Italian Verre églomisé VII
This 18th-century reverse glass painting – one in a series of seven – depicts three figures engaged in dialogue. Two soldiers accost a shepherd-like figure who sits near a clothed table. The older figure sports a beard and displays an air of wisdom. His staff rests on the table below his right elbow and a dog eagerly looks up at him. Perhaps the soldiers are seeking the old man’s guidance or blessing before they carry out a task. The meaning of this encounter could serve as a discussion point for this conversation piece. When constructing reverse glass paintings, artists use the glass support differently from the traditional canvas or panel, as the glass forms the front of the painting rather than the back. As stated in the name of the technique, paint is applied to the reverse of the glass starting with the application of foreground details and highlights, followed by all background elements. The finished work is then viewed through the front face of the glass. This work is held in a simple wooden frame with a gilded rebate that accentuates the warm tones in the painting. The colour palettes, dark backgrounds, and decorative painted borders are synonymous across all seven paintings in the collection, unifying them as a series. Reverse glass painting was a popular technique used to create religious icons for reliquaries and portable altars in the Middle Ages. The technique was revived in the 18th century by a French decorator named Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711–1786). Reverse glass paintings were later called verre églomisé, in honour of the French decorator.
At this time in Italy, the famous Trevi Fountain was built in Rome. Italian architect Nicola Salvi (1697–1751) won the commission in a public competition held by Pope Clement XII (1652–1740) in 1730. Work began on the Baroque style fountain in 1732, and continued until 1751, when Salvi died with the structure half-finished. Architect Giuseppe Pannini (1718–1805) was chosen to finish the fountain, alongside a team of four sculptors. The project was completed in 1762, and remains one of the most famous fountains in the world today.