Desire Christian 'Meisenthal'
Born in Lemberg on May 23, 1846, Désiré Jean Baptiste Christian studied painting and later trained as a glass decorator. He became chief designer for Burgun, Schverer & Cie in 1885, and there developed a number of new techniques, in particular that of Décoration Intercalaive. This technique involved painting the design in various colors over the inner layer of glass, blowing an outer layer of clear glass over this, and then carving this clear layer so that the prominent aspects were placed over the painted sections. Thus the flowers or other decoration, though carved from transparent clear glass, appeared to be colored because of the under painted section, giving an illusion of many more layers of glass than were actually used.
During this decade at Burgun, Schverer & Cie, Christian executed many of the designs of an emerging talent by the name of Emile Gallé. Infact, until Gallé set up his own kilns in 1873, Christian was the main interpreter of Gallé’s visions in glass. Désiré Christian left Burgun, Schverer & Cie in 1896. After working for a few years in a small decorating workshop in his house, he joined with his brother Francois and his son Armand to found the firm of Christian Fréres et Fils. This was later changed to Désiré Christian & Sohn, also known by its French name of Désiré Christian & Fils.
Both Francois and Armand were accomplished glass designers, decorators and carvers, and it is impossible to differentiate between the three Christians who all used identical techniques. Some of their more interesting designs include the use of deep intaglio cutting. A single flower, cut into a two-layered vase, the inner layer a rich opaque color, stands out from the body of the vase because of its contrasting color or shade, and fine carving.
Christian exhibited at the 1895 Strasbourg Exhibition of the Arts and Industries of Alsace-Lorraine where he was awarded a Diploma. In 1898 he exhibited at the 8th International Art Exhibition in Munich and was awarded a Silver Medal. He also won silver medals at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition and in St. Petersburg in 1901 and a Diploma at the First International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts at Turin in 1902. He exhibited in Dresden in 1901, the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, the Munich Secession in 1904 and at Dresden in 1906. His vases are normally signed “D. Christian Meisenthal” or “D. Christian, Sohn Meisenthal” on the base in shallow incision, often with “Lorraine” or “Lothr”. Individual vases designed and executed by his brother Francois are normally signed “F. Christian Meisenthal.”