Tear wine glass
Attributed to Harry Powell British
James Powell and Sons
Manufacturer Whitefriars Glassworks British
This object is a very fine example of the series of "tear" vessels designed by Harry Powell (grandson of the wine-merchant, James Powell, who had purchased the Whitefriars Glassworks in 1834) at the very end of the nineteenth century. This group of Powell’s designs shows him moving beyond his wavy-rimmed, organic, art nouveau responses to façon de Venise glass. Instead, the inspiration for this group of crisp tableware, simply decorated with elongated vertical sea-green applied trails, or tears, was the great fifteenth-century Netherlandish painted masterpiece by Hugo van der Goes, the Portinari Triptych (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi); in one of his design notebooks, logging "Glasses with Histories" and made around 1912 onwards (preserved in the Museum of London, acc. 3252), Powell sketched the vase in the painting’s foreground, identifying it as "flower pictures by Hugo vander Goes in Uffizi Galery." The page of this notebook illustrating this goblet’s design is illustrated by W. Evans, C. Ross & A. Werner, Whitefriars Glass. James Powell & Sons of London, London: Museum of London, 1995 (plate 426, p.276).
As with Harry Powell’s other designs, this wine glass exemplifies the core philosophy of James Powell & Sons to prize glassmakers’ technique and celebrate the colors and property of their material, rather than to simply depend upon surface decoration and embellishment. The "tear" wine service to which this glass belongs was introduced at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1899. Analysis of contemporary photographs has prompted Evans, Ross and Werner to suggest that the originals had six sea-green tears on clear glass and by 1901 this had been reduced to four tears; afterwards a variety of colors and combinations were used.