Dear Helaine and Joe:
I bought this lamp at an estate sale. I call it a “Czech grape cluster Murano lamp.” There is only one grape half broken. How much is it worth?
Dear D. A.:
This is really a wonderful table lamp with five multicolored glass grape clusters that are very festive and attractive. Many lamps of this type have only two clusters, and the grapes are sometimes only a single shade of white grape green.
We do, however, have a small nomenclature problem with the description. The lamp was indeed crafted in the Bohemian region of what is now the Czech Republic, but Murano, a collection of seven small islands in the Venetian lagoon in Italy, has nothing whatsoever to do with the delightful lighting device.
Glass making was important in both Murano and Bohemia. The Venetians were famous for glass during the Medieval period, but in 1291 all the glass makers were ordered to leave Venice and relocate on Murano because it was feared the fires used to make glass would get out of hand and burn down the town (it was largely made from wood at the time).
The Bohemian glass industry really got its start in the 16th century, when artisans learned that by mixing potash and chalk they could made a clear, colorless glass that was more stable than the glass made on Murano. Over the years, and in the most general sense, Venetian/Murano glass became the high priced product, while Bohemian glass became the more affordable.
In fact, Bohemian glass is often credited with putting some American 19th century glass manufacturers out of business because of the price differential. It should also be noted it was Bohemian glass makers who inspired and pointed Louis Comfort Tiffany toward making his now-famous glass products.
There is no doubt the lamp is Czech/Bohemian, but that does not hurt the piece one little bit. Collectors seem to love the Czech lamps, be they baskets with mounds of glass fruit, flowers lighted from within or lamps with hanging bunches of grapes clustered around a lightbulb.
These were very popular during the 1920s. We feel the piece is circa 1925. There are two issues we need to explore quickly. The first is the quality of the lamp base, which in this case, is fairly pedestrian. Better examples have birds and other embellishments.
The second issue is the half-broken grape. We feel that if the defect can be hidden from easy view, the reduction in value should only be about 20 percent overall. If the lamp were in perfect condition, it should have a retail value in the $1,200 to $1,500 range. But the broken grape-if it does not detract too much from the aesthetic appeal of the lamp-reduces this worth to about $1,000 to $1,200. We hope D. A. got a great deal at the estate sale.