Decorative Antiques > Histories > Monart & Vasart


Monart & Vasart

Monart Monart Monart Monart

The name Monart is a combination of the names of Moncrieff, industrial glass makers of Perth, and Ysart, a family of Spanish glass blowers from Barcelona, employed by Moncrieff from the 1920s.

Whilst working at the Schneider Art Glass factory in France, Salvador Ysart was recruited to teach the art of light bulb blowing at Leith Flint Glass in Edinburgh in 1915. He joined Moncrieff in 1922 to make laboratory glassware with his son Paul as apprentice and a year later began developing millefiore and paperweight techniques.

Most glass blowers make "friggers", hobby pieces in their spare time and Salvador made one such, a vase, for the local Kirk minister as a prize for a fete. Mrs. Moncrieff, herself a talented artist, well connected in London and Edinburgh society, at once saw Salvador’s potential and by 1924 they had between them designed and produced a range of art glass.

So successful was Monart that by the early 30s their two pattern books contained glassware in the form of flower vases and bowls, lamp shades, candlesticks, scent bottles, decanters and tumblers, ashtrays. paperweights, ink bottles and table lamps. As an indication of the popularity of Monart, many of the above items can be found in catalogues of Liberty’s of London in the mid 1930s.

By the late 30s all four of Salvador's sons were apprenticed to him, working exclusively on art glass, but as war broke out Monart production was halted and all hands turned to essential output.

After the war Moncrieffs were reluctant to restart art glass production and following the death of one son, Antoine, and a split between eldest son Paul and his father, sons Vincent, Augustine and father Salvador set up on their own to produce art glass again. This time they used the name Vasart, formed from their initials combined with their family name.

Salvador wanted Vasart to be substantially different to Monart but nevertheless the similarities of technique and decoration are strong. By 1949 Vasart was proving popular but the deaths of Salvador and Augustine left Vincent running the business alone by 1956 and production was declining. In 1964 Teachers Whiskey, for whom Vasart were making squashed whiskey bottle ashtrays, took over the factory and rebuilt it as Strathearn Glass.

Paul Ysart remained at Moncrieff's, continuing to produce a limited range of Monart art glass and paperweights until 1961, when new management decided to concentrate on industrial glassware. He eventually moved to Caithness Glass in 1963.

Each piece of Monart and Vasart is hand blown and the process at Moncrieff's involved Antoine (the youngest), picking up a ball of molten glass (a gather of metal), from the furnace pot and partially inflating it through the blowing iron (the punty iron).

This was then passed to Vincent who would roll or dab the red hot ball into coloured enamels, reheating and marvering (working in) several times to seal and distribute the enamels evenly and to force out unwanted bubbles from the glass.

Augustine would then take over when the parison (the partially inflated piece) was ready to have the enamels manipulated. This could be either swirls made by the tips of metal tongs and a twist of the wrist, or could be pulls or drags of different bands of enamels through each other. Stripes were made by blowing the parison into a ribbed mould which would create areas of separation in the density of the colour.

Bubbles were deliberately introduced by adding crushed charcoal to the surface just before immersing the parison in the furnace pot for a second layer of clear glass. The charcoal burns off leaving bubbles of gas sealed in the cased glass.

Paul would now inflate the piece to its final size and shape using tongs, wooden blocks, wet newspaper pads etc. Having overseen all the processes so far, Salvador would now assess the piece, trimming and finishing the shaping and when satisfied, would knock off the punty . The piece would be taken to the annealing (cooling) oven and when cool, the pontil mark on the bottom would be ground off and polished.

Labels were attached to the base of most Monart pieces and these were changed four times through the years, even being replaced by a special "Liberty's London" label in the 30s. The labels contained codes for the size, shape ,colour mix and decoration. Sizes were given Roman numerals, decreasing in size from I+, the largest, to XII. The 312 shape codes were alphabetic, starting at A and finishing with ZK. The last code stands for a unique colour combination and decorative technique from 1 to 500. Unfortunately many labels have been lost through washing or wear, but the shapes are recorded faithfully in the pattern books which are reproduced in the excellent "Ysart Glass" book.

Vasart used two different labels, one circular on the base or a shaped one which was attached to the side of the piece. An etched signature is often but not always found on the base around the pontil mark.

The major differences between Monart and Vasart are the shapes, colours and labels. Monart glass was coloured using strong and dramatic enamels melted and worked into the blown glass, whereas Vasart reflected the more muted tastes of the 1940s and 50s, with softer pastel shades. Both are found with inclusions of gold or silver aventurine, metallic foil or mica, which is usually concentrated at the top of the piece.

The bases of Monart contrast with Vasart in that they usually have a polished pontil and rim where Vasart pieces normally only ground off to ensure stability.

Although Monart and Vasart glass was very sturdily made and can be found undamaged, pieces which have been chipped, scratched or have bubbles which have either burst through the casing glass when made or been knocked subsequently are much less collectable than perfect specimens. There are usually tool marks to be found on hand made glass and these are seen as striations or shallow grooves on the surface, formed by the smoothing and shaping of the hot glass.

Care should be taken with any cased glass, i.e. glass made from several layers, as sudden temperature changes can cause the different layers of glass to expand or contract differentially. Do not put your prize in the window!

References: Ysart Glass
Ian Turner, Alison Clarke and Frank Andrews
Volo Edition, London
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