Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gilding under glass

Italian verre eglomise devotional pendant 1600 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Reading Cennini is giving me far too many ideas. Chapter 172 is about making mosaics from egg shells and the quills of feathers. It also has an early description of how to do verre eglomise. Cennini refers to it as mosaic for the adornment of reliquaries, but it is the layered working of gilded glass that will eventually go by the French term.

It was a very popular technique used for religious pendants between 1300 and 1600 and the Italians were well known for it. The Victoria and Albert have a number of pieces. Some of my favorites in this time period  that turned up in a quick search:
 German reliquary pendant 1550-1600. 
Spanish or possibly Italian pendant, early 17th century.
1550-1600 Italian pendant.

What really has me intrigued, however, is this rosary from the V&A's exhibition "At Home in Renaissance Italy" borrowed from the Museo Civico d'Arte Antica e Palazzo Madama in Turin. The rosary beads are made in two parts with gilding and painting of the verre eglomise type in between, held together by metal settings.

Chris Laning did a fascinating series of posts on her Paternoster blog regarding this and a similar piece. Crystal gazing.

So, I've been pondering how exactly I would go about making something like that. I think I have some ideas involving Cennini's gilding instructions, glass cabachons, bronze tape, a soldering iron, a drill, and a bit of crazy. I'm certainly looking forward to trying. First I've got to finish the leather applique, however, so I don't keep adding to my pile of half finished projects. Just one and a half of the original six motifs left to do.


  1. I just want to mention that I believe this piece is actually rock crystal rather than glass which I find quite fascinating. Possibly because I'm obsessed with rock crystal objects...

    It's on my someday project list too!

    1. Yup, it is rock crystal. Having priced rock crystal/very clear quartz (for a discarded zibellino head idea) it just isn't in my budget to get large enough pieces to carve in to beads. After a few tries I might spring for some quartz cabachons to try doing the gilding for a pendant, but I feel pretty comfy with glass for this project since the focus is going to be on learning the painting technique rather than on carving.