Glass from 1500 to 1850

The enlargement of the museum building now also allows the presentation of the Liaunig glass collection to a broader public. In a purpose-designed room and exhibition showcases, glasses from various epochs are on display. The composition of 120 select masterpieces provides a survey of the European history of glass from its beginnings in Venice around 1500 to the days of the Congress of Vienna and presents the diverse and innovative ways glass can be designed in.

The splendour of the Renaissance is best illustrated by the tazza from the service of the Medici popes. During their reigns such fine, transparent glasses were regarded as being as precious as gold and gems. Indeed, potentates such as Ferdinand of Tyrol had to request the Doges of Venice for the temporary loan of their famed glassblowers, as they were more or less permanently resident in Murano.

While it was only possible to paint these fine glasses or score them with diamonds, in the 17th century alchemists not only invented gold ruby glass, but also changed the glass flow in such a way as to facilitate the manufacture of a hard, thick glass for engraving with a copper wheel, which first and foremost commenced a triumphal progress north of the Alps. This advance is represented in the exhibition by a glass art incunabulum in the form of a sheet from the engraver Caspar Lehmann, which has returned after twenty years on loan to the British Museum in London. Technical improvements such as water-powered cutting works greatly eased the workload of the “Hochschnitt” (high face) goblet engravers in Silesia. Apart from rock crystal pieces, the extremely complex works by Friedrich Winter of Hermsdorf number among the most coveted objects of the time.  

The cultivated nobility and princes of the period created artistic and curiosity cabinets in their palaces. Indeed, the glasses of the 17th and 18th century afford a fascinating insight into European history. The spectrum of high-face and deep-cut goblets, beakers and bowls extends from representative works for the princes with their exquisite tableware, to gifts for high-ranking personages and souvenirs as mementos of battles, hunts and festivities at the respective courts. Many significant events such as the Battle of Belgrade fought by Prince Eugene are depicted in masterly engraved goblets.      

The collection is rounded off by splendid glasses from Gottlob Mohn und Anton Kothgasser with their transparently painted views, which evoke the Biedermeier period and the Congress of Vienna, and the glasses by the outstanding engraver Dominik Biemann. 

The Liaunig glass collection was documented scientifically by Regine Kovacek in the catalogue "Schnitt und Farbe" published in 2015.