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Engraved signatures and their characteristics

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A large proportion of Bohemian glass is mistakenly attributed to Loetz. The fact that the major part of the Loetz production was not signed only reinforces this tendency. The well-known label "Unsigned Loetz" is applied to virtually any iridised piece of Bohemian origin.

It is commonly believed that only the pieces for export were signed. But according to Dr. Jan Mergl, co-author of "Das Böhmische Glas" and "H. Ricke, Lötz 1880-1940" there aren't any general rules. He states that the pieces for the important exhibitions (Paris, St. Louis, Milan), or those donated or sold to museums would often bear the Loetz signature, but again that was not a general practice.

LoetzsigNW.jpg (16176 bytes) Loetzsigfa1.jpg (7756 bytes)

It's not unusual to find false Loetz signatures, but mostly they are easily distinguishable from authentic signatures. The engraved signature is always found on the polished pontil, and never on an unpolished area, nor on the side of a piece. The best known signature is Loetz Austria in engraved script.


Original Loetz signature (© NW) False signature, (© UK)
(one of the many...)


While public knowledge concerning the Loetz glassworks continues to improve, many problems remain in the market, not the least of which is the continuing amount of forged Loetz signatures on glass. Many Loetz signatures seen are, unfortunately, forgeries.

The signatures discussed are those on art nouveau glass, or rather, signatures engraved during the period 1898 to 1903, predominantly in 1900 and 1901. This was the only period in which Loetz glass was signed. ( We are not discussing cameo marks, rare designer monograms, paper labels, or etched Czechoslovakia variations from after 1918. )

Collectors and dealers are urged to familiarize themselves with authentic signatures, to discriminate between the true and false. Signature variations are well illustrated in photographs published in Neuwirth's "Loetz Austria 1900" , "Das Böhmische Glas, Band IV" , and Neue Galerie's "Loetz Bohemian glass 1880-1940" .

Design dates may also be important to remember. If I'm told that a vase  designed in 1906 is signed, I will find that improbable, as nothing was signed after 1903. There are also many decorative types that are more likely to be signed than others. Glass was generally signed based purely on quality. I would not expect to find a signature on a minor Loetz vase, and would be suspicious of one found. Otherwise, I would expect a superb Loetz vase, and most Phänomen pieces to be signed. Some decorations have a quite high signature rate. For example, Loetz experts would recognize the Loetz Phänomen Gre. 29 vase ( listed under "Paris 1900" ) as a vase that is likely to be signed. Statistically, my analysis of this decoration indicates that about 70% of examples were signed at the glasshouse. I would be more suspicious if I found an example that is unsigned!

However, none of these points are definitive, and the question remains as to what the actual identifying characteristics are of a Loetz signature, so that opinion may be set aside. We can first say that all acid etched marks are forgeries, including all acid-stamped Loetz marks. Many of these are seen in the market.

All authentic Loetz marks are engraved.
The authenticity of a Loetz mark can be immediately determined by examining the characteristics of the engraving under high magnification. The engraving tool used by Loetz had a very high vertical oscillation. What appears to be a horizontal line like this _________ , is actually a great number of vertical lines ////////// compressed tightly together.
This produces two immediately recognizable characteristics. The line is going to be thick or broad, as opposed to a thin line. But more importantly, while the line will be dense in areas where the engraver has lingered, other areas will reveal the vertical oscillation of the engraving needle. These vertical striations identify the presence of an authentic Loetz signature, and their absence almost certainly indicates a forgery. This applies to the common Loetz Austria signature, but may be equivocal on the rarer crossed arrows marks because of their design difference.

The cited photographs have sufficient resolution for examination and verification of this characteristic ( see the B/W picture at the top of this page ). Web photos generally do not. The vertical striations will be visible in parts of an authentic signature, but not all. Commonly, they are visible in the last _a_ , which together with the broad line, can be seen in the accompanying photos. 

Origsig.jpg (10688 bytes)

Authentic Loetz signature (© UK)

Remember to look for the vertical striations, and quickly determine authenticity.

© AJ Alden Jones

Crossed arrows Lötz Crossed arrows Spaun ArrowsaustriaS.jpg (5248 bytes) Another one is made up of a circle, with two crossed arrows in it, surrounded by 4 stars. It can be accompanied by the words "Lötz", "Spaun", or "Austria".
(© NW) (© NW) © MC)
Models by outside designers often had their own signature.  Compare Marie Kirschner's signature with Koloman Moser's. Kolo Moser signature
Kolo Moser (© NW) Marie Kirschner,  © JW

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