The second part of the article covers the 18th and 19th century of glass making in Hungary. We initially we planned to cover contemporary glasses in this part but because of the artistic variety and importance of the 20th century Hungarian glass work we will include this information in a separate article.


Two iridescent glass vessels by Valentin Leo Pantocsek ~1860. From the collection of the author.

The method of Hungarian glass making reflected the hegemony of Venetian blown glass and Czech-Moravia and German crystal glass styles. The aristocrats and well to do civic families required the high quality richly engraved and brightly coloured glasses that decorated the dining table and could be placed on mantel piece. Small glass workshops using the wood-burning furnaces were unable to produce clear crystal (lead) glass and they continued producing items for the peasant population. Larger glassworks, or smaller workshops with enough capital to modernize the furnaces adopted the Siebert type regenerative heating system and gas-tank furnaces. This modernization was often the last option for survival because wood supply started to dry out due to the uncontrolled cut down of nearby forests. The producing manorial glassworks, which moved often from one wooded estate to another, and some isolated forest glasshouses developed continuously in the course of the 19th century into glass factories.


Typical Hungarian motifs decorate a jug, a vase and a tumbler made by Henrik Giergl (~1896). From the collection of the author.

One of the most important glassworks was in Northern Hungary in Zlatno where János György Zahn ran his factory and was an important figure in the Biedermeier style glass making business besides Lobmeyr and Perger in Austria. The name of this factory is associated with iridescent glass because the brilliant inventor Valentin Leo Pantocsek extensively worked here. Pantocsek (1812-93) was a medical doctor who received his degree in 1843. He became fascinated by the newly developed form of photography known as a daguerrotype. First he worked in a glass factory owned by Stefan Kuchinka, in Utekac. There, in 1850, he developed the hialoplastic method, which he used for making glass coins that were among other uses embedded in glass beakers and chalices. Admired for their extremely fine level of detail and sharp pressed lines mostly depicting profiles of persons, they won a gold medal at the Paris World Fair in 1855. Pantocsek took the secret of manufacture to his grave and surviving examples are not known, or hidden in private collections.


Large goblet with cover richly engraved by József Oppitz 1847. Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary

           In 1856, already working in Zlatno in Zahn’s factory, he extended his existing technique or developed a new one to iridise blown glass vessels (Figure 1). The first iridescent works were shown and lauded at the lesser-known 1862 World’s Fair in London. His native country did not hold his development in as high regard, and it was largely ignored, but the opportunity was spotted by the Austrian Josef Lobmeyr and his brother who owned the esteemed glass company J&L Lobmeyr in Vienna. They saw a future in the glass finish and ‘enticed’ one of Pantocsek’s glass-making colleagues away and thus learned how to make iridised glass. The Lobmeyr brothers passed this information on to their brother-in-law Wilhelm Kralik, who produced the glass for them at his factory. In 1873, Lobmeyr displayed a huge range of iridescent glass at the World’s Fair in Vienna where it received international attention and met with great success. Zahn’s Hungarian factory didn’t stop producing iridescent glass, but although iridescent glasses were exported even to the United States, his reach was not wide to make any impact. As Pantocsek didn’t write his recipe down, the company ceased production after his death in 1893. The bright and irising surface effect of this type of glass exerted its influence in the European Liberty style art nouveau endeavours and in the experiments of lustre to create metallic surface on the glass carried on by the American Louis Comfort Tiffany.

The Hungarian glassmaking, apart from the adoptation of the international stylistical characteristic of the historical genre, elaborated also its particular national qualities out of Hungarian motifs, which predominated strongly under the Liberty style too, even after the end of the 1900-ies.


Tumbler - Hermes with the Infant Bacchus (after Coreggio) engraved by József Piesche (1830). Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary

The 19th century brought important changes to the Hungarian glass industry from another point of view, too: the separation of the glassmaking and ornamenting workshops mainly at Pest-Buda (the name used before 1872, after Budapest) taking shape from the middle of the 19th century. One of the most renowned glass decorators who extensively used Hungarian motifs was Henrik Giergl (1827-1871) trained at Lobmeyr in Vienna. The Giergl shop was established by his father in the heart of Pest in 1820. They had a keen eye for quality and apart from their own high quality glass items the shop also offered Daum and Galle masterpieces for the wealthy clients. The apprenticeship at Lobmeyr left its mark on his style: clear, precise, and beautiful design characterize his works reflecting the popularity of the combination of Hungarian historicism, the use of national style and oriental designs (Figure 2). The store operated until 1910.

The profound influence of Czech glass making in the 19th century was reflected in the glass items produced in Hungary. Glass cutting and engraving was masterfully exercised in Bohemia, techniques that required special technique, talent and equipment. Not surprisingly large number of glass with Hungarian motifs, famous Hungarian persons or depicting buildings in Pest-Buda were made abroad and exported to Hungary. Only a handful of glass engraver masters worked in Pest-Buda, most notably József Oppitz. The family probably originated from Moravia, and after a long wandering he settled down in Kassa (now Kosice) in the first half of the 19th century where he joined the glass guild. Most of his works are still in private hands thus we have limited information about his art (Figure 3). He is considered the most significant glass engraver of Northern Hungary. Another important engraver who worked in Pest around this time was József Piesche. He was born in Steinschonau and settled down in Pest around 1821 where he worked not only as glass engraver but also as precious stones cutter. His artistic talent was rooted in the transposition of the gemstone cutting technique into glass engraving (Figure 4). His work had greatly influenced not so much his contemporaries but the next generation of engravers. He was conscious of his talent and always signed his works.


Multi-layered cameo vase by Istvan Sovanka (~1900) Zayugroc. Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary

István Sovánka (1858-1944) was the only glassmaker in Hungary who followed Gallé’s cameo technique in the 19th century working in the Zayugróc glass factory. Unlike Gallé, he used multiple very thin layers of coloured glass on colourless or lightly coloured base glass that was acid etched and sometimes treated to achieve iridescent surface (Figure 5). He won gold medals at World’s Exhibitions in St. Louis in 1904 and in 1906 in Milan. Around in 1908 he moved to Sepsibükszád’s glass factory as a joint tenant, and worked here until the outbreak of the First World War. After 1914 he returned to his original profession of woodcarving and created wood sculptures.

In the 1860’s, a new glass style was adopted in Hungary with the promotion of Ágost Trefort, Minister of Education, which was stained-glass making and reached the level of the highest international quality by Miksa Róth’s work of art, ‘the imperial and royal glasspainter’ (Figure 6). The high level of stained glass art of that time was acknowledged with e.g. Róth’s silver medal he had won at the 1900’s World Exhibition in Paris. His work decorated tea houses, mansions and villas and still can be seen in important buildings such as in the Hungarian Parliament, Hungarian National Bank and benedict Abbey of Pannonhalma.   The industrial exhibitions (1842, 1843, 1846) by Kossuth’s society also gave inspiration to the glass industry, or, in the matter of this, the world exhibitions – especially London’s in 1862, Vienna’s in 1873 and Paris’ in 1900 – were the ones of outstanding importance because the Hungarian factories met with significant success, their work won medals.


Stained and schwarzlot painted glass in lead setting by Miksa Róth and  Géza Maróti (designer) (~1910). Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary

Based on archival data, we can say that glassworks operated in the Matra mountains since the 16th century. But they were not really significant, since due to the logging of the surrounding forest they continuous migrated, and in course of time they completely disappeared. In this region only one factory survived in Parád. The factory, that still in operation, was founded in 1708 by prince II. Ferenc Rákóczi who was the owner of the land. In 1711 the factory ceased production and restarted only in 1727, and then in 1767 was moved to its present location: Parádsasvár. As some information was forgotten in history , so it was possible that the factory in 1964 celebrated its 150 year anniversary, because for a long time it was believed that the factory was founded in 1814. After the relocation the factory began to develop, and the Parád glass products were wildly known in the 1780-90's. In 1803 the workshop was fitted with engraving and cutting equipment, which allowed them to produce artistically decorated lead crystal items. In 1819 the factory was rebuilt and modernized resulting in higher volume and better quality products. Parád products started to be exported in volumes mainly to Balkan countries. 1840 was another milestone in the history of the Parád glassworks, as from this year the factory was owned by the count Károlyi family, and this was the first year to have inventory. Moreover, at this time the area of Parád began to flourish because popularity of the spa. The Parád factory spotted a business opportunity and produced large number of souvenir items for the guests of spa including memory beakers and glass for thermal water drinking (Figure 7). Other souvenir items such as vases, beakers that reminded the guests for the stay were also mass produced (Figure 8). Here we have to mention the spreading popularity of medicinal bathing during this period, as this type of recreation greatly impacted on glassmaking. In 1688 Queen Anne Stuart after suffering another miscarriage she left London to recuperate in the spa town of Bath.  This event is considered to mark the beginning of the spa culture in Europe (other sources mention 1702). At first, the spa culture began to spread in the aristocrat circle and was more of a social event rather than a form of healing exercise. Later, due to the development of rail networks it has become more affordable and accessible to the circle of civics. In the 19th century Europe particular attention was focused on the composition of the thermal waters, and places where mineral and the thermal waters were consumed became wildly popular.  With the development of medicine therapies were supplemented with the consumption of thermal waters, exercise and diet, and thus a new industry began to emerge. Glass factories produced beakers and glass cups decorated with views and the name of the spa (Figure 9). The style of the early Hungarian bath cups around 1820 reflected the Biedermeyer taste with thick-wall and round base. From the 1850s the forms and the decorations become more elaborate. But to return to the history of Parád glassworks: in the National Exhibition in 1846 the factory won the silver medal with its products. Moreover, with the continuous development of the Károlyi family Parád was among the first glass factories where the switch of the use of soda to potash, and from the firing of the kilns from wood to coal happened. This developmental process was interrupted by the break out of the First World War, but the factory kept producing interestign and characterisitc glass items thorough the 20th century (Figure 10)


Souvenir cup produced by the Parád factory. Engraved, applied red glass beads, gilded decoration. From the collection of the author.

Another major factory was established in the 19th century that still produces glass in the 21st century. Bernát Neumann established the Ajka factory in 1878 with 40 workers and a steam engine – which was the “modern” technology at that time in Hungary -, after the predecessor of Ajka’s factory at Úrkút (a small village near to Ajka) closed down in 1876. In the 1880s the factory won numerous prizes at national exhibitions with their lamp cylinders, wine glasses, everyday glass items and cut glasswares. That time they also made cased, gilded, pressed, enamelled and iridescent glasswares, scent-bottles and table glasses. In 1891 the factory was changed the owner to János Kossuch and Sons and the factory flourished. The turn of the 20th century Ajka Glass Factory changed their productions line in two directions: for working of hot – furnace-ready glass – and for working of cold glass. The factory still produces glass items; part is under Ajka brand name but many for export including Faberge, Dior and Waterford. The exported items contain only the target brand name, and not Ajka and thus without having access to the factory’s archive we are not able to know exactly what Waterford glass is actually made in Hungary.


Souvenir items related to spa towns. Left: Enamelled and gilded vase, ca 1900; Centre: Uranium beaker with enamel and gild decoration, ca 1840; Right: Enamel decorated multicoloured vase with applied photograph, ca 1920. From the collection of the author.

In 1896 the numerous exhibition and programs took place to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of Hungary as a state. In the Millennium Exhibition 16 glass factory participated and exhibited their newest products. The Ajka Glass Factory created a glass copy of the Holy Crown of Hungary, which was a technical feat at the time. The glass crown is now in the Museum of Applied Arts (Figure 11) while a copy that was produced at the end of the 20th can be seen in the museum of the Ajka Glass Factory.


Bath cure cups. Left: 1860-70, bevelled, schwarzlot painting; Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary; Right: engraved and gild decoration. From the collection of the author.

The evolution of technology in glass engraving and cutting enabled the glass masters to produce highly artistic glass objects. Apart from the already mentioned József Oppitz and József Piesche a number of talented engravers and cutters worked in different parts of the country, who immortalized significant events on glass beakers, cups and vases. Such event was the Great flood of Pest in 1838, the revolution and war of 1848-49, and portraits of eminent personalities related to the revolution, but objects depicting 'simple' townscapes, and  landscapes are also not uncommon. These objects are not only intended to depict the era and the nature, but also served as a gift to high ranking officials in prominent positions to gain their “goodwill” and smooth the way to win a case during intervention.


Three glass items with characteristic lace decoration produced by the Parád factory around 1940. From the collection of the author.

The last part of the series will cover the history of the Hungarian glass making from the mid-20th century until the present days.


Decorative glass modelled on the Hungarian Royal Crown. Faceted, mould-blown, etched and engraved, Ajka, 1896. Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary