Trip to Vienna and Budapest

28th August/3September 2013


In 2013 we have organized a glass tour for the Glass Association UK and Glass Circle members. It was intensive, we visited numerous museums, participated in a glass auction, a contemporary glass art exhibition, and enjoyed private glass collections.


In Vienna we visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts (Museum für angewandte Kunst), Lobmeyr shop and museum, Leopold museum, Hofburg, in Hungary the Glass Gallery in Pannonhalma, Ajka Glass Factory, Bathory Museum, The Parliament, Roth Miksa Museum, Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum), Hungarian National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum), and enjoyed the fantastic Contemporary Glass exhibition.


You can read the feedback written by one of the members for Glass Circle. Our plan is to organize a similar tour for glass collectors, experts and curator from the USA in 2015. If you are interested in joining please let us know.


Special thanks to:


Gabriella Balla (Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest)

Lajos Barabas (exhibition organizer and curator)

Zoltan Bohus (glass artist)

Peter Borkovics (glass artist)

Peter Botos (glass artist)

Peter Brody (glass collector)

Zsuzsa Csala (Ajka Glass Factory, Ajka)

Istvan Czebe (glass artist)

Tamas Forro (Belvedere Salon, Budapest)

Rainald Franz (MAK, Vienna)

Gyorgy Gaspar (glass artist)

Laszlo Hefter and Bruno Hefter (Hefter Glass Gallery)

Zsuzsa Korodi (glass artist)

Laszlo Lukacsi (glass artist)

Mihaly Melcher (glass artist)

Peter Rath (Lobmeyr, Vienna)

Anna Ridovics (Hungarian National Museum, Budapest)

Andre Sikabonyi (Sikabonyi Gallery, Vienna)

Balazs Sipos (glass artist)

Agnes Smetana (glass artist)

ifj Andras Szilagyi  and id Andras Szilagyi (Bathory Museum, Domsod)

Margit Toth (glass artist)

Dora Varga (glass artist)

Hajnalka Virag (glass artist)

Tibor Fenyi (Roth Miksa Museum, Budapest)

Katalin Geller (glass historian)




Vienna and Budapest

28 August  – 3 September

By Mike Moir (published in The Glass Cone, No.104 p 14-16)


The great thing about a trip like this is that whether you are a highly knowledgeable glass generalist, a specialist or just a curious amateur, there is an amazing amount to see, learn and enjoy.  Sometimes it is the prize possessions of a museum that amazes you and sometimes it is something deep in a hidden vault that stuns.  What you take from a trip like this is personal; depending on your expectations and prior knowledge.  So no apologies, my review is a personal one.


Before the trip, Vienna to me was a major centre of European artistic culture, home of the Secessionist and the Wiener Werkstätte movements, but as for glass manufacture, I’d have had to scratch my head.  Budapest, glass-wise, well I really wasn’t sure I could think of anything.


So our intrepid band of 20 odd people, brilliantly lead by Attila Sik and Zsuzsa Molnar, started out at the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.  Quickly the reasons for Vienna’s artistic significance began to unfold; while most of Europe’s royalty was carving out empires, Austria’s leaders preferred to focus on art rather than on war.  The museum included many of the possessions of the great Viennese royal collectors who clearly had an eclectic interest in great applied arts from around the world. Figs 1 and 2 show a colourful 1st century roman bowl and, from a royal collection, a small statue of the Commedia dell’Arte dating from late 16th century Venice.

Fig1 First century Roman polychrome ribbed glass bowl.
Fig2 Figure Commedia dell’Arte; last quarter 16th century Venice –glass, enamel, iron wire and wood.

In the early afternoon we visited the MAK: the Austrian Museum for the Applied Arts.  Although we were greeted with the slightly ominous ‘Sorry the 20th Century is closed’ it was still packed with wonders.  The glass study collection, covering all periods has some very superior, mostly Bohemian made glass, much of it designed and commissioned by Viennese artists.  Fig 3 shows a collection of enamelled glass from Conrad & Liebsch, Johann Oertel and Friedrich Pietschall from 1914-17. For me, though, the finest gem was in their vaults, somewhere few are allowed access, a monumental, nearly two foot tall Harrach cameo vase c1885, – it was in too difficult a location to photograph well - but I did manage to get a close up of some of the ‘orientalist’ detail (fig 4).  A special commission, it is possibly one of the most impressive pieces of Bohemian glass that I have ever seen.

Fig3 Enamelled glass from Conrad & Liebsch, Johann Oertel and Friedrich Pietschall from 1914-17.
Fig4 Harrach monumental cameo vase c1885.


Our next stop was the almost surreal shop and museum of J & L Lobmeyr. Untouched for over 150 years, it is a marvel of old and new, not least because of the impressive modern ‘Venus Comb Light Sculpture’ (2005-2010) by Jack Ink, in the main body of the shop (fig 5).  

Fig5 ‘Venus Comb Light Sculpture’ (2005-2010) by Jack Ink.


Here we met the remarkable Peter Rath, retired supremo of the very successful Lobmeyr empire.  Lobymeyr, for many years, have designed and commissioned great glass.  Early pieces are highly prized in the collectors’ market and modern pieces include some of the best drinking glasses available. Peter Rath showed us some of the gems of his museum collection, including a mouth-watering group of Ena Rottenberg enamel pieces, c1928-1930 (fig 6).  Rather typical of the choice items on this trip Rottenberg was born Hungarian, lived in Vienna, but the glass was made in Bohemia.

Fig6 Ena Rottenberg enamel pieces, c1928-1930, for Lobmeyr.


After showing us his shop Mr Rath, ever generous with his time, took us on a tour of his workshops and archives.  It is a literal time capsule; he showed us around and explained his personal philosophy, amplifying the ‘Austrian’ predilection for prizing design over production and the importance of separating the activities.  Perhaps the most tantalising moment of the trip was when he took us to his records archive and randomly pulled original designs from drawers; fig 7 shows him finding and displaying an original Josef Hoffman design for a drinking glass. 

Fig7 Josef Hoffman Glass design for Lobmeyr – displayed by Peter Rath.


Our second day took us to the Leopold Museum and we were in Vienna Secession and Wiener Werkstätte heaven.   It sometime takes a collection like this to really make sense of the totality of an artistic movement.  The driving forces behind both movements were the two Viennese super-stars:  Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann, great polymaths their designs included some fantastic glass.  Fig 8 show a wonderful display of drinking glasses designed by Koloman Moser (Meteor: top shelf c1900) and his student Otto Prutscher (lower shelf c1907), commissioned by the Austrian company of E. Bakalowitz and made in Bohemia by Meyr’sNeffe.

Fig8 Drinking glasses designed by Koloman Moser (Meteor: top shelf c1900) and Otto Prutscher (lower shelf c1907).


The afternoon took us to the excellent Sikabonyi Gallery, our first real taste of modern glass design, followed by a visit to the Hofburg Museum, full of incredible Josef Hoffmann silverware, and finally, a necessary walk past the truly magnificent Secessionist hall.

Day three took us on our way to Budapest with some interesting stops on our way. First stop was the Pannonhalma Hefter Gallery, owned by a stained glass artist and restorer, introducing us to the surprising world of modern Hungarian Art Glass.

Then we visited Ajka; shop, museum and glassworks; Ajka is a large, quality, ‘high lead’ crystal glassworks and has thrived for much of its existence effectively as a ‘ghost glass house’, making wares exclusively for other glass works. In the post war period this included a lot of familiar British and Irish names, such as Waterford, Dartington and Edinburgh Crystal. Today they make for many of the big ‘world’ high street brand names, they also dabble in their own markets producing (fig 9) an interesting take on modern cameo glass.       

Fig9 Ajka Cameo glass vase 2000.


Having arrived in Budapest, day four took us back to the Hungarian countryside and the Domsod-Julia Bathory Museum. Run by Julia’s family it is dedicated to her impressive yet neglected work.  She thrived in Paris in the 1930s as a top glass designer.  Interestingly some of her best designs were used for the glass fronts of radios (fig 10).

Fig10 Julia Bathory original design drawing and radio cover 1930-39.


In the afternoon we had a trip to the newly renovated and impressive Parliament Building which has some impressive, if maybe strange, restored stain glass windows by Roth Miksa, followed by a visit to the Roth Miksa Museum with a great array of his work (fig 11 –Pomegranates).

Fig11 Roth Miksa ‘ Pomegranates’ Mosaic 1898.


The evening was a particular treat; a feast of modern Hungarian glass.  At The Ponton Gallery, Lajos Barabas displayed not only a wide selection of stunning glass, but also the artists as well.  Innovative, dramatic and technically adroit we were shown a mind-blowing array of work, all made without any facility to blow glass. We all had our favourites, personally I loved the work of Gyorgy Gaspar (fig 12); we were truly spoilt for choice.

Fig12 ‘Alien Eye’ Gyorgy Gaspar c2010


Our last day started at the Museum of Applied Arts – a true jewel in itself – this Museum held a great and unexpected surprise; a large collection, bought almost entirely from the great European World Fairs and the famous ‘Bing’ shop in Paris (originator of the term Art Nouveau).  Fig 13 shows a marvellous boxed presentation ‘Spice’ set c1900 purchased directly from the Bing shop containing L C Tiffany favrile footed salts with silver spoons from Edouaud Colonna, Paris.

Fig13 ‘Spice’ set c1900 L C Tiffany favrile footed salts with silver spoons, Edouaud Colonna, Paris in original Bing shop box.


We were also shown the true origins, indeed the Hungarian origins, of iridised glass by Valentin Leo Pantocsek. We were then treated to a brief view of their slightly disorganised store where more treasures were to be found. This included (fig 14) a superior ‘unattributed’ vase, a stunning example by Carl Goldberg of Haida Bohemia, surprise award winner at the 1900 Paris exhibition, and almost certainly bought there.   

Fig14 Vase by Carl Goldberg of Haida c1900.


Our last museum of the trip was the Hungarian National Museum, where we saw many first-rate examples of glass from all periods and again we were allowed into the private store where we found great glass in cabinets more impressive than most museums.

Next stop was a kind of glass soiree; an auction put on solely for our benefit, an exhibition and a chance to talk with local collectors. Finally we had our last supper, a chance to chat with guests from our whole Hungarian trip.

Vienna proved indeed the home of some of the all time great glass designers and Budapest, for me now has a great glass presence; modern and historically.

A fantastic trip, we owe many thanks to all the generous museum curators, translators and people that helped, but most of all the true and tireless heroes of the expedition; Attila Sik and Zsuzsa Molnar.




By John P. Smith (published in Glass Circle News, Vol.36 No.3 p 6-28)


On Wednesday 28th August a little over 20 people assembled in the Art Hotel, Vienna, to start a trip to the Austria/Hungarian empire. By 8.30 we were all assembled in the Palmenhous in central Vienna for an introductory dinner, using Vienna’s excellent tram service.


Some excellent glass treasures in the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna

The next morning we first visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the curator concerned with glass was unfortunately not available, but we soon had our guide, who was a history rather than an objects person, under control, so we missed the fantastic paintings, silver, rock Crystal, et alia, but saw all the fine glass that they have on display, (they have a even larger amount in store). Their Roman glass was rather disappointing, if one can say that any collection with a good cage cup is disappointing, although one of the pieces could have inspire Tiffany.  However the first case we saw, with 4 items of the best early Venetian glass, crassly valued at over £2m by your commentator, matched anything in the V & A or the British Museum.  We saw wonderful glass from Innsbruck and Hall, mainly bought new by the Habsburgs over 500 years ago. We continued through the galleries and the allotted 105 minutes was soon up.


We had the pleasure to enjoy Dr Rainald Franz’s guided tour in MAK (Museum für angewandte Kunst) in Vienna

After lunch we visited MAK, the Austrian Museum for the applied arts, where we were met by Dr Rainald Franz, knowledgeable, charming, and fluent in English, who showed us the museum’s collections of mainly 19th and 20th century glass, much, but not all, from German speaking areas. We were then allowed into the museum’s reserve collection area, full of glass, some wonderful, some dull, cameras clicked (throughout our trip photography was almost universally allowed) and objects were queried. After 2 hours we dragged ourselves away to what might have been a rather dreary visit to a shop, that of Lobmeyr.


We had the good fortune to visit the storage in MAK

Peter Rath, in theory retired, a member of the owning family, which has been in the same hands for nearly 200 years (the firm was founded in 1823), walked us up the stairs of the family shop to the firm’s museum to give us a history lesson. The firm has, very sensibly, never made any glass, but commissioned designers, glass blowers, engravers to produce items for their perceived markets.


The fantastic Peter Rath gave us a private tour in the archive of Lobmeyr glass


As the Habsburg dynasty had a very high concept of their own importance their demand for table ware and chandeliers, in bulk, keep the firm very prosperous up to around 1916, as we were to see in our visit to the Hofburg palace the next day. After the last war it has been the Arab market which has largely kept the company afloat. Tradition rules, they have found that being ‘trendy’ is a disaster, something we came across in Hungary as well, but quality works. Leaving the shop we walked to the workshop and archives where we saw chandeliers being assembled and learned more about the philosophy of the company.


Part of the Lobmeyr Glass Museum


In 1971 they bought a rival company who had run out of heirs, “We had known them for 150 years”, by going to their bank, ‘While we waited the manager wrote a cheque for the amount we required”. The company retain all their records, an invaluable resource for scholars, and also parts of very early chandeliers. After two and a half hours in the company of the ebullient Peter Rath we staggered off to dinner.


Peter Rath demonstrates glass engraving

The next day, Friday, was slightly more relaxing. First a visit to the Leopold Museum, we used public transport in Vienna, with an exhibition of Schiele and Klimt, and masses of Secessionist glass. Which I missed as I returned to the Kunsthistorisches museum. Lunch followed.

After lunch we visited the Gallery Sikabonyi, a contemporary glass gallery in the centre of town, run a by a geologist who had forsaken his career for his love of glass. It was noticeable how little of his stock was of blown glass.


Great Austrian glasses in the Leopold Museum in Vienna

Then to the ‘Hof Silberkammer’ which turned out to be the well displayed store of all the table ware of the Habsburg royal family. Room after room displays their cutlery, china and glass from throughout most of the 19th century. Suite after suite of glass was displayed, some of the finest quality, some for more every day use, in a palace, together with acres of silver gilt and ormolu candelabras and epergnes. Upstairs we visited the Sisi museum, Sisi being the Empress Elisabeth, wife of Franz Joseph, the princess Diana of her day, who was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in September 1898, with a triangular file. We then saw the rest of the palace, full of the extraordinarily ugly furniture and objects, the unfortunate taste of Viennese royalty in the second half of the 19th century.



The next morning our minibus and trailer arrived to take us to Hungary. Our first stop was the gallery of a stained glass artist and restorer, who had also built himself a gallery to display the work of other artists. Laszlo Hefter has been kept busy for many years repairing the depredations of WW2 and the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Lunch was in a nearby restaurant which in many ways was the most folkloric event of our trip. Lovely old building, plum soup, paprika flavoured main course, thick and juicy fruit tart, and, to finish, a locally distilled spirit which provoked discussion as to exactly how alcoholic it was, it was definitely over-proof.


One of Laszlo Hefter’s work

Then on to that rare thing nowadays, a true working glass factory. Ajka, founded in 1878, is the sort of factory that used to be in Stourbridge. Large, it still employs 297 people, versatile, it uses up to 12 colours, and international. If you buy Wedgwood glass, Edinburgh Crystal or Waterford Crystal it is probably made now by this company. Also glass for Polo Ralph Lauren, Tiffany or Christian Dior!


We had the opportunity to visit the Ajka Glass Factory Museum, guided by the chief designer Zsuzsa Csala


We were shown round their museum and gallery by their designer Zsuzsa Csala. They still use 25% lead crystal and have also tried in the past to make ultra modern designed ‘art glass’ but have given it up as being un-commercial. We then toured the factory, which was not working as it was a Saturday afternoon, but their working methods seemed no different from other glass manufacturers. We felt that their glass was very elegant, which is why they have survived, together with their readiness to use ideas derived from other peoples’ work.


Our “little” group gathered in front of the glass gallery in Hungary for group photo

Later we arrived at our hotel, the Zara Continental, a modern (opened in 2010) and smart hotel close to the centre of Budapest. It was here that the skills of our leader and organizers Attila Sik and his partner Zsuzsanna Molnar, both from Budapest really started to show. The hotel was all that we could have wanted, the meals were good and it became apparent that they knew everyone in Budapest.


László Lukácsi’s creation in the exhibition organized for us in Ponton Gallery, Budapest

Sunday was not to be a day of rest. At 9am we set off into the Hungarian countryside again to Domsod, where we visited a new museum/gallery I concerning the life and work of Julia Bathory, born 1901, died 2000, built and run by her son, Andras Szilagyi and his wife Julianna Kovacs. Fortunately her Grandson, also Andras Szilagyi, a glass scholar with a doctorate in Art History, was there to tell us all about her remarkable life which will be the subject of an article in the next issue. Sufficient to say that having studied art in Germany she became a glass designer working in Germany, Bohemian, and them in France, receiving a diplome d’honneur at the World Fair of 1937, she returned to Budapest in 1940 and continued to work until 1944 when the war made work impossible. After the war she could not return to Paris but taught and works right up to her death.


Margit Tóth’s humanoid-animal creation in Ponton

We left Domsod and drove back to Budapest, on the way eating sandwiches purchased by Zsuzsa and Attila early that morning. We had planned to eat them on the Hungarian parliament lawns, but when we arrived the lawns turned out to be a building site. The Hungarian parliament was built in the late 19th century, in many ways copying our own House of Parliament, built in white limestone, which looks wonderful, but rots, so all the façade has recently been replaced. The House has two chambers, and we were shown one by a guide, together with the state crown, with its interesting history, and crooked finial. For some of us the highlight was some wonderfully camp stained glass in one of the corridors by Miksa Roth.


István Czebe’s characteristic glass creation in the Ponton Exhibition

After this we visited a truly unexpected Arts and Crafts building, (or Art Nouveau, or Secessionist, the source of much sterile argument), the Roth Miksa Museum. Miksa Roth was a stained glass artist who worked at the turn of the century, and miraculously his —daughter, Amalia,  kept all together during the communist era and the apartment survives intact, together with some of his work, and many of his working drawings. The other contents of the house, and the interior decoration, was pure William Morris or William Burgess, a complete delight. 


The poster advertising the Contemporary Glass Exhibition in Ponton Gallery

Our fourth visit of the day was over the river to Buda to the Ponton Gallery. Arranged by a local collector, Lajos Barabas this gallery had been taken over for the day to show us the work of current Hungarian glass artists.


Zoltán Bohus’s masterpiece in Ponton Gallery exhibition


They had all studied at the Budapest college of Applied Arts under Professor Zoltan Bohus, who was here with 13 of his former pupils.  The college has no facility for blowing glass and hence producing vessel forms, all the work was ground, cast, sintered or assembled, usually with glue.


One of Péter Borkovics’ fantastic and very fragile glass pieces in the Ponton exhibition


We had a presentation by each of the artists, showing their work, and explaining their philosophy. We all enjoyed this special exhibition, and several Hungarian works are now gracing British private collections.


We are eagerly awaiting for the personal presentation of contemporary Hungarian glass artists in the Ponton Exhibition


On Monday on the Continent all museums are usually closed, as is the case in Budapest. But not for us, Attila waved his magic wand again and both the Museum of Applied Arts and The Hungarian National Museum were opened specially for us.


Our group was greeted by the deputy director of collections Zsombor Jekely, and  Gabriella Balla the curator of glass and ceramics


First to the Applied Arts Museum, on Budapest’s excellent public transport, a rather eccentric museum built towards the end of the 19th century in the Moorish style. Next spring this museum will be closed for some time for much needed renovations.


Listening to the talk in the Museum of Applied Arts


We were met by the deputy director of collections Zsombor Jekely, and  Gabriella Balla the curator of glass and ceramics,  who gave us a brief history of the museum and then showed us around the not large, but carefully chosen collection, with many of the exhibits having impeccable provenance as they had been bought new by the museum.


We had a fantastic time in the Museum of Applied Arts: the museum was opened only for us


All the major names in glass from around 1800 were there, from France, Germany, Bohemia, the UK (Dresser and Webb) and Hungary. I could expand this section if you wish. We also visited the reserve collection and the conservation workshop.


… and had a guided tour in the storage room where we saw treasures

We then moved to the Hungarian National Museum for more excellent sandwiches and then taken to the museum’s conference room where we were greeted by the glass curator Anna Ridovics and given a brief history of the museum before being taken on a whirlwind.


The glass curator Anna Ridovics educates us about the history of Hungarian glass making in the Hungarian National Museum


I’ve never seen members walk so fast, ‘keep running’ she said, of all the glass in the museum, and the reserve collection! The curator of Roman glass had got their cage cup out especially so that we could see it close up, I am sure that few of us will ever be as close to one again. 


We visited the storage room in the Hungarian National Museum


We then moved to European glass and saw the biggest conical vessel from Hall, Tyrol, (43cm) O and then to later Hungarian glass.


A special glass auction organized for us in Belvedere Salon

The day was not yet over, a small auction had been arranged for our benefit and a local collector showed us his collection, both in the Belvedere Szalon.


Hungarian private glass collectors brought they treasures to show us in Belvedere Salon


And then to the hotel for a farewell dinner and an opportunity to that Attila and Zsuzsa for the immense amount of hard work that they had put in on our behalf.

Listening to Mr Brody (glass collector) talk