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Glass Discussion & Research. No ID requests here please. => British & Irish Glass => Topic started by: decanterman on April 07, 2004, 07:01:42 PM

Title: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: decanterman on April 07, 2004, 07:01:42 PM
I am looking for any information about Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus, who operated tne Graystan glassworks in Battersea, London, in the 1920s and '30s. I understand that she also operated a glasshouse making Lalique-esque glassware in northern France before opening Graystan.

She wrote a book on 'Irish Glass', published around 1920, and ran an antique shop in the Brompton Road, London. It has been widely suggested suggested that she made fake 'antique' Irish glass and sold it through her shop. However, as the suggestion goes, she was protected from the legal consequences of her fraud by her mother, the ballerina and opera house dame, Ninnette de Valois.

I would be most grateful for any information that would some flesh to those bones, please.
Title: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: aa on April 10, 2004, 09:59:16 AM
Decanterman, in common with others, you are probably finding the comments about anonymity and registration more than a little baffling.

To put things in context, there are a number of very helpful and knowledgeable people dotted around the world who happily spend their time answering the questions posted on this board, and most of them prefer to identify themselves, when they reply. They also prefer the questioner to identify themselves as well.  
However, the debate about registration, if it is to be continued, would be more sensibly conducted under a separate thread and for those who wish to discuss it further I am posting a separate topic.

As for your search for more info on Gray- Stan, this link may help you find out some more about this rather obscure, yet fascinating topic

So far as I know there have in the past been very many mis-attributions in respect of is very rare. This may have had a bearing on the scarcity of replies to your posting. Presumably you have a decanter, which may be Gray-Stan? Any possibility of posting a photograph?
Title: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Andy McConnell on April 13, 2004, 11:30:46 AM
Thanks for the explaination and direction to the site suggested.

Some clarification appears necessary in view of the strange reaction to my request for info. My name is Andy McConnell and I am a full-time writer/historian/journalist/researcher specialising in glass. My book, 'The Decanter, An Illustrated History of Glass from 1650', will be published by the Antique Collecors' Club next month, and will be the largest volume it has ever published. The result of seven years full-time research and writing, it comprises 150,000 words illustrated by around 800 mages of around 2,500 examples on 600 or so pages. I also write reguarly for a variety of magazines.

That said, and having read EG-S's bio posted on the glass encyclopaedia, there is more more to the lady in question that meets the eye. It appears almost certain that she was a faker as when the collection of one of her best customers, Walter Harding [acquired from her shop at a cost of £13,000] was sold at Sotheby's after his death, it raised a total of £900!

At her speech to the Royal Society of Arts in 1926, she vehmently denied having been a faker but admitted owning old Irish glass moulds and having tried to replicate the hue of 'old Irish glass'.

I understand that she embelished true antique Irish glass with 'improved' cutting and engraving and made new pieces. The Bodlean Library's example of her book, 'Irish Glass', has a sticker on the cover that states; 'Use with caution, contains many factual errors'. The book contains some real stinkers as illustrations, including some ramshackled chandeliers and a canoe-shaped bowl without its stand and polished off, yet presented a legit.

Her nefarious output was entirely aside from her Graystan production, which was clearly legit and which I am not questioning.

That said, and hoping not to provoke some any further angry responses, I would love to receive further info that adds to the above. Does anyone know, for instance, anything about the glasshouse that she is said to have operated in Normandy [?] to produce Lalique-esque glass before starting up Graystan?

Further, was much Graystan glass cut and engraved? The few examples I've seen look Monart-esque, with swirling motted colours but no cutting. And yet she employed at least one cutter at her works, as I understand it.

With fingers crossed.....
Title: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: aa on April 16, 2004, 07:32:38 AM
Eagerly awaiting the publication of your book. Welcome to the board. I'm surprised we haven't had already a zillion decanter based questions for you to answer, but don't worry... they will come! :)
Title: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: henry on September 20, 2004, 08:18:22 PM
Dame Ninnette was the daughter of not the mother of Mrs G-S.
Good luck with the search
PS  The book is brilliant.
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: angel2 on September 20, 2011, 11:45:42 AM

Andy: Ninette not Ninnette (sorry, spelling police!  :no:) Again sorry but know nothing of your glassmaker.
Love & respect you on A.R.S. Any time you need a proofreader, I'm available! (seriously), (really seriously).


Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Frank on September 20, 2011, 12:18:26 PM
Although Andy is well aware of the full story now, for others there is a good account in Hajdamach 20th Century British Glass and a little detail here on my site
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Kevin B on February 23, 2013, 09:16:18 PM
I am not sure if anyone is still interested in this subject, but I think I have a Graydon-Stannus fake.  It is a plain Cork Glass Co. decanter.  If you have it, it is obviously not 200 years old, but at the same time I don't believe it was made last week.  Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. I have attached to photos, one showing the base with impressed Cork Glass Co.
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Paul S. on February 23, 2013, 10:35:46 PM
I think the whole story is intriguing and very interesting - that said I don't possess any known pieces from this lady's output.      For the ignorant like myself Kevin, you don't explain why this might be one of her fakes?         Do I understand from what you are saying that your decanter, whilst having the Georgian blazes, lozenge stopper and neck rings, doesn't have other necessary qualities i.e. wear and colour perhaps, which it should to qualify for c. 1810? :)
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Kevin B on February 24, 2013, 03:51:09 PM
Exactly that, it has a small amount of wear on the bottom, but not enough for 200 years no matter how well cared for it was. The surface of the bottle is too clean, all my other period decanters have masses of wear when you hold them to the light.  The colour isn't the bright colour of modern glass, but isn't quite right, and the thing that kills it for me, is that against white paper you can tell what is wrong with the colour.  It is just faintest hint of blue, which smells like a total rat to me.  None of my other Irish decanters have that colour.  I have some that have a hint of blue but I would say it was very masked under gray, where this is just blue.  The really old glass books tell you that Irish glass has a blue tint, but newer books tell you this is BS.  Back in the 30s that myth wasn't yet busted.  Everything else about the way it is made is perfect for the period.  Slight striations in the glass, the odd small bubble, the peg of the stopper snapped off. It is just like a perfect Cork Glass Co. decanter should be.  This is not a copy in the style of, I have plenty of those, so can tell those straight away.  This is trying very hard to be like the real thing.

I have not heard of any such decanters flooding on the market or anyone else having made fakes like this.  The slight colour undertone makes me think it must be pre-WWII, as all my post war books talk about that being a myth or don't mention it.
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Paul S. on February 24, 2013, 09:48:08 PM
thanks Kevin.         Perhaps yours was owned by a member of the Temperance Society ;) ;D

I have some table glass from the late C18/early C19, and several spirit squares, and as you say there is usually a greyish/steel tint  - but I'm not sure that I'd be able to say where a grey tint ends and a blue might take over - should I ever see something with a blue tint that is.
I'm not well up on this 'blue myth', but makes you wonder whether someone got carried away looking at a strong grey tint, perhaps in the wrong light, and thought they were looking at blue.
Once you've seen Georgian lead coloured glass, it's unmistakable, and as you say, it has nothing like the brightness of modern glass.  As to the acclaimed better sparkle of C18 cut glass, it may be true - possible because of the lack of acid polishing which seems to have become an habit of economy in the C20 when cleaning up the cutting, and dulls the sharper reflective qualities.

We mustn't forget that most of the big C20 factories produced copies of ealier patterns/designs, prior to 1940 ish - W/Fs, Richardsons, E. & L. and Walsh amongst them - and it was the Georgian fashion they seemed mostly to copy, so your example might well be from such a source, and let's not forget that these names did produce high quality glass, whether contemporary or historic in style.    Unfortunately, I've never knowlingly seen such 'reproduction' piece from any of those factories, but had assumed that the colour would be brighter than an original.
However, not so apparently, as Andy McConnell cites a page from one of Richardsons catalogues dated 1916 on which it clearly states that "reproduction of a George III decanter etc. to be made in old glass, and with stoppers rough fitted".        The 'old glass' implying that they where replicating the C18 colour  -  and you may also be aware of Andy's story concerning one Stourbridge maker who employed someone to rub the feet of wine glasses on a doorstop to deliberately age the pieces.
One apparently reliable method of determining age on decanters is to try sliding a piece of paper under the base  -  where the decanter doesn't touch the table the paper should slip under, and therefore the base (of the decanter) should appear (in that area) devoid of wear.          I've never tried it  -  my few pieces seem covered in dull matt wear all over their bottoms. 

I agree that colour and wear are probably the most critical characteristics that I'd look for when assessing age, but less than perfect cutting is also important, along with seeds and lack of symmetry in areas like the neck, but it seems from Andy's comments that colour may be less reliable than we'd thought.

Having read Andy McConnell's posts above, you might be forgiven for thinking that his 'Decanter' book would have provided some illuminating new information on Mrs. G-S 'nefarious' activities on the alleged reproduction of Irish glass (not the 'Gray-Stan' material)  -  however, not so, and in a book running to something like 575 pages he offers no more than nine and a half lines of previously published information.    He also reproduces the same picture of the lady as Hajdamach's plate 171.         Can only assume that additional unpublished information proved impossible to come by  -  but who knows  -  I understand Andy has declared his intention to reprint the book with a view to providing more information on C20 material  -  fingers crossed.

Regret I can't really comment on your decanter  -  I don't have any Irish examples - old or reproduction.......but, having just looked through Phelps Warren I can appreciate your difficulties.         All the features on your decanter seem to agree with the originals, but then I don't have your one in my hand, and this might make all the difference - seeing it in the flesh so to speak, so suggest you contact Andy ;D

P.S.    Andy McConnell's book is invaluable  -  I wouldn't be without it, and my comments about the G-S matter were simply one of surprise bearing in mind Andy's earlier discussions requesting information on the lady and linking this to his book.   I know it's expensive - let's hope the reprint isn't too far away.

Refs.    'The Decanter' - Andy McConnell - 2004
           '20th Century British Glass'  -  Charles R. Hajdamach  -  2009
            'Irish Glass'  -  Phelps Warren  -  1970
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Kevin B on February 24, 2013, 10:21:32 PM
I have the Andy McConnell book, and if he is going to update it I am definitely buying another.  I also have the Warren Phelps book too, but I don't have the 20th Century Glass book.  I really should get it as that is where I am a little weak.
As a peak into my collection, I put up pictures of 2 real Irish decanters, one late 18thC and one early 19thC, and 2 copies, one a copy of a late 18thC and the other a copy of a pair of early 19thC decanters.  The thing from pictures is it's difficult to tell, it's when you get them in your grubby hands that you can really tell.  The copy of the late 18thC decanter has one give away and that is that the  peg of the stopper is polished.  If you notice that, you know its a copy.  Once you have them in your hands, one thing that does make it obvious is the quality of the cutting.  Modern cutting often feels more perfect and neither of these copy decanters tries to deceive on that front.
I have a load of old books on glass, and what it funny is that a few have this exact Cork Glass Co. bottle, and I wonder, if they have the real thing or one like mine.
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Paul S. on February 25, 2013, 08:40:31 AM
quote................."We mustn't forget that most of the big C20 factories produced copies of ealier patterns/designs, prior to 1940 ish - W/Fs, Richardsons, E. & L. and Walsh amongst them - and it was the Georgian fashion they seemed mostly to copy, so your example might well be from such a source"............oh, what a moron :-[
Of course yours isn't from such a's got 'The Cork Glass Co.' on the base    .....   apologies Kevin, I knew it was too late at night for typing.

I agree with you re older clear glass, there is no substitute for handling the piece - screen pictures simply do not provide the sort of detail that is essential for determining colour, and other subtleties of age or otherwise  - it's always difficult even with good pictures.        People who collect coloured glass don't know how lucky they are ;D 
To be honest Kevin, I'm seeing the pix of your decanters with too much of an all over blue/grey colouring  -  they're lacking contrast - which suppresses detail - sorry to be picky. :)
Also agree with your comments about the nature of early cutting being less refined and accurate compared with C20 handiwork.    On older pieces, mitres and other lines which travel for some distance around a shoulder or body, tend to waver and lose their shape occasionally on the way.
Unlike the base of yours, I think it's perhaps a little easier determining authenticity when a decanter base has been ground and polished to remove the remains of the pontil scar etc.  -  Georgian examples seem (to me) to have a quite distinctive appearance when finished in that area.
A down side of collecting decanters, especially from non-professional sources etc. is the frequency with which a body lacks its matching stopper, and a high proportion of charity shops, bric-a-brac venues and boot sales have this problem.      So I've tried some random matching recently by doctoring a stopper or two with valve grinding paste  -  you do need a fairly good match to start with - but I've had some limited success.

Not sure if Peter (Oldglassman) said that Westropp's book was very expensive - but apparently very good...........he and Mrs. G-S clashed very publicly over the lady's 'Irish' pieces, and there's a very interesting piece in Hajdamach describing how Westropp had written to
Apollo magazine in the late 1940's, to criticize G. Bernard Hughes for supporting some of G-S's myths of Irish glass.     The irony being that in later years G-S gave Westropp a gift of one of her 'art glass bowls' - which apparently is still in the Westropp family collection.
Don't know if you have this book and would recommend it.

Perhaps your bottle is bona fide after all ;)
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: johnphilip on February 25, 2013, 09:03:49 AM
Andy have you spoken to Bazil the glass restorer at Brackley ? i believe he wrote either an article or a book on Graystan . if my memory serves me right . jp
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: oldglassman on February 25, 2013, 09:25:53 AM
HI ,
           "  Not sure if Peter (Oldglassman) said that Westropp's book was very expensive - but apparently very good "

  Sorry not me , not got that 1 , and as for decanters I have never really been attracted to them except for 17thc examples.

cheers ,
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Paul S. on February 25, 2013, 03:31:09 PM
apologies Peter  -  obviously some other tome about which we had been speaking, and of which you said very pricey ;)      Westropp's is on Abe Books for quite reasonable money.
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: oldglassman on February 25, 2013, 04:43:21 PM
Hi ,
         probably the Rijksmuseum catalogues, 2 huge tomes which can cost 100 plus for the 2 , volume one is usually available somewhere but volume 2 seems hard to come by.

cheers ,
Title: Re: Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus
Post by: Frank on February 27, 2013, 12:03:20 PM
Lost knowledge is one of the greatest frustrations. We know text like G-S - and Fleming have been debunked. We know but it is not written down. 9 years ago Andy was on a trail but clearly flunked it. Her daughter certainly would have the opportunity to destroy much of the evidence and may well have done so to protect her own position in the society that her mother seemingly abused. Who was it that told me G-S had a glassworks in France producing pressed glass in the style of Lalique... nearly 30 years on from that info, no idea. Galle forgeries made in Japan, big scandal in the 1980s - story vanished they are all now regarded as genuine.
Further confounded by those who know the answers being reluctant to put on public record!