Bohemia's Golden Days


Loetz Bohemian Art Glass Inkwell with Brass Lid (LEO Design)


While I love the Art Nouveau, I always have been hesitant to enter "The Art Glass Fray."  It's a world chock-full of passionate, opinionated and discriminating aficionados—people who seem to loooove setting other people straight.  These experts all seem to have 75 years of collecting experience (and don't you forget it!).  Interestingly, my reluctance has proved convenient.  Glass breaks easily and I am always shipping merchandise (either from Europe or to my customers).  The less delicate merchandise I stock, the less-fraught my life should be.  (Right?)

Despite my predilection, I was arrested the moment I stumbled upon this Bohemian Art Nouveau glass inkwell.  I was told it was Loetz—which is certainly the most famous Bohemian glass brand name (though not necessarily better than its competitors' best works).  I knew that most Loetz products were never signed (or marked by the maker) and this inkwell wasn't.  So I asked the sensible question, "How do you know it's Loetz?"  The seller, flummoxed by the question, summoned her "fellow experts" sitting nearby.  Their verdict: "It's Loetz.  You just know when it's Loetz."

I bought the piece, brought it back to the States, and (eventually) opened that Pandora's Box of on-line research about Bohemian glassmakers.  The internet is a minefield of confusion, contradiction and misattribution, waiting to disorient the neophyte who dares to venture forth.

My verdict: It's not Loetz.  (Most likely.)

After a bunch of on-line digging, I have concluded (99%) that this inkwell was made by Wilhelm Kralik Söhne—an innovative and excellent Art Nouveau glassmaker, also in Bohemia (at the time within the Austro-Hungarian Empire).  Kralik was an accomplished competitor to Loetz.  In fact, some of Kralik's finest work has been compared to Tiffany glass.  The company was founded in 1815 by Josef Meyr.  In time, Wilhelm Kralik was running the company which now consisted of several different Bohemian factories.  Kralik had pioneered several innovative production methods which would pay dividends in the decades to come.  When Wilhelm died in 1877, the company's various locations were divided amongst his sons.  Heinrich Kralik renamed his factory in memory of his father, Wilhelm Kralik Söhne (Sons).  By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the company had really hit its stride—making high end Art Nouveau glass luxuries for export throughout Europe and abroad.  

The Twentieth Century was very difficult for Bohemia.  World War One took its toll.  And Bohemia, so close to Germany, was roiled by the Nazi annexation of Sudetenland in 1938. Eventually, Germany took everything.  At the end of the WWII, Prague was "liberated" by the Soviet Union—who came back in 1968 to take the country.  Most of these brilliant Bohemian artglass makers could not function during this political, social and military upheaval.  Most were closed (or nationalized and redirected) before or during World War II.

The handsome art glass inkwell, shown above, was made around 1900.  The triple-buttressed form is lashed with an organic "web" of "pulled glass trailings."  The metallic, iridescent, jewel tone glass is reminiscent of gemstones.  And the cast brass lid bears an Art Nouveau foliate styling.  In a way, this inkwell is a fragile (yet beautiful) survivor of very difficult times in a very specific place.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248