Origin: English Period: Late Victorian Provenance: Unknown Date: c.1890-1900 Three at: 9” diameter One at: 8” One at: 7.5” (all approximate)
The group of five hand-blown lustrous mercury glass witches balls of silver colour and mixed sizes, three particularly large, having the original hanging pressed loop crown attachments, and when hung each reflecting an entire room, the wholes showing a beautiful all-over patination, each surviving from the zeniths of nineteenth century England.
The condition is largely what one would like and expect to find in original antique examples with pitting and character marks with age, some more that others, remaining very original. There are no cracks or damages to speak of. There are hanging loops present in addition to the crown attachments (one later), to each.
Witches balls have a rather interesting and mysterious history and there have been several theories put forward as to their main use. The most common theory is that witch balls were hung in 18th and 19th-century windows to ward off evil spirits as it was believed that witches could be entrapped by their own reflection. Other theories include the objects being used as an early form of burglar alarm with the large surfaces reflecting intruders to ones attention. History tells us glass houses in England began producing witch balls in about 1690. In 16th century England the with ball was called a ‘watch bottle’ designed to contain holy water supporting the folk tale relating them to magic associated with them. The witches bottle was a stone or glass bottle filled with urine, nails or hair burned or heated for the purpose of repelling or breaking a witches’ power over her victim. Peddlars sold these bottles at country fairs and door to door.
These can be hung in a variety of ways making this group very appealing.