Tabletop Conviviality: Swiss Glass and Pottery in Geneva

Schnaps & Rösti – Enamelled Glass and Swiss Pottery 17th-19th Centuries, at the Musée Ariana, Geneva, Switzerland

There are times when you put off going to an exhibition, because you kinda think it’ll be nice… but next weekend.  And then you get to the week before it’s due to close, and have to do a panic visit.  And then you wonder why on earth you’d put it off for so long.

On the surface of it, an exhibition looking at glassware for schnapps and plates for rösti doesn’t sound that interesting.  The advertising posters around Geneva made it look like they had some attractive items on display, and I assumed it was going to be a small affair, that we’d be in and out of quite quickly.  Wrong again.

Advertising the exhibition at the Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Advertising the exhibition at the Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

The exhibition space is in the cellars of the majestic Ariana Museum, and it is vast!  As you can see, it’s not a pretty space, but honestly, why waste money prettifying it?  The exhibition focussed on the Ariana’s own collections.  Yes, there were rösti plates, and schnapps flasks, but the exhibition really looked at a range of Swiss pottery and glass which were everyday items, not expensive objects for the wealthy.  As such, they gave a really interesting insight into the lives of Swiss people, because their images and their mottos show, to some extent, the interests and preoccupations of their consumers.

A quick disclaimer: I have tried to translate the Swiss German mottos on the glass and pottery – a combination of my bad High German and Google translate.  Unfortunately, I know I haven’t been too successful with many of them, while some remained utterly baffling.  I should note that the museum hadn’t translated them into French on the tags either.  Anyway, Sister Chickpea has valiantly tried to help.  We’ve done our best.  Be kind.  And submit translations, should you wish!

Exhibition Space of the Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Exhibition Space of the Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Enamelled Glass

It was the Siegwart brothers who brought the enamelled glass industry to the canton of Lucerne in 1723.  They settled in the Entlebuch district and soon several other firms opened up in the same region, and they all basically produced glassware that looks the same.  Since it’s hard to distinguish firms, the term “Flühli glass” is used to refer to their collective style.  The production continued until about 1820, when it fell out of popularity.

The designs on the glass have recurring motifs – lots of flowery designs, running animals and moaning mottos.  The range of glass vessels that they decorated was broad, from the flasks and glasses to apothecary jars and perfume bottles.  This shows how widespread the appeal of enamelled glass was – it was used by all levels of society.

The glass was often mould-blown, and the painting was then applied (the paint had a metallic oxide base) and fixed in place by a second firing.

Flühli flask, c1780, "Vivat mein Schatz" (Long live my darling), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli flask, c1780, “Vivat mein Schatz” (Long live my darling), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, 1756-1802; Flühli goblet, 1795, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, 1756-1802; Flühli goblet, 1795, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, 1792, "Allen buren gesuntheit", Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, 1792, “Allen buren gesuntheit”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli flask, 1731, "Lieb du mich wie ich dich nid mer beger ich" (I'm not worried about whether you love me as I love you any more), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli flask, 1731, “Lieb du mich wie ich dich nid mer beger ich” (I’m not worried about whether you love me as I love you any more), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

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Range of Flühli glasses from 1730s-1760s, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Bottle from the Black Forest, 1716, "Wer mir die Flaschen lass falen der thuo mir kain gefalen. Wer mir es aussfiltt mit guoten Wein legt grosse ehr bei mir ein", Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Bottle from the Black Forest, 1716, “Wer mir die Flaschen lass falen der thuo mir kain gefalen. Wer mir es aussfiltt mit guoten Wein legt grosse ehr bei mir ein”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Glass from France or Central Switzerland, 1722, "Alles wass Mir haben seindt lauder Gottes gaaben" (All that I have is given by God), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Glass from France or Central Switzerland, 1722, “Alles wass Mir haben seindt lauder Gottes gaaben” (All that I have is given by God), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Cup from Flühli, 1789, "Lieb du mich allein oder lass sein" (Love only me or let me be), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland.  The violet colour is given by the addition of manganese oxide.

Cup from Flühli, 1789, “Lieb du mich allein oder lass sein” (Love only me or let me be), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland.  The violet colour is given by the addition of manganese oxide.

Flühli cup, c1750, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli cup, c1750, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottles, c1780, "Brand wein macht fein" (Fire wine makes you fine), "Ich liebe was sein ist obs schon nich mein ist" (I love what is yours, even though it isn't yet mine), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottles, c1780, “Brand wein macht fein” (Fire wine makes you fine), “Ich liebe was sein ist obs schon nich mein ist” (I love what is yours, even though it isn’t yet mine), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, c1780, "Sauffe ich wein so bin ich gar fein" (I drink wine so I'm fine) Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, c1780, “Sauffe ich wein so bin ich gar fein” (I drink wine so I’m fine) Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottles, c1780, "M[itt?]er b[ud?]el wein ist das Leben mein"; "Liebhaben in ehren kann niemand Wehren" (Nobody can fight honourable love), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottles, c1780, “M[itt?]er b[ud?]el wein ist das Leben mein”; “Liebhaben in ehren kann niemand Wehren” (Nobody can fight honourable love), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, c1790, "Vivat Herr Bruder" (Long live Mr Bruder), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, c1790, “Vivat Herr Bruder” (Long live Mr Bruder), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli cup, 1727, "Vivat alle hern Mötzger" (Long live all butchers), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli cup, 1727, “Vivat alle hern Mötzger” (Long live all butchers), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli, 1727, "Vivat alle hern Mötzger" (Long live all butchers), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli, 1727, “Vivat alle hern Mötzger” (Long live all butchers), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Cup from Schangnau or Black Forest, 1720, "Wan du genossen hast speis und dranck sag deinen herren Lob und danck heiri meller maria frei" (When you have enjoyed dining and drinking, thank the Lord and Mary) Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Cup from Schangnau or Black Forest, 1720, “Wan du genossen hast speis und dranck sag deinen herren Lob und danck heiri meller maria frei” (When you have enjoyed dining and drinking, thank the Lord and Mary) Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, 1731, "Ich befehle mich in dass bitere Leiden und Sterben Jesu Christi" (I commit myself to the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Flühli bottle, 1731, “Ich befehle mich in dass bitere Leiden und Sterben Jesu Christi” (I commit myself to the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Pottery

While pottery production occurred around Switzerland, it was the canton of Bern that had what are regarded as the most important workshops.  There are surprising differences in style and decoration between these workshops, which flourished at different times and were often inspired by a single potter and his personal aesthetic.  So let’s look at them by group, shall we?

Learning about pottery production, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Learning about pottery production, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Pottery of Langnau

The pottery of the Emmantal town of Langnau has a distinctive style which was developed by a number of potters.  The motifs were applied to a white background, then roller stamped and engraved, with a coating of a greenish glaze applied at the end.

Langnau plate, 1743, "Bär/1743" (Bear/1743), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau plate, 1743, “Bär/1743” (Bear/1743), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau plate, 1787, "Ich Liebe waß fein ist, wanß schon nicht mein ist, so habe ich doch freüd daran, wan ich eß schon nicht haben kann" (I love what is fine, when it's not yet mine, so it makes me happy, even when I can't yet have it"), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau plate, 1787, “Ich Liebe waß fein ist, wanß schon nicht mein ist, so habe ich doch freüd daran, wan ich eß schon nicht haben kann” (I love what is fine, when it’s not yet mine, so it makes me happy, even when I can’t yet have it”), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau plate, 1785, "Der Segen Gotteß machet reich, wo fleiß und Tuget glenzet, Drum war zu sinem Lob und Preiß, die blaten der anna Boß Geschenket" (The blessing of God makes you rich, where diligence and virtue shines, therefore it is in her praise that this plate is gifted to Anna Boss), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau plate, 1785, “Der Segen Gotteß machet reich, wo fleiß und Tuget glenzet, Drum war zu sinem Lob und Preiß, die blaten der anna Boß Geschenket” (The blessing of God makes you rich, where diligence and virtue shines, therefore it is in her praise that this plate is gifted to Anna Boss), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau sugar bowl, 1800-1820, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Langnau sugar bowl, 1800-1820, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

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Langnau sugar bowl, 1800/1810, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate imitating Langnau, end of 19th century, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate imitating Langnau, end of 19th century, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Toys

Toys were made by the potters’ children, and were very popular, especially with visiting tourists. There are no makers’ marks, so they’re impossible to attribute to workshops.  There are many different shapes and some are cuter than others…

Toy squirrel from Bern Canton, end of 19th/beginning of 20th century, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Toy squirrel from Bern Canton, end of 19th/beginning of 20th century, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Toy soldier from Bern Canton, end of 19th/beginning of 20th century, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Toy soldier from Bern Canton, end of 19th/beginning of 20th century, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Abraham Marti

The utterly charming works of Abraham Marti are considered gems of Swiss pottery.  They are incredibly cute.  Marti worked in Blankenbourg in the Simmental valley from around 1749-1789.

Plate showing a horseman, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1780, "Gesunder mut gesunder lib vill aldes gält ein iunges wib auch gottes huld und glück darbi was meinst du woll was beser sei", Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1780, “Gesunder mut gesunder lib vill aldes gält ein iunges wib auch gottes huld und glück darbi was meinst du woll was beser sei”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

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Detail of a plate from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1780, “Gesunder mut gesunder lib vill aldes gält ein iunges wib auch gottes huld und glück darbi was meinst du woll was beser sei”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing man shooting a giant rabbit, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1780, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing man shooting a giant rabbit, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1780, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing military couple, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1789, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing military couple, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1789, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing a horseman with a fluffy hat, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1770, "Junges blut spar din gut, gedänck das armut im alter we dut", Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing a horseman with a fluffy hat, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1770, “Junges blut spar din gut, gedänck das armut im alter we dut”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing a pistol waving horsewoman, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1770, "Ihr iunkfer wolt ihr eüch das rächte glücke schmiden so last den leinen schmid des venus sun zufriden", Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing a pistol waving horsewoman, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1770, “Ihr iunkfer wolt ihr eüch das rächte glücke schmiden so last den leinen schmid des venus sun zufriden”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

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Fish plate from the atelier of Abraham Marti, c1760, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

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Bird plate from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760, “SÜ/1760”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing the coat of arms of Geneva, atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1789, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing the coat of arms of Geneva, atelier of Abraham Marti, 1760-1789, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing the coats of arms of the cantons of Switzerland, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1758, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland.

Plate showing the coats of arms of the cantons of Switzerland, from the atelier of Abraham Marti, 1758, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland.

Heimberg

So just when you think that nothing can be better than the Marti plates, you stumble on the Heimberg pottery.  The main pottery centres of the canton of Bern in the 18th century were concentrated in the Heimberg region – by around 1850, there were 80 odd potteries in the area, employing journeymen and women to decorate the pieces.  Again, there are no marks and inscriptions to identify individuals, so the generic “Heimberg manner” is used to describe the work.

Many of the plates are for the Swiss potato-based rösti – the plates have an outward sloping rim.

Bird Plate, High Rhine or Alsace, 1778, "die Vögelein singen auf grüner heit Gott sey gelobet in ewigkeit" (the birds sing in the greenery, God be praised in eternity), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Bird Plate, High Rhine or Alsace, 1778, “die Vögelein singen auf grüner heit Gott sey gelobet in ewigkeit” (the birds sing in the greenery, God be praised in eternity), Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a smug chap sitting by enormous lily-of-the-valley, in the Heimberg style, 1793, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a smug chap sitting by enormous lily-of-the-valley, in the Heimberg style, 1793, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing a pair of pretty maidens, in the Heimberg style, 1785-1800, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing a pair of pretty maidens, in the Heimberg style, 1785-1800, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a commanding figure on a sleepy horse, in the Heimberg style, 1790-1800, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a commanding figure on a sleepy horse, in the Heimberg style, 1790-1800, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a lady in a straw hat, in the Heimberg style, 1785-1800, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a lady in a straw hat, in the Heimberg style, 1785-1800, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of an elegant lady with a parasol, in the Heimberg style, 1865-1870, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of an elegant lady with a parasol, in the Heimberg style, 1865-1870, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

I have a fondness for what I’m going to call the ‘folk’ style – not just because it looks like I’ve made it myself, but because it’s simple and honest, and touching in its depictions of the preoccupations and interests of ordinary people. It’s also really interesting to see figures dressed in Regency costume on this sort of work.

Plate showing dancers around a tree, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing dancers around a tree, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of plate showing dancers around a tree, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Detail of plate showing dancers around a tree, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a busty lady with extraordinary hat, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a busty lady with extraordinary hat, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing couples dancing in a see-though building, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate showing couples dancing in a see-though building, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Jayne Mansfield cafetiere in the Heimberg style, c1800-1820, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Jayne Mansfield cafetiere in the Heimberg style, c1800-1820, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a strolling couple with parasols, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, "meiner Frau ihr Forder teil ist mir um kein gelt nicht feil", Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a strolling couple with parasols, in the Heimberg style, 1820-30, “meiner Frau ihr Forder teil ist mir um kein gelt nicht feil”, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of man and woman prancing along on horses, in the Heimberg style, 1822, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of man and woman prancing along on horses, in the Heimberg style, 1822, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a man on a horse, in the Heimberg style, 1827, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of a man on a horse, in the Heimberg style, 1827, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of mother and child (and bird and dog) in the Heimberg style, 1824, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

Plate of mother and child (and bird and dog) in the Heimberg style, 1824, Ariana Museum, Geneva, Switzerland

So In Summary

It’s a real shame that these objects were only on display for a temporary exhibition, as they give a fascinating glimpse into traditional Swiss life.  I don’t know if any of them would usually be on permanent display in the main body of the Ariana Museum, but I know that most of them are from the archives, so back into storage they will go.  I’m glad I got a chance to see the collection and now I just have to keep my eyes open for one of those enamelled glasses in the flea markets….

 

 

 

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