Beetles Ashtray - Zitrin Brothers Butterfly Ashtray - Carnival Glass Ashtray - Argentinean Carnival Glass
Spectacular Carnival Glass Ashtrays
from Argentina and Brazil
Cristalerias Rigolleau Beetles Ashtray (left)
and a Zitrin Brothers Butterfly ash tray from Rio de Janeiro (right)
photos by canalka and curculiosglass
Argentinean carnival glass was first brought to the attention of the international community by authors Glen and Stephen Thistlewood, in their groundbreaking works, Carnival Glass: The Magic and the Mystery (1998) and A Century of Carnival Glass (2001). According to the Thistlewoods, in the early 1880's, Argentinean economic prosperity led to the founding of several glassworks in and around the capital city of Buenos Aires. Such glassworks opened to produce bottle and container glass, while Argentina relied on imports from Europe to supply fancier glassware. By the 1920's, however, a depressed economy forced Argentinean companies to curtail glass imports and to produce their own glassware. In the 1920's and 1930's, several Buenos Aires glassworks began making carnival glass.
Among the most prominent Argentinean carnival glass producers of this period were Cristalerias Rigolleau, Cristalerias Papini and Cristalerias Piccardo. 1930's catalogs document a wide array of domestic carnival glassware and barware produced by Papini, as well as carnival tableware and wine sets produced by Piccardo. Documentation of Rigolleau glass is sketchier. Rigolleau, according to the Thistlewoods, produced a small selection of carnival glass, "but their items are distinctive and attractive" (A Century of Carnival Glass, p. 159). Rigolleau's carnival production consisted principally of novelty items, often with commemorative or promotional lettering for commercial customers.
There must be something about ashtrays that brings out the antic in glass manufacturers. Rigolleau produced one ashtray between 1920 and 1924 for the Firestone Company that featured a shallow dish embedded in a ring of black rubber molded to look like a car tire. (Papini produced a similar imitative piece in 1928 for Goodyear.) A Second Rigolleau ashtray known as the CR ashtray was molded in the shape of the company's initials. Rigolleau also issued a third notable piece -- the Beetles ashtray shown at the top of this guide.
Shown below are two examples of Argentinean carnival glass ashtrays. One is the Rigolleau Beetles ashtray, and the second is a previously undocumented ashtray, show at page top, which hails from Brazil, but which we believe may have been made in Argentina as well. We have christened this new carnival glass discovery the Zitrin Brothers Butterfly ashtray.
Rigolleau's Beetles Ashtray
Detail of Scarab on Rigolleau Beetles Ashtray
photo by canalka
The glass firm Cristalerias Rigolleau was founded in 1882 in the industrial city of Berazategui, Argentina, by a French immigrant named Leon Rigolleau. Currently a city of about 300,000 people, Bertazategui is located in Buenos Aires province, on the southeastern outskirts of the city of Buenos Aires. Bertazategui is known as La Capital Nacional del Vidrio, or "The Glass National Capital."
According to Argentinean glass expert Roberto Dario (Bob) Frasinetti, glass companies first opened in Bertazategui in the 1880's. When inexpensive imported glass from Europe flooded the South American market, many small Argentinean glass companies closed. Rigolleau bought up their equipment, imported artisans from Belgium and France and founded the Cristallerias Rigolleau glassworks. The company's headquarters, located in the capital city of Buenos Aires, were constructed by the renown Argentinean architect, Jorge Bunge.
Cristallerias Rigolleau produced a variety of industrial glassware, including fluorescent light tubes, glass insulators and laboratory glass, as well as pressed and blown glass novelties, figurines and ashtrays. (see Bob Frassinetti at buzzle.com/editorials/1-24-2005-64741.asp). As noted above, Rigolleau issued a very limited number of carnival glass pieces in the 1920's and 1930's, but surviving specimens convey the company's inventiveness and originality. Among these is the Beetles ashtray shown above and below.
The Beetle ashtray is, in our estimation, one of the most wonderful pieces ever produced in carnival glass. The piece features a molded pattern consising of eight scarab beetles circling the ashtray's rim. In the center is lettering that rings an impressed triangle containing an inner circle, two goblets and a flask. The triangle-scarab design is evocative of the arcane symbolism of fraternal orders such as the freemasons. Nevertheless, the ashtrays were not commissioned by any secret society -- according to Glen and Stephen Thistlewood in A Century of Carnival Glass (p. 159), Rigolleau issued the Beetle ashtray "strictly as a souvenir piece that was given to special customers".
Detail of Center of Rigolleau Beetles Ashtray
photo by canalka
At the ashtray's center are the words, "Cristallerias Rigolleau, Buenos Aires - Sociedad Anonima Usinas En Berazategui F.S.G." This translates as: "Cristallerias Rigolleau, Buenos Aires, an incorporated glassworks of Berategui". (The Spanish word usina, in context, means "glassworks". Sociedad Anonoma is roughly the counterpart of the English "incorporated" or "limited" or "limited liability company"). The F.S.G. is the acronym for the labor union "Federacion de los Sindicatos," and its appearance is analogous to a union label found on American manufactured goods. Rigolleau's Beetle ashtrays have been found in amber-marigold and blue carnival glass, and their iridescent patina tends to be rich and deep. The piece above measures 5" across.
Zitrin Brothers Butterfly Ashtray
Zitrin Brothers Butterfly Ashtray, maker unknown
photos by curuliosglass
A paper label on the back of this carnival glass ashtray identifies it as a curio sold by a Rio de Janeiro company. Thus, the piece might possibly be the first documented example of Brazilian carnival glass. We think it's more probable, however, that the curio was made for a Brazilian firm by another South American company, most likely one of the Argentinean glassworks producing carnival glass in the 1930's.
This must be one of the oddest pieces of carnival glass in existence. The ashtray is iridized marigold glass framing a black landscape silhouetted against a shimmering iridescent sky and ocean. Upon first glimpse, the sky and water appear to be iridescent glass -- but a closer inspection reveals them to be made of layers of iridescent butterfly wings! The layered butterfly wings have been identified as those of the Brazilian butterfly called a Blue Morpho. The wings appear purple, blue or pink depending on the angle of the light striking them:
Detail photographs showing butterfly wing scales that comprise
the sky: the wings, like the surrounding glass, are iridescent.
photos by curculiosglass
The sides and back of the ashtray are a deep iridized marigold with bright magenta, green and blue highlights. The ashtray is 4" across and 7/8" high. On the top is a circular depression 3" wide and 1/4" deep. Within the depression is a disk of reverse-painted glass depicting silhouettes of tropical foliage and the famous Rio de Janeiro mountain known as Pao de Azucar or "Sugarloaf". This reverse painting overlies the backdrop of butterfly wings.
The paper label affixed to the back (shown below) features gold lettering on a dark brown background and reads, in Portuguese: "CURIOSIDADES - ZITRIN IRMAOS IND. BRASILEIRA - Rua Buenos Ayres 110-112 - RIO." Translated, this means: "Curios - Zitrin Brothers, a Brazilian firm - 110-112 Buenos Aires Street - Rio de Janeiro":
Close-up of Label
photo by curculiosglass
Zitrin Brothers is described by the prominent Brazilian journalist Luiz Makouf Carvalho, in his autobiography Cobras Criadas, as a place where he was employed as a 16-year-old in the 1930's: "It was a store that sold jewelry and curios - among them encased-glass blocks containing mummified butterflies. The store belonged to the firm Zitrin Irmaos and was located on 110 Buenos Aires Street in the downtown area [of Rio], across from the flower market".
It appears that Zitrin Brothers commissioned carnival ashtrays that could then be embellished with the painted landscape of Rio and backdrop of Brazilian Blue Morpho butterfly wings. Although it's possible that the carnival glass ashtray was commissioned and imported from a European firm, the ashtray has the heavy iridescent patina that characterizes other marigold carnival glass from Argentina, and Argentina borders Brazil. Thus, our guess would be that this piece was produced by one of the Argentinean companies that manufactured carnival glass in the 1930's. Cristalerias Rigolleau is a possibility, because that company specialized in commemorative novelty items. Cristalerias Papini also issued lettered ashtrays, however, and other undocumented Argententinean glassworks may have as well.
We would be very happy to receive additional information about this novel carnival piece from any E-Bayer, glass expert or Rio native who could tell us more about the Zitrin Brothers.
Blue Morpho butterfly and Scarab beetle
photo credit: wikimedia
Recommended Resources on Argentinean Carnival
David Doty's website contains a page showing a wonderful array of carnival glass ashtrays, among them Rigolleau C.R., Firestone and Beetles ashtrays, as well as the two other Argentinean ashtrays known as SACIC and Goodyear. See ddoty.com/ashtrays.html.
The Thistlewood Website offers additional photos of a CR ashtray, and of the historic Cristallerias Rigolleau headquarters building in Buenos Aires. (geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/southamerica.html). Additional Thistlewood pages on Argentinean carnival can be found at: geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/PapiniModelo4.html (Cristalerias Papini); geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/AztecRose.html and geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/RisingSun.html (Cristalerias Piccardo). We also recommend the Thistlewoods' A Century of Carnival Glass (2001), which contains a chapter on Argentinean carnival glass.
Roberto Dario (Bob) Frasinetti. A short article by Frasinetti on Cristallerias Rigolleau titled, "From Carnival Glass to Glass Insulators in Argentina," can be found at: buzzle.com/editorials/1-24-2005-64741.asp. Frasinetti's photographs of the Cristalerias Rigolleau building can be viewed at bobfrassinetti.tripod.com/cristalerias_rigolleau/.
The Standard Encylopedia of Carnival Glass, 11th ed., by Mike Carwile, contains numerous examples of carnival glass from Argentina as well as Mexico and Peru.
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Many thanks to E-Bayer canalka, for generously contributing photographs to this guide. Rights to all photos belong to the photographers, and pictures should not be used without their permission. Text is (c) 2008 curculiosglass, all rights reserved. To locate any E-Bayer whose name is mentioned here, or to visit his or her store, simply click on "SITE MAP" on the bottom of your screen, and then click on "Feedback Forum" on the right top corner of the screen that next appears. Type or copy the E-Bayer's name into the search blank. To see our other guides on glass, click on GUIDE INDEX. Please leave feedback by clicking the button below.