Italian Verre églomisé VI
One in a series of seven, this 18th-century reverse glass painting displays a Romantic Italian scene. Three figures are on horseback wearing red coats, alongside three additional figures chatting and wearing pastel-coloured finery. A decorative blue and white border with flowers and dots runs along the outside of the painting. As referenced in the name of the technique, paint is applied to the reverse side of the glass to create the image. Once complete, the painting is viewed from the front side of the glass. Details in the foreground of the composition would be painted first, followed by the background elements. In this case, the figures and the greenery would have been rendered first, succeeded by the black background and the stone structure in the middle of the scene. This work is held in a simple wooden frame with a gilded rebate. Each of the seven paintings in the series comes with the same frame, unifying them as a group. In the Middle Ages, reverse glass painting was a popular method used to create portable religious icons and altars, which were often gilded. The technique was revived in the 18th century by a French decorator named Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711–1786).
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.