Bohemian Boudoir

Bohemian Boudoir

Apr 06, 2016

Rosie Bodien

This article is dedicated in the warm memory of Rosemary "Rosie" Bodien. She was a 50-year member and served as President and Vice President of No. 181, Seattle, WA. Rosie was also the Czech Cultural Heritage Liaison, MVP of the National Fraternal Congress of America in 2010, and Founder and Chair of the Czech/Slovak Interest Group for Genealogical Research.

A new exhibition, entitled Bohemian Boudoir: Czech Vanity Glass, at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will feature items donated by Western member Rosemary "Rosie" Bodien. Visitors will be able to see these items from April 23 to July 17 in the Smith Gallery at the museum. The collection is named for her parents and is called the Ladd and Lydia Straka Loss Memorial Collection.

Rosie Bodien was an enthusiastic collector of Czech perfume bottles and accessories. She was thrilled to help plan the exhibit, but unfortunately passed away on December 25, 2015 before she could see her efforts mature. She donated over 200 items, which serve as defining examples of design and workmanship. These pieces come from various glass houses of former Bohemia and highlight a wide range of style.

In the exhibition, perfume bottles are a central delight, but are accented by mirrors, brushes, cigarette boxes, lighters, clocks, trays, powder boxes, and vases. These items are made from glass or crystal and range in color from clear to malachite green, coral, aqua, red, and more.

bohemian-boudoir.jpg bohemian-boudoir2.jpg bohemian-boudoir-3.jpg
Red perfume bottle featuring the mythological Psyche. Psyche is often portrayed in art with butterfly wings. Vogel & Zappe, late 1930s. Perfume bottle with metal and glass accents, Czechoslovakia, 1930s. Perfume bottle with metal accents, Schlevogt, 1930s.

For Rosie, this collection began as she researched her family history. Her parents, Ladd and Lydia (Straka) Loss, emigrated from Bohemia in the 19th century and were active members of their local Sokol. Rosie was interested in genealogy, contra dancing, and travel. These interests led to several cross-country trips and visits to the Czech Republic to indulge in these activities.

She browsed antique shops for Czech items and purchased her first Czech perfume bottle in 1994 in Salem, OR. Over the next 20 years she amassed an impressive collection, not just of vanity glass, but of glass Brychta figurines, Czech pottery, and Czech dolls.

She was active in Czech collector groups, wrote many articles for various publications, and did presentations about her interest from a very learned point of view. She was a 50-year member of Western Fraternal Life and served as President and Vice President of No. 181, Seattle, WA. Rosie was also the Czech Cultural Heritage Liaison, MVP of the National Fraternal Congress of America in 2010, and Founder and Chair of the Czech/Slovak Interest Group for Genealogical Research.

History of Czech Glass

Czechoslovakia was historically considered to be one of the centers of glass production in Europe. In the early twentieth century, the country boasted over 600 glass factories and three acclaimed schools. This reputation of mastery was destroyed when World War II shattered the country in the 1940s. The selection of perfume bottles from the Ladd and Lydia Straka Loss Memorial Collection features some of the last of the many glass treasures labeled Made in Czechoslovakia.

During the 1920s and 1930s, American consumers had a voracious appetite for Czech perfume bottles. After the horrors of the First World War, young people were determined to enjoy life sprinkled with zest, glamour, and fun. At the time, American women were exploring a new sense of freedom, dubbed flappers, with short skirts and short hair, and drinking alcohol, despite Prohibition. They smoked, listened to Jazz, and dated. American women took their fashion cues from Hollywood, and many movies featured the stars seated at lavish dressing tables crowded with beautiful bottles, jars, mirrors, and accessories. Fan magazines often portrayed the stars at home, and the actresses were frequently pictured in their sumptuous boudoirs.

Additionally, the quality of Czech perfume bottles was uniformly high and the prices relatively low. As consumers focused on frugality in the midst of the Great Depression, Czech perfume bottles became an affordable and popular symbol of femininity, artistic refinement, and social status. Many of the bottles retailed for a dollar or two, and some were as little as 50 cents. Department stores sold bottles pre-filled with scent, or empty bottles the consumer could take home and fill from a more utilitarian bottle. The small amount made the expensive scent affordable and the little bottles were a charming accessory. They were affordable luxuries that brought beauty and glamour into the lives of countless women.

Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia during World War II marked the beginning of the decline of the creation and purchase of Czech glass perfume bottles. Many of the skilled glassworkers emigrated to escape capture resulting in the dissemination of glass craftsmen to other countries in Europe. Production of Czech glass perfume bottles slowed and the popularity of Czech perfume bottles declined in the United States as a result. These perfume bottles and accessories remain a symbol of femininity and beauty from the Great Depression era, and a relic of Czechoslovakia.

(Historical information was collected from the Tacoma Museum of Glass and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.)

About the Exhibit

Bohemian Boudoir: Czech Vanity Glass
April 23 – July 17, 2016
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
1400 Inspiration Pl SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Bohemian Boudoir showcases glass crystal perfume bottles and bedroom accessories, hand-crafted in the Bohemia region of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) in the 1920s and 1930s.

Czechoslovakia, considered to be one of the most important historic centers of glass production, was the home to over 600 companies creating glass items for the boudoir. Objects in the exhibition exemplified the creativity and technical prowess of Czech craftsmen which was shattered during World War II.

Often referred to as trinket or vanity sets, these detailed cut glass creations included items such as candle sticks, powder boxes, perfume bottles, atomizers, ring trays, soap dishes and covered jars. Czech perfume bottles were particularly popular in the United States during the Great Depression, as affordable symbols of femininity, style and status.

Bohemian Boudoir: Czech Vanity Glass is sponsored by Gary & Cathy Rozek and Western Fraternal Life.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will be hosting Bohemian Cabaret: Opening Evening for Bohemian Boudoir from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 23. Tickets may be purchased for $25 online at prior to noon on April 22. A private reception will be held in Rosie's memory prior to the public opening event on April 23.

Category: Czech Connection

Cindy Motsinger

Communications Coordinator

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