Bowl-shapes used on Georgian, Regency and Victorian stemware

Right then – if you could all just spare me a moment of your valuable time, stop flicking elastic bands at each other at the back, there, and just smarten yourselves up - you scruffy oiks - we can begin.

Now, you already know all there is to know about twist stems and the various types of knop which can be used to decorate them, so it’s time to find out about the things that sit on top of them - the proud, swelling, smoothly contoured apogee of the glassmaker’s art – the bowl.

Bowls, of course, were the single most important part of any glass – antique or otherwise – as without them you’d just be comfortably ensconced at your dinner table trying to convey the delightful potations served up by your host to eager lips and expectant palate by using an (albeit nicely decorated) little glass stick. Crushed velvet waistcoats, buffed and powdered embonpoints and knotted muslin cravats up and down the country would be indelibly stained by whatever wines, brandies, cordials, liqueurs, sacks or shrubs you managed to throw down yourself. The bowl, quite simply, is absolutely integral when it comes to an appreciation of the anatomy of period stemware, and getting to grips with its functionality.

There is a frankly bewildering proclivity amongst rather vulgar folk to categorise glasses not by the form in which they are fashioned, but by the recommended contents which they are purportedly intended to accommodate. Fortunately, this affliction is mostly reserved for supposed relevance to modern glassware, and I have appended a quite ridiculous picture of some two and half dozen essentially identical glasses which have been arbitrarily designated for use with specific wines. Spend an hour or so, if you must, trying to discern the difference between glasses for Montepulciano and Dolcetto – do have fun…

Of course, for more enlightened folk such as ourselves, there are indeed substantively different forms of antique stemware bowls which have to be acknowledged and understood. The cognoscenti in any field have an innate need to categorise and formalise the objects of their affections, and scholars of vitreous oenophiliac vessels are no different, so let us begin.

Simple forms first – overall shapes rather than more specific deviations. These were to evolve as the advancements in technologies of glass production gathered pace, being broadly representative of successive periods of development. The earliest with which we will concern ourselves, dating from the latter part of the 18th century, were conical or funnel bowls; fairly rudimentary, it can be seen how these would have been reasonably straightforward to produce once a degree of dexterity in working with molten glass had been mastered. This basic shape - once the glass melt itself had improved in quality and become more manageable - could then be more easily shaped and formed by the use of tweezers or jacks, taglia or simple metal rods. Hence the newly-malleable bowls were crimped, rolled or otherwise shaped to give a variety of initially bell-like forms, which would predominate until around 1760. More dextrous methods of manipulating the molten mass and the development of improved glass blowing techniques saw the introduction of ovoid bowls from the same point onwards – with more smoothly contoured shapes coming to the fore – and ultimately, with melt-handling and blowing skills having improved yet further, the 1820’s would usher in curvaceous, fully-rounded bowls.

Within each of these basic categories, there are several subforms, and it is these which I will attempt to describe more fully, in addition to the basics as above. Obviously the accompanying pictures are the best form of identification, but the text will hopefully be complementary rather than cause any confusion…

Funnel or conical bowls: generally fairly narrow, evenly proportioned with even, straight sides rising from a simple abruptly-angled point where they joined the stem, widening towards the rim; triangular in profile.

Trumpet bowls: an evolution from the straight sided conical form, with curving sides which flared gently outward as they rose from the stem, again with a simple transition between the two pieces.

Round funnels: again with even, straight sides and a triangular profile, but with a curved joint at the stem; known as pointed round funnels where the sides converge on their base at a sharper angle, this variation is consequently less deep than the more obliquely profiled versions

Bucket bowls: uncurved, angled sides, but with a flat base - narrower than the rim - immediately above the stem; straightforward and unambiguous.
Waisted bucket: flat bottomed, but with the introduction of contoured sides that first curve slightly inwards then outward towards the rim; straight-edged above the point of transition from the inward curve

Flared waisted bucket: as above but with a noticeable curve to the sides which widen as they rise towards the rim

Ovoid forms: having profiles which consist of smooth, simple curves as opposed to the compound curves of the round bowled glasses which were to follow

Bell bowl: similar to a flared, waisted bucket, but with a rounded base and hence having the profile of a standard bell shape. Also waisted bell bowls, far less common and with an additional inward transitional curve above the base.

Thistle bowl: with a fairly narrow, round base (occasionally solid) below a waist and then a conical section – sometimes flared - giving the characteristic recurved profile

Cup: having a wide, rounded base, as with a bell bowl, but sides that then converge towards the rim, these being either straight or increasingly curved, as the tendency towards round bowls became more prevalent

Ogee bowl: the first complex or multiple-curved bowls. An ogee is a profile resembling an abbreviated letter “S: these sit on stems which widened towards the top so that the sides of the bowl, once they had completed their curving progress, would rise in a line parallel to a point on the flaring stem

Double Ogee: more a case of being an ogee and a half than two complete pairs of curves, as the bottom contour of one ogee forms the top of the other

Pan top: a similar construction to a double ogee, but with a far more noticeable dissonance between the contiguous curved sections, the top one being considerably wider than its lower counterpart

Double conical: a rare form giving the impression of a two-part construction with one conical bowl appearing to sit inside the thickened rim of another less-wide one below it.

Barrel bowls: similar to a cup, but with a (generally) straight bottom above the stem which is a very similar width to the rim, giving an evenly proportioned profile

Tulip bowl: essentially a cup bowl with a waist towards the top which then flares out to the rim

As with the catalogue of knops, it was always possible that basic bowls could have additional embellishments, hence the bell and bucket bowls which have waists applied, but hopefully this little lot will give you the vocabulary to readily describe pretty much anything that you might come across, and if you do find something that isn’t covered here, please do let us know !

No search returns with this piece as, of course, all glasses have bowls - instead, use our search function yourself to track down specific types as described above...

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