Monday, March 25, 2013

To Serve and Project: A Glass Epergne, 1895

English, 1895
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The decoration of a Victorian dinner table was as important as the meal which was set upon it. Most households, especially those of the middle or upper classes, collected a variety of centerpieces to adorn their dining room tables when in use and when not. Most centerpieces included some variation of a vase or flower stand which would sometimes serve as a base for more elaborate displays.

An Epergne is a table centerpiece which usually incorporated a central bowl as a support for several tiers of other stands and containers used for anything from flowers to candy. These glass structures with their tiers of holders allowed both the designer (who provided a well-balanced framework to support the tiers), and the glassblower to work together to create impressive works of art. The third set of hands in the process of creating an epergne was the craftsman who fitted the various glass parts together with brass mounts set in plaster.

The epergne proved to be a popular home accessory well into the Twentieth Century. As time passed, they became increasingly complicated with some examples incorporating candelabra and suspended bon-bon dishes in addition to additional holders for flowers. Sometimes, in fact, lights, mirrors and a variety of twists, volutes, fronds, crimping and colors were incorporated into these designs.

This example is quite subdued, really. A masterpiece of hand-blown and hot-worked glass, blue-colored and opalescent is set into decorative glass mounts. Made in England in 1895, this epergne now resides at the V&A.

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