J. & L. Lobmeyr History

Joseph Lobmeyr sen., descending from a glass cutter family - after careful proof of his qualification - opened up a first small glass-shop in the center of the city of Vienna in 1823. With the first products he sold in typical Biedermeier style he quickly had very good success, so that he opened up a new larger store in Kärntnerstrasse in 1824.

He widened his program of drinking sets and special objects as heavily cut vases and bowls, soon offering also candelabras and crystal light fixtures for candles.

Already in 1835 a first set was delivered to the Vienna Imperial Court, not much later Lobmeyr was commissioned to be purveyor to the Habsburg family for crystal.

After the death of the firm founder in 1855 his two sons Joseph jun. and Ludwig took over. Joseph mainly strengthened export-business with prominent work in cut and richly enameled glasses, the main markets besides Europe being the United States of America and Near-East countries. Beautifully painted Mosque lamps were delivered to the Khedive of Egypt.

Together with architect Josef Schmoranz Lobmeyr developed a number of oriental series, such as elaborately shaped enamelpainted glasses in "Arabic", "Persian" or "Turkish" style.

It was Ludwig Lobmeyr´s task to attract some of the best artists of his time to deliver designs for the firm's production. Together with the great potential of his own design capacity Lobmeyr so reached a position to be "editor in glass".

In the second half of the 19th century Vienna was in a booming situation in commerce, arts and crafts. So famous artists worked with Lobmeyr, such as Theophil Hansen (building the House of Parliament, Musikverein), designing 2 drinking sets and candelabras, Rudolf Eisenmenger, Moritz Knab and Joseph Storck who designed figural motives for richly engraved platters.

At this stage Lobmeyr began to participate at all World Exhibitions , first in London 1862, in Paris 1867 and 1900, Vienna 1873, Philadelphia 1878, in Amsterdam, Brussels and Chicago, winning first prices for the excellent glass and lighting products shown. 1881 the beautiful chandeliers were delivered to the large "Mirror-hall" at Ludwig II. Herrenchiemsee castle in Bavaria.

Ludwig Lobmeyr participated with a first electrified chandelier at the 1883 Vienna Electrical Exhibition, in the same year was commissioned to deliver electrified chandeliers for the large ballroom in Vienna's Imperial Court ("Redoutensaal") and soon after for the world-famous Hotel Sacher. With the turn of the century the youngest nephew of Ludwig Lobmeyr, Stefan Rath, took over the firm.

He was extremely successful in attracting the very best artists of the "Wiener Werkstätte" and the Vienna Highschool of applied arts to work out new designs. The most prominent is the architect Josef Hoffmann, whose work was highly recognized at the Cologne Crafts Exhibition 1914.

Together with other prominent artists as the ceramists Michael Powolny, Vally Wieselthier, the architects Oswald Haerdtl and Adolf Loos and many others Lobmeyr delivered specialty glasses which were soon included into the world's prominent collections such as Metropolitan Museum, New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Crafts Museum in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, etc..

A large collection of this innovative work in glass was shown at the Paris "Arts decoratifs"-world exhibition in 1925, where Lobmeyr won a "Grand Prix". Hans Harald Rath takes over the firm in 1938, manages to keep Lobmeyr running in World War II with prominent deliveries of crystal chandeliers.


"Exploding Stars" were made as a present from the Austrian people to the USA out of gratitude for rescuing Austria from the Nazi-regime for the new Metropolitan Opera House New York in 1966. Designed and executed by J & L Lobmeyr Vienna, in an unconventional, striking method of construction. Prescription and illustration are to find in an article of Ingrid Müller, Leuchten in der Metropolitan Opera, New York, Lichttechnik 1/1967, Berlin

At the same time the fabric-company Backhausen in Vienna was using these lamps in its Viennese showroom.

Today 4 of these lamps from the Backhausen estate are for sale at the Karolinsky Collection.

After the war he co-founded glass factories in Salzburg and Kufstein with glass-specialties coming to Austria from Bohemia. His main interest stayed contemporary crystal lighting, some of his best works were delivered to Palaces in Kuwait, Singapore, Ethiopia and Malaysia. Fascinating crystal chandeliers were delivered to theatres and Opera houses in Vienna, Salzburg and Luxemburg.

The absolute highlight of his work was the crystal lighting of the New Metropolitan in New York. After father's sudden death Harald, Peter and Stefan took over.

chandelier manufacture at Zahn & Co

The present-day company originated in Kreibitz (Bohemia), where in 1780 Josef Ignaz Zahn (1780-1838) founded a chandelier manufacturing and glass trading company called Jos. Zahn & Co.

At the same time, a subsidiary was established in Vienna, then the imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The Viennese branch had its premises in Fleischmarkt, which at that time marked the gateway to the Near East.

A few years later saw the development of a busy trade route, with large consignments of glassware being shipped to Constantinople, Smyrna, Baghdad and Cairo. In around 1810, foreign business expanded to such an extent that a new branch was set up in Frankfurt/Main.

In 1838, Franz Josef Ferdinand Zahn, the founder's son, took over the entire foreign trading business, managing it from Vienna. The firm soon started supplying leading church dignitaries, the imperial household, the higher nobility and the upper middle classes, which was conclusive proof that the products satisfied the refined tastes of these circles.

In 1856, his son Karl Josef Zahn took over the business, which had by now expanded significantly. He extended its activities to include the manufacture of magnificent chandeliers for churches and during his 30 years as head of the firm set up 3 glass factories in Bohemia and Hungary.

In 1886, Karl Zahn, the youngest of Karl Josef Zahn's sons, became the company owner. It was during his time that great changes took place in the field of lighting, particularly with the introduction of electricity. Karl Zahn now manufactured the glass crystal chandeliers that were hitherto equipped with wax candles with electric candles, which meant that the glass pendants, as well as the chandeliers themselves, acquired a new brilliance through the intensified lighting effect.

The early 20th century saw the founding of the Secession art movement, although this did not have any influence on the style of chandeliers produced by Zahn & Co. Karl Zahn expanded the company's foreign business to include America, Scandinavia, Germany and Italy. Following the premature death of Karl Zahn in 1912, his widow Gisela took over the company as its sole proprietor, running it with great vigour and prudence until her death.

Her knowledge enabled her to successfully steer the firm through the hard times of the First World War and the post-war period. From 1910 on, she enjoyed the business support of her sister, Leonie Tschinkel, a great-grand-daughter of the founder.

After Gisela Zahn's death, her sister Leonie succeeded her as company director and in 1948 founded a subsidiary in Braunau. Chandelier pendants and cut glass pieces were now made on the spot so as to offset the losses of the Bohemian glassworks and to preserve the company's independence.

As the last descendants of the founder, in 1965 Gerhard Tschinkel and Ing. Hübner took over the management of the business. Gerhard Tschinkel's sudden death forced the company to look for a successor outside the Zahn family circle.

Even during Tschinkel's lifetime, contacts had been made with the firm J. & L. Lobmeyr, with which good business relations had been maintained for several decades. It is thanks to Ing. Hübner's initiative that, while Zahn is no longer a family-owned business, the take-over by the present shareholders of Lobmeyr has enabled the more than 220 year-old company to conserve its traditional structure and management style.

Foto: Karolinsky-Archive