With holdings numbering almost 6000 objects, the museum Glass Collection is the biggest and most important in Croatia. It is represented in the permanent display with a selection of top productions that afford an insight into the historical development and high achievements of the foreign as well as of the domestic art of glassmaking from the 16th to the 20th century. The selection includes everyday use as well as rare and very valuable items that were used only for display purposes.
The historical survey starts with one of the most important units – items made in the famed Venetian workshops on Murano island in the 16th and 17th century, where at the time of the Renaissance the art of designing glass developed, giving the finest forms and colours that could possibly be achieved in this brittle material. The Museum of Arts and Crafts has the biggest and most complete collection of Murano glass in Croatia. The diversity of forms, techniques and decorative manners known in antiquity, but revived in the Renaissance, are illustrated by glasses made of colourless glass, glass containing threads of glass, with details of blue glass with the use of pincers, then bottles and plates of reticular glass, pails, lidded vessels, jugs, bottles and plates decorated with enamel paints.
Among the most valuable objects in this group is a fish-form vessel, made from threaded and coloured glass, once in the collections of famed art collectors Max Strauss of Vienna and Ervin Weiss of Zagreb. The Venetian workshops influenced many European glassworks, as shown by a number of winged glasses from holland and Germany made “in the manner of Venice”, and by a goblet of slender glass decorated with the technique of diamond engraving.
The collection also possesses a smaller group of objects made in Spanish works, which were also much influenced by Murano. These are mostly oil lamps and goblets from the 17th century with sculpturally formed decorations done with tongs.
Production north of the Alps is represented with items of green glass made in Bohemia and Germany. Although of different characteristics, it is decorated like Venetian with multicoloured enamel decorations. Large cylindrical welcome cups with depictions of the imperial double headed eagle, symbol of the Holy Roman Empire, are of particular interest.
Little glass decorated with black enamel in the technique called Schwarzlotmalerei, works by Johann Schaper of Nuremberg, constitute one of the great values of the collection.
Also needing to be especially referred to is an important group of objects of lead glass from the time of the Baroque and Rococo, of which the most numerous were made in workshops in Bohemia, Silesia and Germany. on the whole they are goblets and glasses on stems richly ornamented with figural and plant motifs, done in grinding, engraving, matting, with gilding.
Items of ruby glass and items with double walls and laminated gold leaf belong to the same period.
Glass production at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries is represented by items that bear the characteristics of Empire: they feature simplified forms and decorations. Objects of colourless ground glass are decorated with motifs of swags, spirals, flowers, meanders and emblems. Works of famed master glass blowers that bear the stamp of individual pieces belong to the same period: glasses with double bottoms and laminated medallions signed on the surfaces by Johann Mildner, the painted glasses of Samuel Mohn, the first to use transparent enamel paints, and glasses with the recognisable annular bases of Anton Kothgasser painted with Romantic motifs, with views of Vienna or of playing cards.
The 19th century and Biedermeier are represented by many glass objects made of coloured and colourless glass. In this time new kinds and colours of glass were invented (lithyalin, hyalite), subsequently decorated with various techniques – cameo cutting, grinding and gilding.
The Historicism and Art Nouveau periods are presented with objects from the best known glassworks of Europe and America, such as J. Loetz Witwe, Pallme – König & Habel, J. Lobmeyr, Daum Frères, E. Gallć, A. Salviati, Tiffany and others.
A special place in the collection goes to products from Croatian glassworks. Along with the earliest objects from the glassworks in Mrzla Vodica, which started work at the beginning of the 19th century, there are products from other works, in Osredek, Zvečevo, Ivanovo Polje, Daruvar, Duboka on Papuk, Mirin Dol and Lipik. As well as everyday use objects made from ordinary or lead glass, the welcome glass group stands out. As well as in goblet form, often with patriotic inscriptions, coats of arms or portraits of famed personalities from Croatian history, they were also done in strange forms such as boots, barrels and pistols.
At the beginning of the 20th century, an important contribution to the art of glass design was made by Croatian artists Tomislav Krizman, Antonija Krasnik and Ivan Gundrum.
Modern industrial design is represented with one-off creations by Croatian artists (Raoul Goldoni, Želimir Janeš, Svjetlana Driženko, Kuzma Kovačić, Ljubica Ratkajec-Kočica, Antun Motika, Milica Rosenberg and Greta Turković).
A separate whole consists of stained glass windows, mosaics, and drawings for them. Material from the bequest of Ivan Marinković, owner of a Zagreb workshop for stained glass and mosaics is kept in the collection. This worked from 1909 to 1962 and equipped many secular and religious buildings in Zagreb, Croatia and the whole of the region with stained glass windows. As well as to his own designs, Marinković also did stained glass from the drawings of Croatian architects and painters such as Herman Bollé, Aladar Baranyai, Viktor Kovačić, Dionis Sunko, Stjepan Podhorski, Rudolf Lubynski, Tomislav Krizman, Vilko Gecan and Marijan Trepše.
The Marinković workshop was the only one of its kind in Zagreb; the fact that it received orders from beyond the borders of the country tells of its capacities and the high quality of its creations.