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The following is more information and thoughts on glass-beadmaking and bead distribution in and from Holland.
First, a quick overview. Glass-beadmaking at Holland is thought to have been initiated by about 1590. So, close to the beginning of the 17th century. Prior to that time, the Dutch had been receiving Venetian (and perhaps other) beads, and had transported them via shipping, to the areas where they had established commercial relations (no doubt continuing to expand the areas of these contacts and exchanges). In the 17th C., it is strongly established that Western Europeans wanted to compete with Venice in the manufacture of glass beads for export. In addition to Holland, Flanders and England established glasshouses for beadmaking.
The documents that still exist are not always entirely clear. Partly because the language used does not necessarily easily translate into terms we can identify and understand. (Of course, we STILL have these problems, a lot, even today.) But certain actions indicate the following interpretation of history. Then I will add my thoughts about the ramifications of past expositions on Dutch glass-beadmaking, to clarify my position.
It seems very likely that the first beads the Dutch made were probably simple furnace-wound beads. Beads that do not require a complicated skill-set, but might be made almost anywhere (presuming that the requisites of glassmaking and working are understood). We can suppose that these beads were not exciting, and not considered very desirable—because after a very short time, it is recorded, the Dutch brought in a Venetian Master, to make and teach the making of Venetian-style beads. These were DRAWN beads, made from simple or complex preformed canes, finished various ways. Consequently, the Dutch glassworkers reached critical mass very quickly, and from a humble beginning were soon equipped to make beads that competed with Venetian products—so much so that hardly anyone can distinguish one from the other, among beads of that time (based upon my personal experience of viewing these beads in Holland, from factory sites and refuse). The Dutch made these fancy drawn beads, including rosetta beads (usually finished a-speo) for about 100 years.
In the 18th C., it seems the fashion for making drawn beads changed, and the Dutch glassworks took a step backwards. They returned to making large furnace-wound beads, in a limited color palate—this being blue (of various tones), white (including girasol dichroic glass), brown (the color of root beer or coffee, verging on orange and yellow—colors that might be considered to imitate amber), and occasionally violet. These large crude beads were made from glasses that were not well-formulated, suggesting that this may have been an entirely new industry, not connected to the previous Venetian-trained beadmaking. The result of using this glass is that the beads, when they are recovered in recent times, are more radically decayed than the glass of the previous beads. This falsely suggests these beads are OLDER than 17th C. beads. And, in fact, when they are recovered in certain parts of the world, they are routinely mistaken for “ancient” beads. (I have written about this phenomenon a number of times.)
W.G.N. van der Sleen was a Dutch chemist, who had a great interest in glass-beadmaking in his homeland. In the late 1960s, he composed a book, A Handbook on Beads, that attempted to describe the scope of Dutch beadmaking, and also to talk about beads world-wide. He used Horace Beck’s earlier work (from the 1920s and ‘30s) as a stepping stone, going so far as to use some of Beck’s illustrations and terminology. In the 1970s, van der Sleen’s book became avidly used by many bead-sellers and collectors here in the US, when a pirated edition was published and distributed out of Pennsylvania. A thorough bead historian, such as myself, has read both of the European editions, and the American edition. You have to—because the American edition has different page numbers—and in many places the Index doesn’t make any sense—it being impossible to find the information on the pages cited. Van der Sleen’s book is an earnest attempt at writing something on beads for the next generation after Beck. However, like Beck’s work, it is not faultless, and is severely in need of revision. I realized this the first time I read his book in about 1973 or ’74.
One of the main problems with vdS’s account of Dutch beadmaking is that he thought the large furnace-wound beads were logically earlier than the drawn beads. While it is probably abstractly true that this may have occurred, the early wound beads have not been identified. The large crude wound furnace beads, that are typically considered to be Dutch (though the evidence remains merely scanty and suggestive!), are from AFTER the time of drawn beadmaking at Holland—as I have suggested above—and are most likely early 18th C. beads.
Added to this, once vdS’s book became popular, it engendered MANY instances of mistaken identity, based on misinterpretations of what vdS said. Quite a few Venetian rosetta and chevron beads have been sold as “Dutch.” Most “gooseberry” beads are not that, but represent different later editions of somewhat similar appearance. He also promoted the mistaken idea that small red-over-green drawn beads (“galet rouge” or “green-heart” beads) had been previously made in India—even though his international collection does not include any such beads (!). And many plain wound beads are thought to be considerably earlier than they are, and to be “Dutch” when they are not. I wish I had a bead for every time I have had to say or write “if you’ve seen one wound bead, you’ve seen them all”—by which I mean that plain simple wound beads are often difficult to distinguish from one another. Even now, we often cannot distinguish between certain Chinese beads and similar-looking European beads (the so-called “padre” beads and “early blues,” respectively from the Southwest and Northwest, from less than 200 years ago).
Having lobbied to take more care in identifying beads, and to not presuming a “Dutch” origin where its not warranted (since 1974), I eventually made it to Holland (1991 and 1992), where I looked at locally-recovered beads, for the specific determination of whether it were visually possible to distinguish between Venetian and Dutch specimens (it was not!), and (in 2004) the later larger wound beads (the problem being that 19th and 20th C. German beads are routinely thought to be “17th C. Dutch beads”). I have determined that none of the beads recovered in Holland look like the Central European beads that I believe are mostly German and postdate Holland’s beadmaking. These are visually distinct from the Dutch beads. But there are SO MANY plain wound beads..., and not all questions of technique and origin are answered, yet.
I will leave this discussion with a look at a section of Lois Dubin’s Bead Chart, showing the beads she identified as coming from Holland in the 17th century. And I’ll comment upon this in the next installment. The link posted here refers back to a discussion of a few days ago, in which I show a selection of the larger furnace-wound beads recovered in Holland.
So, more later.
Related link: http://www.beadcollector.net/cgi-bin/anyboard.cgi?fvp=/openforum/&cmd=iYz&aK=66645&iZz=66645&gV=0&kQz=&aO=1&iWz=0
Modified by Beadman at Thu, Aug 27, 2009, 03:19:31
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We left off with the scan from The Bead Chart, found in the first edition of The History of Beads, showing the area encompassing the 17th century, and the region of Holland. The author (my friend, Lois Dubin) displays specimens 99 through 111, presenting thirty-one beads that are purported to be Dutch. But are they all Dutch, and are they all from the 17th C.? In fact, no. Some mistaken identity has occurred, in terms of origin and time of origin. Let’s go through them, and let’s refer to the altered scan seen below.
The specimens that are most likely Dutch are: 99a (possibly) & b, 100a b & c, possibly 102a b c & d, 106, 107a and perhaps b, and perhaps 111. In the new scan, these beads remain uncircled.
Beads 101a b & c, and 102e & f, are large plain furnace-wound beads that mostly date from the 19th or early 20th Cs, and were made elsewhere in Europe. Specimen 107c is supposed to represent an early “gooseberry” bead, but is a more-modern Venetian bead, and composed from the wrong glass colors. Number 109 is the only true chevron bead present (except possibly 105a); and as such must be a Venetian bead, and is most likely from later. 110a & b are 19th or early 20th C. beads from Venice. One or both of these is/are trailed lampworked wound glass—and as there is no evidence that Holland made such beads, and since the types from Venice are later, these do not belong here. Note that all of these beads are circled in red—to indicate they have a mistaken placement in the Chart.
Beads 103a & b, 104, 105a b & c, and 108a b & c, are all rosetta beads finished a-speo. As such, it would be difficult to say with any certainty whether they are Venetian or Dutch—as they might be either. I am not confident that all of these beads are from the 17th C., and in fact suspect some must be or may be later. All of these beads are circled in orange, to indicate their uncertain status.
Why must the chevron bead be Venetian, if the Dutch made rosetta canes? This is a very good question. And many people will ask it because over the past thirty-five years quite a few conventional blue chevron beads have been misidentified and sold as “old Dutch trade beads”—and this still happens. Initially, in my experience, the most likely candidates for this story were a group of 4-layer (white, red, white, blue) beads that remain almost cylindrical, but have some grinding of the edges to reveal the patterned interior. (I will show these beads.) Later, almost any conventional chevron bead, whether an early 7-layer bead or a late 4-layer or 6-layer bead, might be so-identified by some sellers and collectors. The late beads are too late to be Dutch—and so must be Venetian. The early beads are essentially too early, dating from the late 15th and 16th Cs—before the Dutch were involved in drawn beadmaking.
But, how can we know that NO similar beads were made in Holland, that remain unidentified? The answer is pretty simple. On one of my early trips to Amsterdam, in consulting with the staff who guided me through the beads that had been recovered, he showed me a conventional and typical early 7-layer bead. He said, in no uncertain terms, this was the ONLY such bead recovered in Holland—and that they were comfortable that it was an imported bead. In 2004, when I met a local bead store owner, he also showed me a 7-layer bead, found in Holland (it was said), that he believed indicated that such beads were made there. Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking. His bead would be the second such bead that I know of. Rather than saying the recovery of two beads indicates that such beads were made in Holland, let’s turn it around. If the Dutch made conventional chevron beads, where are the thousands of beads, and wasters from beadmaking, that we should expect to find, recovered from factory and refuse sites? That there aren’t any is pretty condemning of such ideas. Plus, let’s say there were some reasonable number of such beads in Holland. Even then, since Amsterdam was an entrepot, we should expect there to be some earlier Venetian beads—lost in canals, or from the inventories of trade businesses who imported beads from Venice. The presence of such beads in no way would indicate they were MADE locally.
The closest thing to chevron beads, made in Holland, were heat-rounded a-speo rosetta beads (many of which are white with colored stripes—as we can see in Lois’ illustration). It’s also possible and even likely that some beads were essentially cut cylinders (their ends being tidied-up), or cut square cylinders (some twisted). For sure, star canes, in conventional color combinations, featuring a blue exterior and red and white interior, are known from glasswoking refuse. But not cut chevron beads.
Returning to Lois Dubin’s Bead Chart—let us remember that her book was composed twenty-two years ago. We ought to expect there would be a need for revisions and additions after such a long time. Although I was a consultant, and warned that some of the “Dutch” beads were not that, they were published as we see here. Nevertheless, the new edition of The History of Beads, that will be released in October, will present Dutch beads more accurately than previous attempts.
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