Trea­sure hunt

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - HELAINE FENDELMAN AND JOE ROSSON

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I bought this lamp at an es­tate sale. I call it a “Czech grape clus­ter Mu­rano lamp.” There is only one grape half bro­ken. How much is it worth? — D.A.

DEAR D.A.: This is re­ally a won­der­ful table lamp with five mul­ti­col­ored glass grape clus­ters that are very fes­tive and at­trac­tive. Many lamps of this type have only two clus­ters, and the grapes are some­times only a sin­gle shade of white grape green.

We do have a small nomen­cla­ture prob­lem with the de­scrip­tion. The lamp was in­deed crafted in the Bo­hemian re­gion of what is now the Czech Repub­lic, but Mu­rano, a col­lec­tion of seven small is­lands in the Venetian la­goon in Italy, has noth­ing what­so­ever to do with the de­light­ful light­ing de­vice.

Glass mak­ing was im­por­tant in Mu­rano and Bo­hemia. The Vene­tians were fa­mous for glass dur­ing the me­dieval pe­riod, but in 1291 all the glass mak­ers were or­dered to leave Venice and move to Mu­rano be­cause it was feared the fires used to make glass would get out of hand and burn down the town (its struc­tures were largely made from wood at the time).

The Bo­hemian glass in­dus­try re­ally got its start in the 16th cen­tury, when ar­ti­sans learned that by mix­ing potash and chalk they could make a clear, col­or­less glass that was more sta­ble than the glass made on Mu­rano. Over the years, and in the most gen­eral sense, Venetian/Mu­rano glass be­came the high-priced prod­uct, while Bo­hemian glass be­came more in­ex­pen­sive.

In fact, Bo­hemian glass is of­ten cred­ited with putting some Amer­i­can 19th-cen­tury glass

man­u­fac­tur­ers out of busi­ness be­cause of the price dif­fer­en­tial. It should also be noted it was Bo­hemian glass mak­ers who in­spired and pointed Louis Com­fort Tif­fany to­ward mak­ing his now-fa­mous glass prod­ucts.

There is no doubt the lamp is Czech/Bo­hemian, but that does not hurt the piece one lit­tle bit. Col­lec­tors seem to love the Czech lamps, be they bas­kets with mounds of glass fruit, flow­ers lighted from within or lamps with hang­ing bunches of grapes clus­tered around a light bulb.

These were very pop­u­lar dur­ing the 1920s. We feel the piece is circa 1925. There are two prob­lems we need to ex­plore quickly. The first is the qual­ity of the lamp base, which in this case is fairly pedes­trian. Bet­ter ex­am­ples have birds and other em­bel­lish­ments.

The sec­ond is­sue is the half-bro­ken grape. We feel that if the de­fect can be hid­den from easy view, the re­duc­tion in value should only be about 20 per­cent over­all. If the lamp were in per­fect con­di­tion, it should have a re­tail value in the $1,200 to $1,500 range. But the bro­ken grape — if it does not de­tract too much from the aes­thetic ap­peal of the lamp — re­duces this worth to $1,000 to $1,200. We hope you got a great deal at the es­tate sale.


This Bo­hemian lamp is a de­light­ful find.

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