Fairy Lamp Club Newsletter, Issue XVIII
February 2001

The Decoration of Webb Burmese Glass
by Frank Vyn

Prunus005.jpg (16769 bytes)The decorated components of Webb fairy lamps belong to the family of "Queens Burmese" glass. The decoration of "Queensware," as provided to Queen Victoria by Mt. Washington and Webb, is not the same style for both companies. Each has its own characteristics. Webb glass is decorated with patterns designed by Jules Barbe, a talented artist from France. The distinctive style of his floral designs enhances Webb's good quality Burmese glass, particularly Fairy Lamp components.

The vocabulary of Webb Burmese pattern names is the subject of a research project that was started last year and should move forward. Collectors in the past have assigned names like prunus to patterns based on their familiarity with common plants and trees, but without any formal documentation. The "factory original" names of 33 Webb patterns are now listed on pages 431-432 of British Glass 1800–1914 by Charles R. Hajdamach.

This research started with the vocabulary found in the Ruf's Fairy Lamp-Elegance in Candle Lighting. This book is to date the best resource for named Webb Burmese glass. There are 55 examples of decorated Burmese glass in Ruf's book. Ten factory pattern names attributed to Jules Barbe, a Thomas Webb designer, are found in Hadjamach/Webb list, and 45 examples have 12 different names not found in the Hadjamach/Webb list. Does this mean the sky is falling? No, we have an opportunity to do this research for the simple reason of promoting accurate identification and communication. For example:

  • Prunus, woodbine, and larch may actually be Bramble, Virginia Creeper, and Fir using the Webb/Barbe design list.
  • The decoration on Lot 82 of the July 99 Early Auction catalog is described as "a dainty Burmese Fairy Lamp decorated with a butterfly and flowers" but there is no photograph of this fairy lamp.
  • Looking at R-494 we find a picture of the moss rose and butterfly but there is no pattern name like this in the Webb list.
  • In the eBay world we find a pattern not shown in the Ruf book and we question fellow collectors asking, "What is the name of this pattern?"
  • Glass identified as Mt. Washington is occasionally decorated Webb Burmese.
  • We find a pattern with a gold moon and wonder if the piece is authentic Webb Burmese glass.

These "areas of confusion" show "why" this research has merit.

We now have a spreadsheet list of Webb/Barbe names that do and do not coincide with generic names, photos of Webb Burmese glass, digital images of patterns, a growing botanical library, the desire to communicate with collectors in England who have done similar research, trial attempts for botanical ID by visits to the plant doctors at Flowerland, access to the world class Frederik Meijer Gardens, etc. We would like to find and match examples of each decoration with the 33 Webb/Barbe names to update the generic vocabulary. This work will promote the accurate identification and communication of 33 Webb Burmese patterns.

What we need now is a group of collectors who would like to improve their vocabulary and participate in a project that has value for more than just fairy lamp collectors. Who, however, has more motivation to start and manage this project than fairy lamp owners who recognize the quality of Webb Burmese glass in their collections?

Franklin J. Vyn

Editor Note: I have reproduced Frank's Burmese pattern spreadsheet for your reference.

Thomas Webb Burmese Glass Decorations, 1886-1888
Type of decoration-pattern name for fairy lamps and other shapes of glass,
British Glass, 1800-1914 by Charles R. Hajdamach, pgs. 433-434.
No. Jules Barbe Pattern No. Jules Barbe Pattern Name Date of Introduction Reference Examples of This Pattern
1 2363 Hawthorn 1886
2 2465 Ivy 1886 R-24, R-485, R-496 (wee-size), R-660, R-665, R-693
3 2475 Virginia Creeper 1886
4 2486 Ivy and Berries 1886
5 2575 Chrysanthemum 1887
6 2576 Japanese Berries 1887
7 2618 Heather 1887
8 2649 Clematis 1887
9 2654 Nasturtium 1887
10 2681 Pansy and Violet 1887
11 2735 Dog Rose 1887
12 2736 Convolulus 1887
13 2787 Japanese Creeper 1887
14 2821 Bramble 1887
15 2830 Honeysuckle 1887
16 2832.5 Barberry 1887
17 2853 Daisies 1887  
18 3099 Passion Flower 1887  
19 3104 Holly and Mistletoe 1887  
20 3105 Iris 1887  
21 3115 Fuschia 1887 R-534 (dome only)
22 3123 Periwinkle 1887  
23 3141 Mistletoe 1887
24 3142 Holly 1887  
25 3170 Maidenhair Fern 1887  
26 3171 Blackberry 1887  
27 3211 Forget-Me-Not 1887 R-506, R-602 (color mismatch), R-732
28 3215 Oak (Lilac Burmese) 1887  
29 3229 Grasses (Lilac Burmese) 1888  
30 3244 Forget-me-not (Lilac Burmese) 1888  
31 3253 Barberry (Lilac Burmese) 1888  
32 3264 Clematis (Lilac Burmese) 1888  
33 3314 Fi r (Lilac Burmese) 1888
Items 34-43 are from "Fairy Lamps – Elegance in Candle Lighting" by Bob and Pat Ruf.
No. Ruf
Pattern Name
Reference Examples of This Pattern
34 Forget-Me-Not & butterfly R-513 (white flowers without leaves)
35 Hops R-480
36 Hops, white Burmese R-82, R-477, R-709 (all opal or unfired Burmese)
37 Ivy (unique design) R-299 (highlighted in silver)
38 Ivy (unique design) R-498 (on Peach Blow)
39 Larch (Fir?) R-531, R-664
40 Moss Rose R-494 (with a butterfly)
41 Oak Leaf (Oak?) R-497 (with acorns)
42 Prunus (Bramble?) R-475, R-481, R-491, R-495, R-501, R-507 (single flower pattern), R-512, R-516, R-532, R-543, R-574, R-603, R-663, R-679, R-680, R-684 (does not look like Prunus or ivy), R-696, R-697, R-783, R-790
43 Woodbine R-48 (wee-size), R-83, R-476, R-500, R-510, R-533, R-604, R-662, R-669 (wee-size), R-692, R-765, R-478
44 Woodbine with gold trim R-678, GCD July 99 Pg. 84
45 Foliage R-534 (base only)

Prunus Pattern – A Topic for Discussion
by Jim

At Frank's suggestion, I would like to use this forum to begin a dialog to discuss examples of a variety of Webb decorations. The prunus pattern, as identified in the Ruf's book, is perhaps the most common and a good place to start the discussion.

Prunus 007.jpg (109949 bytes)

Take a look at the above examples, compare it to the Frank's table of Webb/Barbe and Ruf's decoration names,  and let us know what you think. As you can see from these four examples, there are subtle differences that probably reflect the talents of individual artists. The goal is, of course, to standardize the formal name of each pattern so that collector's can properly identify the patterns.

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