A Treasure! Crystal Vase with Nude Woman Diving, Lindstrand Designed, Palmqvist Engraved, Orrefors 1940's

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Two of the 20th century's greatest glass artists created this spectacular Swedish engraved crystal vase. This important piece was designed by Vicke Lindstrand in 1940/41 and engraved by Sven Palmqvist in 1946. The vase depicts a nude woman, diving down to catch a fish. Lindstrand first introduced this theme with his seminal 1931 design, Pärlfiskare, Pearl Fisher (also known as Pearl Diver - some Swedish friends in one of my FB glass groups are trying to work that one out). Lindstrand would go on to design several other water-dwellers, such as Orpheus, Aphrodite, and a variety of mermaids and water-skiers. A few other artists caught the wave, too.

The codes etched on the bottom of an Orrefors piece tell us about when it was designed, when it was made, and by whom. In this case, the engraved image of the woman and fish (2381) was designed by Lindstrand in 1940/41, and it appears in Catalog 16 from 1941. This actual vase was made in 1946 (B3), and the engraver was Sven Palmqvist (SP). The catalog also tells me that the vase shape is a Lindstrand design of the same time period; its style number is 2386. This is a medium-sized vase, 4" x 4" x 8" (105mm x 105mm x 210mm), and it weighs 3 pounds (1.39 kg).

The Orrefors story began in 1726, when an ironworks and smith was built near “the beautiful river that flows into Lake Orranäs” in the Swedish countryside. It was given the name Orrefors, which means “the Orre waterfall.” ("Orre" is the Swedish name for the black grouse, which is the bird seen on their iconic labels.) The foundry was converted to a glassworks in 1898, as the demand for iron decreased. By the mid-1920s, Orrefors was celebrated for the quality and beauty of its glass.

Vicke Lindstrand (1904-1983) was born in Goteborg, Sweden, and started his career with Orrefors in 1928, where he remained until 1940. Between 1943 and 1950 he became creative leader at Uppsala Ekeby, where he designed many different stoneware objects ranging from pots to figural sculptures. In 1950 he joined Kosta Glasbruk as artistic director. He was the dominant designer until his retirement in 1973, lending his name to many now classic designs. As a glass designer, textile and ceramic designer, and painter, he is considered a pioneer of Swedish art. (He is also my favorite Swedish artist, and the one whose work I collect most.)

Orrefors employed master artists and craftsmen, some of whom worked their whole careers of 40, 50, or more years with the company. Sven Palmqvist (1906-1984) was born in the glass district of southern Sweden and he also started at Orrefors in 1928, as an engraver. By 1940, he was working as a designer, and he remained in that position until 1972. In those years, he designed hundreds of engraved glass motifs.

This vase is a beautiful showpiece and a true relic of Swedish glass history. It is in nearly perfect condition, with only a small abrasion near the rim. Palmqvist carved the bubbles in the design over bubbles in the glass, assumedly to help hide them. It's a prize-winning piece, for sure.

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