A 1960s Unusual & Rare Cased ‘Monolith’ Vase

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Factory: Novy Bor, Czechoslovakia or Murano, Italy
Designer: Pavel Hlava or Adolf Matura (if Czech)
Date of design c1960
Produced: 1960s

In eye-catching and unusual colours, this is a high quality, very well made piece – and an engima. Where was it made? Who designed it? Ruling out a German or Scandinavian origin based on the form and colours, let’s look at the evidence for the two other most likely candidates of Murano and Czechoslovakia:

The Form
Czechoslovakia: The ‘monolith’ form comprised of a contrastingly coloured, cased column is typically associated with the series of designs produced by Pavel Hlava for Exbor from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. However, the stepped base and oval cross-section of this vase do not feature in Hlava’s designs, or those of his colleague Adolf Matura, who produced similar designs. Some designs by Matura are oval in cross-section, but the form of the coloured core is much more tapered and none identified to date have a foot of any type. The type of base (see below) is more commonly associated with countries outside Murano, includign Czechoslovakia
Murano: Although similarly cased cut and polished vases were produced on Murano by a number of factories, they tend to have more facets and be of different forms – both often based around or reflecting diamond, triangular or polygon shapes. This smoothly curving and slightly tapered form with a deeply cut foot is not typical for designers or factories on Murano. The base is unmarked, and many but not all Exbor designs bear a circular Exbor acid stamp.

The Colours
Czechoslovakia: Uranium glass was commonly used in Czechoslovakia, but not as much on cut or free-blown glass during the period when these ‘monolith’ designs were produced. This combination of Uranium green over a rich wine red core, with an icy blue foot is highly unusual for Czechoslovakia and was not used on any other Czech designs that have been firmly identified to date.
Murano: Brighter tones such as these are typical of production on Murano, but not in this colour combination. Uranium glass was rarely used on Murano compared to other types/colours of glass.

The blue is applied so that it blends and fades into the Uranium green casing, rather than having a distinct and clear casing line, which is an unusual feature for any country’s production. The Uranium glass is strong and glows a translucent bright green under a black light. The unmarked oval base is almost completely comprised of a concave polished well, which is surrounded by a very thin base rim with plenty of light scratches – the sort of wear one wants to see on such a period piece.

Czech glass researcher, historian and author Robert Bevan Jones, who is the co-author of the Beranek & Skrdlovice: Legends of Czech Glass book, states that he feels almost sure that this was produced at the notable cutting shop at the Centre of Arts & Crafts in Prague. This is based on examination of a similar example in a slightly different form, but identical colours. The cutting shop was renowned for producing unique pieces or highly limited production ranges, often for exhibitions. The pattern book for the shop has been lost, meaning that designs produced there can neither be confirmed nor be attributed to designers. However, all are rare and of very high quality – as with this example.

If pushed, based on the above and the quality and style, I would lean firmly towards a Czechoslovakian origin. As well as providing a research challenge, this is an elegant, sculptural, vibrantly coloured and very well-made piece that has great eye-appeal.

9.75in (24.5cm) high.