Early 1900s Czech lamp is a whimsical find

08/23/2014 7:01 PM

08/23/2014 7:02 PM

Q: How much you would charge to appraise a lamp for me and provide some details about it?

I believe it is Murano glass, but there are no markings that I could find. There is some minor damage to a few of the leaves and to a few of the grape clusters. I believe the parrot was not part of the original lamp, but it is old and made of glass beads.

The lamp came over from Rome — we believe in either 1903 or 1906 (great-grandfather came first, then great-grandmother). The lamp is 24 inches long by 21 inches tall (excluding the parrot). My grandmother went back to Italy in 1925 for a visit.

K. Z., Fairview, Pa.

A: Both of us are appraisers but we never, never charge for what we do in the newspaper. However, what we offer here are opinions based on photographs and not formal appraisals — which might cost $250 to $500, depending on who does it and where.

When we saw the photographs of this lamp we laughed — but not in a bad or derisive way. It was joy at seeing such a whimsical piece. But when we moved past our amusement we saw a wonderful lamp that is circa 1925 and worth a respectable amount of money.

Now, let’s discuss its origins. Murano is an island in the Venetian lagoon where they have been making glass since the glassmakers were expelled from Venice proper in the year 1291. The reason for the exile was that the Venetians feared the glassmakers’ furnaces might cause fires that would destroy the mostly wooden buildings in the city.

Murano is actually a small island with a grand canal that was settled by the Romans and is also known for its printing and palaces. Glass making in Murano has had its ups and downs, but it flourished in the early to mid-20th century. We doubt very seriously that this wonderful table lamp was actually made there because it is in the style of glass made in another European country.

That country is Czechoslovakia — or the modern day Czech Republic, or what was once called “Bohemia” — and this lamp is very typical of work done there. The variety of these lamps is extensive because there were so many Bohemian/Czechoslovakian factories making them.

The baskets, for example, can be glass or metal, the size can be rather small or considerably larger, and collectors also find these Czechoslovakian lamps shaped like peacocks, bunches of hanging grapes, or more rarely a putti (cherub) carrying baskets of grapes or fruit using a yoke.

Glass has been made in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic since at least the year 1250, and it thrives today. During our research on this piece we found an example very similar to the one owned by K. Z., but it does not have the parrot — but that does not mean that the parrot found on the piece in today’s question is not original.

We would like to know why K. Z. feels that this cute avian addition is not original because it certainly could be. But for today’s purposes, we will exclude our beaded two-winged friend from our calculations.

The damage listed by K. Z. concerns us a bit and we hope it is indeed slight and what might be termed “expected loses,” but if there is anything serious such as missing leaves or grapes, the price mentioned here would probably be lower. For insurance replacement purposes, this unusually large Czechoslovakian (Bohemian) table lamp should be valued in the $2,800 to $3,500 range, possibly more.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

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