Italian Verre églomisé II
This 18th-century reverse glass painting – one in a series of seven – displays a romantic Italian scene of four figures enjoying a meal and each other’s company, enclosed by a fanciful and ornamental border. In reverse glass paintings, the glass is the front of the masterpiece rather than the back. This is unlike other more traditional methods of painting, such as panel or canvas. When constructing this type of painting, coloured paint is applied to the back of a piece of glass. The artist would begin by rendering the foreground images succeeded by the background details. As such, on this particular painting the floor and figures would have been completed first, followed by the black background and the castle-like detail in the middle of the painting. Upon completion, the glass would be turned around to view the final image. This work comes in a simple wooden frame with a gilded rebate that accentuates the warm tones in the painting. The frames and decorative borders are the same across the seven paintings in the series. Reverse glass painting was a popular technique used to create religious icons for reliquaries and portable altars in the Middle Ages. This technique was revived and named verre églomisé by French decorator Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711–1786) in the middle of the 18th century.
At this time in Italy, the city of Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE was rediscovered in 1748. Military engineer Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre (1702–1780) led the earliest excavations at the site, uncovering an amphitheatre and an inscription “REI PUBLICAE POMPEIANORUM,” confirming the town’s name. A proper excavation of the site began in 1860, led by Italian archaeologist Guiseppe Fiorelli (1823–1896). The preservation of the city, buried beneath ash and rock, has been invaluable to the study of ancient city planning, land use, and anthropology.