The area of figural bottles covers a wide spectrum, with a definate overlap in other
interest catagories. Figurals also cover a broad time span, beginning with ancient
civilizations and continuing until the present time. The Aztecs and Eygptians
both created beautiful vessels crafted after their Gods. And all of us have
seen the modern avon bottles designed to resemble every thing from guns to
Clay was initially the most frequent medium used to produce figurals, and is still used today ( In the form of ceramics ). Good modern examples can be found in the Beam bottles, which are produced to represent a wide variety of subjects.
The bottle on the right is a nice example of a ceramic figural bottle. This bottle was produced to hold wine by Barsottini, an Italian wine producer . The detail is excellent, clearly showing the screws and various designs found on this era gun ( I'm working on improving the quality of these pics so that detail is better ). I'm not absolutely positive, but I believe this bottle dates from the late 1950's or early 60's. If anyone knows, pass on the info and I'll post it.
Altough the gun pictured is a beautiful bottle, it is not where my interest in figurals lie. My weakness is for glass bottles and figurals are no exception. This page, for now at least, will deal with those glass figurals produced during the 19th century. It also will not include those bottles that are definately figurals but fall into a separate collecting category, such as Browns Celebrated Indian Bitters or the E.G. Booz bottles. These bottles will be dealt with in their own areas, perhaps in a special "to drool over" section as their cost is prohibitive to a lot of collectors. With that said let's get on to the topic of 19th century glass bottles.
The 19th century was, perhaps, the hey day of glass figurals. They were being produced throughout the world to promote just about any product imaginable. And just about any topic was fair game to be reproduced in a figural( even though some made very bad bottles). Birds, dogs, fish, cats, buildings and people were all used for figural bottles. The picture on the left is a bust of Dr. James Granger produced in the U.S. during the late 1800's. Dr. Granger was an English clergyman who lived between 1723-1776. Similar busts were made of numerous people, some well known, others forgotten over time. Often these bottles were produced to support, or in memory of, a political event. Producers were smart enough to know that figurals caught the eye of the consumer, and increased their sales.
My favourite era for figurals, however, is the late 1800's and the producers were the French. The French produced an astonishing range of clear glass figurals for the market. The quality was exceptional, often approaching that of cut glass. The Bastille bottle at the top of this page is a nice example of the French craftsman. It clearly shows a man climding down from the Bastille, a French prison used during the Revolution. It was from this tower that both Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette where sent to the guillotine. The man's features are clearly seen, as is the structure of the building. When standing in the light, this bottle resembles lead glass. Simply an outstanding piece of work. I'll post various pics of French figurals later, with more detail about each bottle.
Figural bottles are still somewhat overlooked by many collectors, as they still haven't really come into their own. But for a new collector, that's good news, as they are still relatively cheap. Prices vary widely for figurals, depending largly on what area you collect in, Avon is generally very cheap for moderns, while the Beam bottles can be quite pricey. The wonderful French creations of the last century are still very reasonable. But choose the area you like and discover a remarkable array of beautiful bottles.
3D BOTTLES: A different view
LINKS: A variety of bottle related sites
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