Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cameo glass and Emile Galle

In general, cameo glass is any glass into which the surface is cut away to leave a design in relief. It begins with clear or colored glass of a single layer or multiple layers fused together. Hand cutting tools similar to those used by sculpturers as well as wheel cutting and hydrofluoric acid are used to cut away the unwanted portion of glass. Most cameo glass produced in the last century has been made using hydrofluoric acid for cutting away the bulk of the unwanted glass and then finishing with mechanical cutting and polishing techniques. Source: www.david-issitt.1hwy.com

Various forms of cameo glass have been made for many centuries, dating back to the Romans. Wheel engraving of glass surfaces - primarily intaglio where cuts are made into the surface to produce impressions - was made in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and China in the 18th century. In England, cameo glass work began in the mid 19th century and in France in the late 19th century.

One of the greatest cameo glass designers was Emile Galle (1846-1904), a French glassmaker, ceramist and designer who was a dominant figure in the Art Nouveau style. Galle first introduced his multi-layered cameo glass at the 1889 Paris exposition with amazing success, and he continued to produce glass of superb quality into the final years of his life. See vase by Galle, image source: www.gallefactory.com.

After Galle died in 1904, his widow continued to make Galle glass designs in the factory. His son-in-law then continued production of deteriorating quality until 1936 when production ceased completely.

DID YOU KNOW that because Galle was the designer, and not the producer of glass, his craftsmen would sign the pieces after he approved them? Consequently, because Galle worked with different craftsmen, his signatures often differed from one another. After Galle died in 1904, and until 1914, a star often (but not always) preceded his signature. See below different versions of the Galle signature – with and without the star. Image courtesy of www.tinyesveld.com.