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CARDER STEUBEN GLASS!

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 percent.
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 appear.

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 museum’s 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" wide.

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, NY, 1985.
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) pieces.

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 Glass).
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 collector.


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, New York.


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