Ribbon Satin Swirl, Mother of Pearl
by F. J. Vyn
In the last newsletter we shared an image of a blue ribbed creamer that is similar to images in this article. If you look at the following fairy lamp with a blue Mother of Pearl shade and a strange curled green base, its identity is a mystery, as is that of the blue creamer.
Our primary resource book Fairy Lamps-Elegance in Candle Lighting shows a similar lamp in Group 4. In R-219 we see the same shade in red with the green base. Unique to this chapter the colors of the shade and base are not the same, and the type of glass appears to be different. R-59 shows another red satin shade in a rare lamp cup described in detail in Ruf, Appendix D, Item 11. (See Note 1) This lamp cup, however, is not original to the shade.
These two fairy lamps are described with accurate colorful words such as; pinched, puckered top rim; scalloped, flared bottom rim; and striped ribbon satin Mother of Pearl (MOP) surface. The unique bottom rim is also drawn in or waisted. The MOP glass has vertical air trap ribbons and colored glass over a white glass liner.
The R-55 fairy lamp has red ribbon satin swirl air traps that are very similar to the R-59 striped ribbon air traps. R-279 shows the same top rim as our blue shade, and the green and pumpkin color glass also has swirled air traps. The same colors and type of glass are shown on the handled creamer, and rose bowls that are associated with Thomas Webb on pages 36 and 37 of Collectible Glass Rose Bowls by Billings. On page 43, we find rose bowls with the same glass as R-55 & R-279 described as Pompeian Swirl attributed to Stevens and Williams. The source for R-59 and R-219 points without proof toward the dominant sources for Victorian glass, Thomas Webb and Stevens & Williams.
Now we will look at the green tri-fold pond lily base from R-219 and our example. To me, this base itself is a work of art when shown in the top and bottom view. There are many pieces of Tiffany and Steuben Art Glass that are not as appealing. Does it belong as the base for the ribbon striped MOP domes? There is a recessed foot with space available for the candle. The shape is not symmetrical but there is a functional reason for this.
Home base for the dome is centered on the recessed area. If all three curled sides were the same shape, raising and lowering the dome to service the candle would be difficult. A chip on the bottom rim of the dome or a fragile edge on the base would be a disaster. One curl is opened up to allow space for safe movement of the dome. The engineers may have helped the artist with this feature. The scalloped bottom rim of the dome may be an artistic way to provide input airflow for candle combustion.
Most remarkable is the overall beauty of the R-219 fairy lamps in red and blue. Beyond Victorian they may cross the boundary to French and American Art Nouveau glass, and may even compete with contemporary glass by Dale Chihuly.(See Note 2) Do we have a pond lily about to blossom with its floral base floating on a pond? Whatever you see in this lamp the appeal comes from just the glass, without any decoration.
With a candle inside we discover that the flame is bright where passing through the semi-transparent striped ribbon air traps. The cased glass in between is more opaque and now the red flower looks like flickering fire. If only we had candles with the correct flame temperature, we could see these lamps as intended by their maker.
Note that the "green side" is up on the rose bowl bases and down on the fairy lamps. The pontil mark is on the green side as well.
Thinking about the green pond lily base in the same manner, when held up to a light source we see a bright and dark swirled pattern. From this we conclude that this green base is also a variation of satin swirl MOP glass. Now other than the different colors we see why R-219 is correctly placed in Group 4 of the Ruf book. The rose bowls are also paired with green (MOP) pond lily bases. With the help of the rose bowls we know more about the R-219 family of lamps.
As one thing leads to another we at least have enjoyed putting the spot light on one of many beautiful fairy lamps you may not have noticed before. We hope you enjoyed the tour presented by "Ribbon Satin Swirl, Mother of Pearl."
1. This lamp cup is embossed Br. Clarke, SGDG, Portieux in interior, has slightly twisted ribbed sides on cup, wide petal horizontal flange with dimple impressed in each petal from below. This cup has flange with separated rounded bars holding a dome of 3.37" maximum diameter. It will also hold a 2.87" diameter dome with notched or scalloped bottom rim.2. Contemporary glass artist. Biography and examples of his work are located at www.chihuly.com