from Venice and à la Façon de Venise imitations from places like France and the Netherlands, but also green Waldglas, römers, domestic glassware and Spielerei (puzzle glasses) from northern Europe.

The diversity of production places is matched by the range of decorative techniques. These include enamelling, cutting, and diamond-point, wheel and stipple engraving. The technique of diamond-point engraving was revived in Venice in the early sixteenth century but the glassworkers there confined themselves chiefly to floral and foliate patterns. Engravers in the Netherlands, on the other hand, developed a style featuring the naturalistic depiction of plants, animals and people, with the use of light and shade to indicate volumes, a perspective-based depiction of landscape and a convincing representation of texture.

Calligraphy (decorative handwriting on glass) also reached great heights in the Netherlands. Leiden-based engraver Willem Jacobsz. van Heemskerk (1613-1692) is regarded as a past master in the art.

Another technique is so-called stipple engraving, practised exclusively in the Low Countries and regarded as their most significant contribution to the art of glassmaking. In the eighteenth century, stipple engraving developed to such a high level that stipple-engraved depictions on glass were almost as lively and three-dimensional as paintings. Works by Frans Greenwood and David Wolff are outstanding in this respect.

The Kunstmuseum has always collected glass and the targeted acquisitions policies of successive directors have made its unique collection one of the most important in the Netherlands. H.E. van Gelder – director from 1912 to 1941 – instituted the collection and his interest was not confined to any particular period or style. The contact between Van Gelder and Dutch collector W.J.H. (Pim) Mulier – who had a splendid glass collection of his own – was an extremely important factor. The two men advised each other and frequently went on purchasing trips together. When Mulier died in 1954, he left his entire glass collection to the museum. Since then, the museum has received a number of other major donations and bequests from private collectors, as well as continuing to pursue an active acquisitions policy right down to the present day.

A (Dutch-language) catalogue of the glass collection was published in 2009:
Jet Pijzel-Dommisse and Titus M. Eliëns, Glinsterend glas. 1500 jaar Europese glaskunst. De collectie van het Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague/Zwolle 2009

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