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Rosenberg Treasure: Peking Glass

Peking Glass

Rosenberg Treasure of the Month

Last Updated: October 9, 2023 by Rosenberg Library | History


During the month of October, the Rosenberg Library is displaying Peking glass that was donated by Bernard Spitzer, who was an interior designer and art collector in Galveston.

Peeking Glass Cameo Vase
Peeking Glass Cameo Vase Rosenberg Library and Museum

“Two pieces of anything make a collection. Three pieces become an absolute bore.” – Bernard Spitzer

Peking glass is a unique style of 18th century Chinese glassware known for its aesthetic appeal and collectability. The Rosenberg Library received its collection of Peking glass from Bernard Spitzer (1923-1989), an interior designer and art collector in Galveston. Spitzer frequently volunteered at the Library, and was hired to decorate the Colonel Milo Pitcher Fox and Agness Peel Fox Rare Book Room when it was first dedicated in 1967.

Spitzer amassed an eclectic collection of glassware, porcelain, crystal, and more. He selected objects for their aesthetic appeal rather than monetary value, and never collected more than a couple examples of an item or style. Spitzer displayed his collection as part of his store, Bernard Spitzer Interiors Inc., which was located on Tremont Street and closed after his death in 1989.

Peeking Glass Cameo Bowl
Peeking Glass Cameo Bowl Rosenberg Library and Museum

A Complicated Process

Peking glass is made up of several layers of glass that are then carved away to form a raised image. The glass blower creates a base shape for the object and then dips it into molten glass several times. Artisans often used different colors of glass for the layers in order to create contrast, as seen with this blue and white bowl. “Imperial Yellow” was a popular color for Peking glass, as it was associated with the Qing Imperial Clan and symbolized prosperity. Other frequently used colors included green, red, and blue.

Peeking Glass Grape Cluster
Peeking Glass Grape Cluster Rosenberg Library and Museum

The carved designs often included flowers, animals, and landscapes, similar to the traditional designs used in other Chinese art forms. The objects in our Treasure of the Month display have motifs of chrysanthemum flowers, butterflies, grapes, and squirrels. All of these symbolize happiness, longevity, and abundance.

Peeking Glass Snuff Bottle
Peeking Glass Snuff Bottle Rosenberg Library and Museum

History of Peking Glass

Peking glass first originated in Peking, China during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), and achieved its greatest popularity during the reign of the Qiánlóng Emperor, from 1735 to 1796.

Glass was a relatively new medium for Chinese artisans, who traditionally worked with precious stones like jade, lapis lazuli, ruby, and emerald. In the 18th century, European missionaries to China brought new technologies with them, including glass-making. An Imperial workshop was set up in Peking to manufacture glass, which was cheaper and easier to carve than precious stone. Glass objects quickly became just as desirable as their more expensive counterparts, and the majority of Peking glass was exported to other countries due to high demand from Western collectors.

Snuff bottles made of Peking glass were particularly desirable. Along with glass-making techniques, the practice of snuffing tobacco was introduced to Chinese nobility by Westerners. Snuff bottles became a status symbol and a collectible, and were often exchanged as gifts to other court members or to foreign diplomats.

The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. – 8:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, please contact Ivy Albright, Museum Curator at 409.763.8854 Ext. 125 or at museum@rosenberg-library.org.


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Rosenberg Library

Rosenberg Library has offered over a century of community service to the Galveston area, and is the oldest public library in Texas in continuous operation. The building itself was dedicated on June 22, 1904, the birthday of its patron, Henry Rosenberg. The Moody Memorial Wing opened in 1971, more than doubling the floor space and allowing for a children’s library, a history center, several galleries to showcase museum collections, and later, a computer lab. The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Each month they display a “Treasure of the Month”. Learn more by visiting the Rosenberg Library page and the Gifts of Henry Rosenberg section.

2023-10-09T12:09:30-05:00

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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.