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posted: 8/17/2013 5:51 AM

Galle vase? This lacks glass artist's mastery

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  • This beautiful vase is signed "Galle." But is it genuine?

      This beautiful vase is signed "Galle." But is it genuine?
    SHNS photo courtesy Joe Rosson and Helaine Fendelm

 
By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. I am interested in selling this Galle vase. Can you please tell me more about it?

A. This is a very beautiful piece of glass, but unfortunately, in our opinion it is not what it appears to be.

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Many collectors refer to this as "cameo glass." True cameo glass is made by physically carving through various different-colored layers of glass to create an image in relief, but examples can be created using acid. This is called "acid cutback."

The name "cameo glass" comes from cameo jewelry, which is made by carving through the different-colored layers of a shell or, in some cases, stone (such as agate) to create a decorative image in relief. This technique has been known and utilized since ancient times. But in the late 19th century, this idea was applied to making glass in such places as France, Bohemia, England and the United States.

Emile Galle was born in 1846 in Nancy, France, to a maker of faience pottery and furniture. Right after the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the well-educated and artistically talented Galle came to work in his father's factory, where he excelled at making glass.

He started getting recognition for his work when it was praised at the Paris Exposition of 1878, and by the Paris Exposition of 1889, his work had achieved international fame. Galle was a leading proponent of the French Art Nouveau movement, and his pieces tended to feature naturalistic themes and sensuously curving lines like those found in nature.

Galle and his artistic compatriots, working under the Galle factory name, produced a wide variety of glass until the factory closed in 1935 (one source says the year was 1936). Galle died in 1904 and the quality of the work -- which still bore his name -- declined somewhat after that.

When we saw the pictures of the piece in today's letter, our reaction was "uh-oh, this just isn't right." We could not see the pontil -- the metal rod used to shape molten glass -- on the base. That potentially would have told us a great deal, but we did see other disturbing signs.

The first of these: telltale crimping marks at the top where the glass edge had been ruffled. We noticed straight-line indentions caused by the tool used to shape the ruffled top. Glass artists of Galle's caliber would not have let these remain. In artistically made glass, these were generally polished out and vanished.

The next problem we have is with the signature, which does not match any of the known ones used by Galle and his factory. It is just too neat. In authentic signatures, the lines that make up the L's tend to vary in thickness or are wavy. The L's in this signature on this vase are essentially straight and neat.

Lastly, the colors are not right and the decoration is too simplistic, with an almost stenciled look. In the past 35 to 40 years or so, the market has been flooded by Chinese and South American reproductions of Galle glass, and we fear this is one of those. The Galle fakes now outnumber genuine examples by a wide margin.

We are comfortable that this piece is not right and has a rather low monetary value (less than $200), but we cannot be absolutely sure without seeing it in person.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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