by Sandford I. Gadient
Frederick Carder owned, ran
and oversaw all production of the Steuben Glassworks of Corning,
New York (together with the major shareholder, Thomas Hawkes),
founded in 1903 to produce fine American Art Glass. Previously,
Frederick Carder, an Englishman, worked for Stevens & Williams
Glassworks in the Sturbridge area of Great Britain where he was
a well-regarded designer of art glass. At Steuben in Corning,
Carder successfully designed and produced thousands of different
forms of colored art glass from 1903 to 1933. One of his favorite
types of glass was free-form vases, supported by ribs, which
he jokingly named Grotesque.
All colored Grotesque glass
dates prior to 1933 and, occasionally, pieces may still be found
in Florida. Many of the fifteen pieces of Grotesque appearing
in this article were collected in Florida from such sources as
antiques shows, antiques malls, individual antiques dealers,
glass collectors and even flea markets and garage sales.
Because Grotesque vases and
bowls are handmade, free-form creations, no two pieces are identical,
despite the fact that general design line drawings were made
for various forms. Paul V. Gardner's book, The Glass of Frederick
Carder, Crown Publications, provides a catalog of line drawings
for over 8,000 different designs of colored Carder Steuben Glass
produced between 1903 and 1933.
Pomona Green to uncolored crystal
Grotesque. Bowl, 13" wide, vase, 9" high and bowl, 6"
high. It is interesting to note that while most Grotesque pieces
are formed with four ribs emanating from the base that serve as
a support foundation, the two bowls each have eight ribs in their
design to buttress the sizable walls of these bowls.
Grotesque creations were made
in many different types of colored Carder Steuben Glass, including
transparent, translucent, opaque and the aurenes (irridized surfaces).
My favorite type of glass among the numerous varieties of Grotesque
are those pieces featuring a bright color along the top which
slowly shades to uncolored crystal in the body and base. These
pieces come in five different colors: Pomona Green (light green),
Gold Ruby, Amethyst (purple), Dark Blue and Amber.
While none of the five colors
of this type of Grotesque glass are common, Amber is by far the
rarest color, with the next most scarce color being Dark Blue.
While all the colors are somewhat scarce, the Pomona Green was
produced in greater quantities than either the Gold Ruby or Amethyst.
Gold Ruby to uncolored crystal
Grotesque. Bowl, 4 1/2" high, vase, 9 1/2" high and
bowl, 5 1/2" high. It is interesting to note the bowl on
the left has shading of color further down than the smaller bowl
to the right.
As each piece of Grotesque
is handmade and unique, certain broad ranges of market value
can be estimated to allow beginning collectors to understand
the costs involved. Good Pieces - under $600. More unusual pieces
- $600 to $1,200. Very unusual, rare pieces - over $1,200.
Each of these price ranges
is premised upon the condition being fine. Any chips, bruises,
internal cloudiness or other faults seriously detract from value,
often decreasing the worth by fifty percent to as much as ninety
One of the questions most
frequently asked by novice collectors, "Is the piece signed?",
should be answered as follows: Paul V. Gardiner, in his definitive
book, The Glass of Frederick Carder, states, many Steuben
Glass pieces are unmarked, particularly those in transparent
colors. Naturally, all of the uncolored crystal vases of
Grotesque are transparent at the base where a signature would
Blue to uncolored crystal Grotesque.
Bowl, 12" wide, vase, 11" high and bowl, 6 1/2"
high. Because my favorite color is blue, the dark blue pieces
seem particularly elegant to me. Consequently, Grotesque glass
in dark blue, shaded to uncolored crystal, happens to be my personal
favorite. Again, it should be noted the bowl on the right shades
to the uncolored crystal more gradually than the bowl on the left.
That said, a proper signature,
either Steuben in block letters or within the fleur-de-lis
(both acid stamped) enhances value somewhat, perhaps in the range
of ten to twenty percent. However, a signature can be easily
added and should be used only as a confirmation device after
carefully examining the glass in its entirety.
When visiting Corning, New
York, recently, I was very pleased to learn Grotesque is the
favorite form of Robert (Bobby) Rockwell, III, curator of Carder
Steuben Glass at the Rockwell Museum, who is in charge of the
museums collection of over 4,000 pieces of colored Carder
Steuben Glass. He has almost fifty Grotesque pieces in his personal
collection. Bobby, and his wonderful, knowledgeable father, Robert
Rockwell, Jr., are two of the three leading authorities on Carder
Steuben Glass, the third being Thomas Dimitroff. Thus it seems
apparent that Grotesque is beautiful. Undoubtedly, Frederick
Carder is still chuckling in the heavens above at his choice
of a name for this form of glass.
Amethyst to uncolored crystal
Grotesque bowl, 6" high, vase, 9" high and bowl 12"
Should you be interested in
learning more about Carder Steuben Grotesque glass, the following
reference books may prove useful:
Frederick Carder and His
Steuben Glass 1903-1933, produced by Robert F. Rockwell,
Jr. and published by Dexter Press, West Nyack, NY, 1968.
The Glass of Frederick
Carder by Paul V. Gardner and published by Crown Publishers,
Inc., New York, NY, 1971.
Frederick Carder: Portrait
of a Glassmaker, authored by Paul V. Gardner and published
by The Coming Museum of Glass and The Rockwell Museum, Coming,
Frederick Carder and Steuben
Glass, authored by Thomas P. Dimitroff and published by Schiffer
Publishing, Ltd., Arglen, PA, 1998.
Monochrome Grotesque bowls. Iverene,
6 1/2" high, Gold Aurene, 5" high and Ivory, 11"
wide. Many collectors prefer to collect monochrome (one color)
Unfortunately, the initial
three books cited are now out of print. However, pre-owned books
can sometimes be acquired through bookstores specializing in
old art publications or on ebay.com (listed under Steuben Art
The reference work by Tom
Dimitroff, underwritten by The Rockwell Museum and published
by Schiffer, is still in print and available from bookstores
of The Rockwell Museum. It is an excellent reference source and
is a must have for the library of every serious Steuben
About the author:
Sandford (Sandy) Gadient
has a passion for collecting art glass, particularly 18th - 19th
century Chinese (Peking) glass and colored Carder Steuben glass
(some of which are in a Chinese style). Living in Boca Raton,
Sandy has over 100 pieces of colored Steuben in his collection.
Sandy is currently organizing a Museum Exhibition Tour for the
year 2003 of Carder Steuben Glass. It will celebrate the 100th
anniversary of the formation of the Steuben Glassworks in Coming,
Art Around Florida
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