Oil lamp with "Russian" pattern decoration


C. Dorflinger and Sons ( American, 1881 - 1921 )

c. 1885
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General Description

In 19th century America, large-sized, heavy cut glass in the form of oil lamps and punch bowls were the most labor intensive objects for manufacturers to produce, and consequently represented the pinnacle of a glass company's production. This particular lamp is unique both because of its large size and the brilliance of its cutting pattern. Many more electric cut glass lamps exist than the earlier oil fired examples because heat from the flame combined with the need for frequent cleaning often caused the oil lamps to break. Of the few cut glass oil lamps that survive, most are very small, designed to sit next to a bed or on a dressing table. The height of this lamp suggests that it was meant to be placed on a parlor or center table, one of the most symbolically important spots in the home.

The "Russian" pattern of the cut is particularly significant since it was one of the most celebrated and popular patterns of the period. The pattern was coined "Russian" in 1881 purportedly because it was ordered by the American ambassador to Russia, the Russian ambassador to the United States, and the White House, to be cut onto complete sets of tableware and ornamental accessories. The resulting publicity made it an instantly successful pattern, and glass cut with this design became synonymous with cultivated taste. This impressive showpiece lamp matches the Dallas Museum of Art's "Grand Prize" punch bowl (1997.140.A-B) in both size and brilliance.

Adapted from

Charles Venable, DMA unpublished material, 1997.