History of glass painting


glass painting

Glass painting is a craft where the texture of the glass is transformed into a work of art, usually through the use of paint. The uniqueness of this medium is that the finished artwork must be viewed from one side to appreciate how it gives a three-dimensional appearance, often enhanced by chameleon effects which can be achieved through various finishes and lighting.

How was glass painting discovered?

A close up of a pond

According to legend, in the year 6 AD, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was watching his men try to find a way to decorate the huge garden walls behind his palace. Suddenly, they discovered that boiling sand with soda and saltpeter produced glass that could be painted on easily. However, this legend is not true as glass has been around for over 6000 years!

A more likely account of the discovery of glass painting is that it was discovered by accident. It was noticed that if there were particles or bubbles in a molten glass then they would often cause defects and flaws when the glass was blown into shape. The solution to this problem was to blow tiny rods of molten glass, usually no thicker than a hair, onto the surface of the glass. This created a smooth and even surface with no visible bubbles or particles. What they didn’t realize was that the ultra-fine glass rods had actually sealed the molten glass together, making it impossible to break up into chunks for remelting. A new type of art form had been discovered!

Glass painting can be traced back to at least 2000 BC when Egyptian glass vessels with distinct engravings and colored patterns were created. Over the next 2000 years, this art progressed throughout the Middle East and Europe until it reached its peak in Murano between 1450 and 1650.

The secret of making murrine (glass rods) was sold to Venice by a monk named Dominicus Phiolarius in 1295, and ever since that time Murano has been known as the Murano Island. The glass vessels that were created in Murano were famous for their beauty and technical brilliance, but unfortunately, they were a closely guarded trade secret until the end of the 17th century when a French spy stole the recipe.

Glass painting was also quite popular during the Renaissance and Baroque times, as the glass was used as a surface for paintings consisting of gold and silver leaf. Rome became one of the greatest centers for this art form because it was here that many important artists such as Tiepolo would come to use their skills in painting on glass. The Vatican also commissioned various artists to create murals and paintings on glass for their chapels.

In the early 20th century, this art form was revived by a German named Otto Schmirgal, who came into contact with some of the artists from Lambach Abbey in Austria, where glass painting was being used to decorate both churches and homes.

Otto took up a job at a stained-glass company and learned how to create stained glass, but later decided that it wasn’t something he wished to pursue as his life’s work. He then went traveling around Europe until he discovered murrine (glass rods) in Murano. He had always loved the amazing images created on glass and thought he could create his own murrine so that anyone could replicate such art.

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