by Madeleine France

As seen in Antiques & Art Around Florida, Summer/Fall 1996

The heart’s desire of every collector of Czechoslovakian perfume bottles is to find a nude-daubered bottle to place in their collection. Elusive, rare, and very difficult to find in perfect condition, these objects are among the most awe-inspiring examples of figural Czechoslovakian perfume bottles.

Czechoslovakia became an independent country in 1918, after World War I, and anything so marked was produced after that date. The manufacture of glass has been a tradition in this area since Medieval times, and in the twentieth century there were numerous glass factories in and around the northern city of Gablonz, where literally half of the local population was employed in the factories which produced glass for jewelry, beads, buttons and tableware, as well as perfume bottles.

A wide variety of stoppers showing different colors of crystal, different poses of the nude and different molding on the tops.
Heinrich Hoffman (1875-1939) was a master craftsman as well as an innovator in the art of glass making. At the turn of the century, he had an atelier in Paris where he created designs and manufactured molds for glass. These molds were transported to Czechoslovakia (then called Bohemia), to the factory managed by his wife, Josephine, where the actual glass objects were produced. Hoffman was a contemporary of René Lalique, and both began working within the stylistic framework of the Art Nouveau movement. While René Lalique generally placed his name upon the objects he designed, Hoffman used an open-winged butterfly to identify his creations. However, this identifying signature is not always present on all Hoffman designs. On the nude daubers the molded butterfly mark can be found at the top of the dauber itself, if it is present.

In the late 1920s, Heinrich Hoffman’s daughter, Charlotte, married Henry Schlevogt (1904-1984), the son of Curt Schlevogt who owned another glass factory which manufactured glass jewelry and buttons. Henry Schlevogt had many new ideas which he integrated into the production of glass products. His wife died at a very young age, leaving him with a four year old daughter, Ingrid, for whom he named some of his new products, including perfume bottles. Under Hoffman’s tutelage, his son-in-law Henry Schlevogt worked on perfecting the technique for the agate, marble, or semiprecious stone glass that the name Ingrid became famous for. They were able to produce not only numerous opaque colors of glass, but also to duplicate the complex depth and variation of color present in lapis lazuli and malachite as well as turquoise and jade. However, the nude daubers were apparently done only in translucent colors and opaque black.

Clear crystal bottle frosted glass stopper; metal mounting on base and neck with pink jewels.
The nude daubers were produced in a wide spectrum of colors: vaseline, peach pink, deep rose, light and dark blue, lime and dark green, amber, violet, opaque black and clear glass. The most desirable of these bottles are those which have ormolu or enameled and jeweled metal fittings. These brass fittings were manufactured mostly in Austria, and later in Czechoslovakia. Examples with heavier metal mountings are usually marked Austria in small block letters on the bottom. The design of these mountings was probably a collaboration between Schlevogt and Hoffman; Schlevogt’s background involved a knowledge of the manufacture of jewelry. Often, glass jewels were incorporated into the filigree mounts on these perfume bottles. These cabochons and faceted stones complimented the color of the bottle and magnified its beauty. Often the stones were carved into flowers, or other designs of Art Deco origin.

These perfume bottles range in size from approximately 4 to 9 inches (10 to 23 cm). The nude figure may be posed in several different styles, such as with arms raised over the head or crossed over the body. The top of the stopper can also have several different designs. The most common of these is a flat, polished top; other variations are a ball of molded flowers, a fan, a fishtail, or even a swan. Stoppers with a ball of molded flowers as a top, have an indented horizontal line about one-third up from the base of the ball. In many cases, this is where the stopper was cut and became one with a flat top. In other cases, this indented groove was used to hold a metal decoration which could compliment the metal fitting on the base of the bottle.

Clear Crystal bottle and translucent
aqua stopper.
What is the reason for the emotional and esthetic appeal of these bottles, why do collectors love them so? They are quite rare but it is not merely their rarity. The inner beauty shines through the bottle as if one were gazing at its soul. In this way, their beauty goes to the very center of all art—that of the human body. In the words of Anatole France, “The most beautiful lines of drapery are unattractive compared with the lines of a beautiful body. Art is the representation of nature, and nature is pre-eminently the human body—it is the nude.”

About the author:
Madeleine France is a dealer in Dania, Florida, specializing in perfume bottles and boudoir items.

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