Sunday, March 9, 2014

Moderne Style Libbey 'Modern American' "Monticello" #5700

                                 Libbey "Monticello" Water Goblet 8.75" 1940

Much like the work being done at Steuben just before WWII Libbey embraced the simple elegance of its Modern American line. The Monticello pattern features a fluted columnar stem, a plain flared bowl, and plain foot. The glass quality was becoming more important than the decoration; crystal-clear had a new meaning. All the plastic arts were examining medium as an expression of its own. Figurative painting gave way to fields of color, exploring the tones and brush strokes rather than the content.

The great artistry of the copper wheel engravers was over, it was simply too expensive to produce. Tragically, once the most simple designs in art and glass had been excuted, the off-shoots were often redundant to the point of tautological ennui. How many white on white paintings can you look at and feel anything but duped? Post-war crystal stemware is the same––I actually saw someone advertising Baccarat "Epicure" as "spectacular". Seriously, spectacular? It couldn't be more pedestrian and plain. It could be anything, made by anyone. There's simply nothing "spectacular" about it other than its name and Baccarat's brilliant marketing strategies.

Libbey, like a few other glass companies, survived WWII by stopping its tableware production and manufacturing light bulbs during the war. They proudly advertised that "No Libbey crystal has been blown since Pearl Harbor."

Monticello was designed along with the great "Embassy" #4900 line––which was introduced at the NY World's Fair in 1939––as one final attempt, after 1932's relatively unsuccessful 80 Libbey-Nash lines, to revive their prestige crystal production. Unfortunately cut short by the war, the Modern American line was never made again after the war, so its pieces are relatively rare.

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