Cameo Glass its origin and its makers ............
History of Cameo Glass & some of the famous makers
Glass has been a medium for artistic expression for many centuries. Known to man for at least 5500 years, it has served him in a great variety of ways as both utilitarian and decorative items.
Cameo glass is among the finest and most skilled products of the glassmaking craft. In the broad definition cameo glass can be defined as any glass in which the surface is cut away to leave a design in relief. This can be in clear or coloured glass of a single layer, or in glass with multiple layers of clear or coloured glass. The cutting away of the unwanted portion of glass can be accomplished by the use of hand cutting tools similar to those used by sculptors in other media, as well as wheel cutting, and hydrofluoric acid. Most cameo glass pieces with evidence for hand sculpturing and made since the late 1800's have had a large portion of the unwanted glass removed by hydrofluoric acid and have been finished using wheel cutting and hand sculpturing.
The major portion of cameo glass produced in the last century has been made utilising hydrofluoric acid for cutting away most of the unwanted glass and then finishing with mechanical cutting and polishing techniques. Cameo glass has been made over a span of a number of centuries. Roman craftsmen made excellent cameo glass in the first century B. C. and for a hundred or more years A. D.. Good quality wheel engraving of glass surfaces was performed in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; however, with but few exceptions, this was intaglio, although a few examples of cameo relief in clear glass from this period do exist.
In about the early eighteenth century the Chinese made opaque glass with carved designs in relief. By the mid 1800's we saw the beginning of cameo glasswork in England. It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that French cameo glass was first made and this in very small quantity until after about 1889. In the late nineteenth century and thereafter-small amounts of cameo glass were made in the English and French styles in other parts of Europe and in the United States. Chinese or Peking cameo glass is known to have been made since the eighteenth century. This glass may be of one or more layers and usually has floral designs, occasionally with birds, fish, or other animals carved into the surface. There are some variations in style, but these pieces form distinct type of cameo glass.
Some of the European cameo work shows very strong oriental influence, as do other forms of art in the western world. Peking cameo does not have clear glass between the opaque layers, as is frequently the case in cameo glass of English and French styles. Wheel cutting and hand sculpturing produced it. Peking Cameo, German, Dutch, Bohemian, and other engravers of glass have produced cameo relief work as early as the seventeenth century. This glass, which has some cameo work also generally, has intaglio work as well. Fine pieces in this category are known to have been made by F. Zach in Germany in the 1850's and by Karl Pfohl in Bohemia in the 1860's. Beginning about 1860-cameo glass of the finest quality was made in England. English cameo pieces made before 1880 were carved mostly with hand sculpturing tools with a minimum use of the engraving wheel.
After 1880 the engraving wheel almost completely replaced the hand tools in the production of cameo glass in England, although some workers continued to use the hand tools. Hydrofluoric acid was also used to remove unwanted glass in some of the English cameo productions, either as a major technique or in combination with the engraving wheel. The difficult, meticulous, delicate, and skilled hand sculpturing techniques produced the most outstanding pieces of English cameo glass. John Northwood was the earliest of the outstanding English cameo workers, completing his first cameo vase in 1860, and his second in 1873. Northwood worked during a three-year period to produce his copy of the famous Portland or Barberirfi vase, which was made about eighteen to nineteen centuries earlier, and which is now in the British Museum. Northwood's last and perhaps finest cameo piece is the Pegasus vase which was started in 1876 and completed in 1882, and which now is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C.. Northwood produced only a few cameo pieces, but he taught the techniques to some very able craftsmen including George Woodall, Thomas Woodall, Frederick Carder, Joshua Hodgett, and others who became internationally known in this field. George Woodall has been credited as being one of the finest carvers ever to work in glass.
The meticulously cut English cameo glass was quite expensive. As cheaper productions utilising acid-cutting techniques became available, and with the appearance of imitation affected by the problems of glass incompatibility, which plagued their Victorian successors. The cased blank was carefully annealed by the vitriarius (the man who worked with the hot glass). Not only were hollow cameo-carved vessels now possible (they were is of good quality with multi-layered and well-cut glass; but much of his work presently available is of simple acid cutting with decorative work, which occasionally leaves much to be desired.
To produce designs in relief in glass, the unwanted glass may be removed utilising hand cutting tools, the engraving wheel, or hydrofluoric acid. Hand sculpturing in the surface of glass using small cutting tools is a delicate, exacting, and slow process requiring considerable skill. The engraving wheel can be used to cut away glass more rapidly than the hand tools and has been used extensively in cameo glass production either as the major method or in combination with hand sculpturing or acid cutting techniques. Hydrofluoric acid erodes glass, and therefore this acid can be used to dissolve or cut away portions of glass exposed to it. Various kinds of wax are resistant to the action of hydrofluoric acid. Cameo relief designs in glass can then be produced by covering portions of glass with wax, and then dipping the glass into hydrofluoric acid, permitting the unprotected areas of glass to be cut away by the acid. The process has been referred to as the acid cutback (ACB) technique. The depth of the acid cutting can be controlled by the strength of the acid and the duration of the exposure of the glass to the acid. Some cameo pieces are made with a single acid cutting, whereas others may have several acid cuttings requiring a different wax pattern on the glass surface for each acid bath. This acid cutting process can produce some intricate and complex designs. For one to produce the planned final result in the cameo piece, layers of required colours of glass must be formed in the proper order and proper thickness in the blank prepared for the engraver. The design must be appropriate for the size and shape of the glass blank, which has been produced by the glass blower. The engraver using hand sculpturing, the engraving wheel, or acid cutting, or combinations of these techniques must cut away the surface of the glass to the varying depths to expose the proper colour and design according to the predetermined plan. Sometimes the designer and engraver may alter the predetermined plan to take advantage of some fault in the glass blank with which they have to work. For example, an unwanted streak of colour or a bubble may be incorporated into the design to appear as though planned. If acid cutting is used, the engraver will usually use wheel cutting to finish the cutting process, and he may then polish the surface of the glass. Occasionally, pieces have further work in the form of decorative enamelling, painting, or gilt. Now and then the pieces may have tops or bases of silver or other metals.
There is a considerable variety in cameo glass. Some varieties are relatively easily produced by cutting back portions of the surface with acid techniques and the relief outlines frequently decorated with painting or enamelling or with gold gilt. As the number of layers of glass increases and as the engraving wheel is used more in the cutting process, the pieces become more complex and more difficult to produce. The greatest skill and time are required to produce pieces by sculpturing with hand tools. There are a number of techniques in glass, which may be found in association with cameo relief work, including: intaglio, padding, cabochon application, marquetry, and pate de Verre.
Techniques other than Cameo: ~
Intaglio is the process of engraving or carving by making cuts in the surface. Intaglio designs are produced by impressions cut into the surface. This is the opposite of cameo in which designs are left in relief after cutting away surrounding glass. Cabochon is defined, as a precious stone, which is cut in convex shape and which, is polished but not faceted. In glass the term cabochon refers to applied bits of glass which have the appearance of jewels and which may or may not have carving in the surface. Padding in glass is a technique in which glass is applied to the surface while the blank is still hot. The applied glass may be left as a mass in the surface, worked into a design, or carved.
In 1897, Galle introduced a technique in glass, which he called "Marqueterie de Verre". This is not cameo. Pressing semi molten glass into the surface of the blank before cooling produces the design. If desired, the glass may then be carved. If the carving produces a design in relief, then this carved portion might be considered as cameo. Pate de Verre (paste of glass) is not cameo but is a type of glass in which powdered glass is moulded and then fused by heating. The surface may be cut in the finishing process and designs in relief produced by this cutting might be considered to be cameo. Pate de Verre was produced in antiquity and the technique was revived in the latter half of the 19th century. In the late 1800's and in the 1900's there were a number of persons who used this technique in at least some of their work, including: Henri Cros, Eugene Rousseau, Emile Galle, the Daum brothers, Albert Dammouse, George Despret, Francois Decorchemont, G. Argy-Rousseau, and Almeric Walter.
English Cameo Glass: ~
Like Venus rising from the waves at Cythera full grown, so did English Cameo glass burst upon the Victorian scene in 1876. Yet, in a mere fifty years the style had peaked, exhausted its exotic, glamorous life span, and disappeared as had its ancient cameo glass progenitor 2000 years before. That reawakened interest in cameo glass which inspired the revival, caused it to flame so furiously and disappear so quickly, continues to excite all who love the great creations of glass.
It was Benjamin Richardson, known as "The Father of the Glass Trade," who blazed the way to the rebirth of cameo glass. With the repeal of the stifling Excise Duty in 1845, the glass industry of England began to emerge from its economic restrictions. The removal of the tax sparked change and innovation and allowed for experimentation and progress. At Stourbridge, where the English glass industry had centred since the 17th century, Thomas Webb and Benjamin Richardson and William Haden Richardson entered into the partnership of Webb & Richardson in 1829 to form the Wordsley Glass Works. In 1836, Thomas left the partnership to found the firm that would become Thomas Webb & Sons. The third Richardson brother, Jonathan, then joined the firm, which became known as W. H., B. & J. Richardson. By 1852 this firm discontinued its existence, and in 1853 it carried only the name of Benjamin Richardson. By 1863 it was known as Hodgetts, Richardson & Son. Benjamin Richardson died in 1887 at the age of 85.
For forty years Benjamin Richardson had been the beacon light that helped to guide the destinies of many great glass craftsmen. His leadership and his inventiveness resulted in the recreation of cameo glass. His willingness to tread new pathways and his stimulating personality inspired the many young craftsmen who worked for him and with him in those creative years.
A great triumph occurred in the last half of the nineteenth century for the glass men and manufacturers of Stourbridge, for new tiny copper wheels and steel gravers made it possible for the glass engravers and sculptors to increase the extensive detail in their work. These infinitely patient and skilful artist-craftsmen were as important-perhaps more so - to the industry - as the visionary manufacturers with their capital resources and great enthusiasm for their own products.
Other European Cameo Glassmakers: ~
Other Cameo Glassmakers of Europe include Rousseau & Leveille, Galle, Daum, Muller, deVez, Mont Joye, and Pantin, Legras, Delatte, Le Verre Francais, D'Argental, Richard and Arsall, Baccarat, Saint Louis, and Val Saint Lambert, D. Christian Meisenthal, Vallerysthal, and Burgun and Schverer, Schneider, Kosta, Reijmyre, and Hadeland, Others.
Rousseau & Leveille: ~
Eugene Rousseau showed great skill in working with glass and, among his other works, produced layered glass and did some engraving in glass surfaces in about 1884 and 1885. Rousseau was respected among the professional art glass workers of his day, although he enjoyed only limited commercial success. Rousseau pieces are rare and unless signed, may be difficult to attribute with reasonable certainty to Rousseau. When Rousseau retired in 1887, Leveille took over his plant and in subsequent years produced a variety of art-glass including a small amount of glass with relief carving in the surface.
Emile Galle was and is the dominant figure in French cameo glass and was perhaps the most outstanding person working in glass in the Art Nouveau period. He was student and teacher, worker and director, craftsman and artist. He demonstrated fine skills as botanist, chemist, author, and businessman in addition to those shown in his work with ceramics, furniture, and glass. A man of considerable energy and drive, he researched his problems well and experimented thoroughly. Galle was an innovator. He developed a number of new techniques in glass production and decoration, and improved on a number of others. He we was signed "Galle" or "GR" for Galle and Reinemer, his wife's family name, and stencilled with the name "Saint-Clement." Exposure to his father's work undoubtedly stimulated Emile's interest along these lines. As a young man, Emile Galle attended schools at Nancy and spent much of his spare time in reading and study. He developed a considerable interest in nature, which was a continued inspiration to him. One of his recreations was a walk in the Lorraine countryside, which afforded opportunity for study of the flora and fauna of the area. Plants and insects native to that area served as subjects for decoration of much of his works in later yeas. In 1865 Emile Galle left Nancy and went to study at the art school in Weimar. He then studied glass making at Meisenthal and ceramic work at Saint-Clement, where at both places he had the advantage of his father's guidance.
In 1870 his studies were interrupted by a period of service in the French army for approximately one year during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1871 his father was showing at the "Arts of France" exhibition in London, and Emile's trip with his father afforded an opportunity to study at the South Kensington Museum and the Botanical Gardens there. Shortly thereafter he spent some time studying in Paris. In 1873 Emile's father built a large house, and Emile built a studio and workshop. As early as 1865 Emile made some designs for his father's pottery decoration at Saint-Clement and continued some work for and with his father until Charles Galle retired in 1874 and turned the business over to Emile. In 1875 Emile married, and he and his wife made their home in a section of his father's large house. Emile's wife inherited a mirror shop, which was sold and was never a part of the Galle glassworks. Galle's earlier work in glass was primarily with clear and transparent glass, which was decorated with enamel. In the 1880's he made some clear glass, which contained coloured fragments. He may well have admired and been influenced by the enamel work of Joseph Brocade and the fine quality work in glass of Eugene Rousseau; however, he developed a style which is clearly his own. Galle exhibited in Paris in 1878 with his "Clair de Lune" glass of pale blue colouring his best-received product. In 1884 he exhibited a variety of decorative glass in Paris. Between 1884 and 1889 was a relatively dormant period for Galle as far as glass output was concerned. This was apparently a time of study, research, and development. In 1889 he presented much new work at the Paris exposition, and this was well received and added considerably to his reputation as a maker of fine glass.
It was at this 1889 Paris exposition that he introduced his multilayered glass with surface cutting. His cameo glass was widely acclaimed, and this technique was soon thereafter to be used by other glass manufacturers. Galle continued to make this type glass throughout the remainder of his life, and it is this type glass for which he is best known. Glass inspired by and having quotations from poetry were named "verriere paralante". Scenic pieces, which were first made in the 1890's, he referred to as "paysages de Verre". Other variations in his glass include the incorporation of metallic foils between layers of glass, application of glass to the surface in the form of cabochons, padding or marquetry, combination of streaks and "clouds" of glass within a layer, and decoration with enamels and gold gilt. Because of the complexity of manufacturer, variations in glass colouring, and perhaps some attempt to avoid duplications, it is most unusual to find identical pieces of cameo produced by Galle. He may well have admired and been influenced by the enamel work of Joseph Brocard and the fine quality work in glass of Eugene Rousseau; however, he developed a style which is clearly his own. Galle exhibited in Paris in 1878 with his "Clair de Lune" glass of pale blue colouring his best-received product. In 1884 he exhibited a variety of decorative glass in Paris.
Between 1884 and 1889 was a relatively dormant period for Galle as far as glass output was concerned. This was apparently a time of study, research, and development. Some engravers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries initialled some of their finest works, and a few glass firms put marks on their wares. Galle, however, was the first to put his name on every piece made by him or produced at his factory. Galle apparently enjoyed having his name signed, and he signed the glass in a variety of ways. Before Galle popularised the signing of glass, it was a rarity to find signatures in glass. After Galle's success, many glassmakers started signing their products. During the late 1890's there was increasing demand for Galle's glass, and in 1900 he had about three hundred employees with outlets for his glass in Nancy, Paris, and several major cities in Europe. At the 1900 International Exhibition in Paris, Galle had an outstanding exhibit with many fine pieces of glass and with a working glass furnace in the centre of the display He was highly acclaimed, and this experience was probably the high point of his career. Galle was honoured as the head of the Ecole de Nancy (School of Nancy). Membership in this "school" consisted of a number of men who had achieved prominence in their particular fields, including: Hesteaux, a potter; the Daum brothers, manufacturers of fine glass; Victor Prouve, a painter and artist in other media; Majorelle, the outstanding furniture maker; and others. Galle continued to produce some glass of masterpiece quality into the final year of his life. In September 1904 at the age of 58, Emile Galle died. The Galle glassworks continued in operation at Nancy until 1914 with Emile Lang as manager and Victor Prouve, Galle long-time friend, as family advisor. Production was interrupted during World War I but was resumed at Epinay after the War, where there was continued production until 1935.
After 1904, the factory lacked the inventive genius of Galle and products were those utilising established techniques, mostly acid cut glass on frosted backgrounds. Between 1904 and 1914 a star often preceded the signature of Galle. During this time, however, there were pieces known to bear the name Galle without the star. The star in the signature was apparently not used in the production after 1914.
The quality of the glass produced by the Galle factory after his death, gradually deteriorated and by the time the factory closed, the reputation of Galle glass suffered considerably. Had production stopped at the GaI16 factory with Emile Galle's death, or had the name Galle been dropped from the product at that time, the reputation of Emile Galle would undoubtedly not have suffered so greatly. This dedicated and talented man has left to those who followed an increased knowledge in the use of glass as an art form.
Daum has been an important name in glass production in France since the late 1800's. In 1875 Jean Daum, father of Auguste (1853 -1909) and Antonin (1864 -1930), acquired a glass factory in Nancy and gave it the name "Verrerie de Nancy". In their early years glass tableware, which was usually decorated, was the major commercial item manufactured by, the Daums. In 1887 Auguste and Antonin assumed direction of the glass factory. The Daums, like Galle, were also undoubtedly influenced by the enamel work of Joseph Brocard and the glass work of Eugene Rousseau, and were strongly influenced by the work of Galle. The Daums, who also exhibited in Paris in 1889, were so inspired with Galle's work and his success at this exhibition that shortly thereafter they changed their line of work in glass to the production of art glass. Throughout the 1890's and into the 1900's the Daums produced cameo glass. They made some unique pieces of merit, but most of their creative works served as models for their industrial production. The Daums demonstrated skill in their wheel engraving. It is their acid-cut work with enamel and gold decoration, however, which has come to be recognised as their more typical style, and which accounts for a large portion of their cameo glass production. Daum proved a versatile manufacturer of art glass and produced a variety of styles in cameo glass, including commercial pieces with repetition of design and form as well as singular pieces of outstanding quality.
The Daums utilised many techniques developed by Galle and others. Nevertheless, they developed some techniques and their own artistic style. They gained the respect of Galle as reflected in some of his writings and as demonstrated by the fact that they were included as members of the Ecole de Nancy (School of Nancy). Daum suffered the pressures of the other art glass manufacturers with the passage of time and the change in the types of glass, which the public demanded. Daum adapted to these changes by producing different types and styles in glass. Auguste Daum died in 1909, with Antonin continuing as head of the factory. About 1920 Paul Daum became director. At this time the glass produced was much simpler in form, and many of the complex techniques of earlier years were not used. Since 1945 Henri and Michel Daum have continued to, produce decorative clear crystal in a modern style. Michel Daum is presently the artistic director of the Cristallerie de Nancy, and his brother Jacques is commercial director. The Daum glassworks is presently producing freely blown crystal of high quality. Daum signatures are found in gold gilt, acid etched, engraved with acid or wheel cutting, enamelled, or in cameo relief. The signature almost always appears with the name "Nancy" and with the cross of Lorraine. Now and then the name "France" appears without the name "Nancy." Modern pieces are stamped and etched with the names "Daum" and "France," and the cross of Lorraine.
Andre Delatte started glass production in Nancy in the 1920's with detail achieved by the Roman cameo carver even though it does not equal the technical excellence achieved by George Woodall in the late 19th and early 20th century. One needs the assistance of a microscope to study the carved details on these ancient pieces and to check the same coefficient of expansion as the other layers in the blank. If the glass blower does not select the proper glass for each layer, the piece may crack with heating and cooling, or stresses in the glass may cause it to crack during the cutting process.
The Muller brothers worked for Galle before they established their glassworks at Luneville. Glass production was later continued at Croismare, only a short distance from Luneville. The central office remained at Luneville. Most of the glass produced at Luneville was signed "Muller Fres Luneville," although it was sometimes signed "Muller Fr6res Luneville," "Muller," or "Luneville." At Croismare, glass was signed in the following ways: "Muller Croismare"; "Muller"; "Croismare"; "Muller Croismare Nancy"; or "Croismare Nancy." The explanation for the occasional appearance of the name "Nancy" is uncertain. At Luneville cameo glass was produced almost entirely by acid cutting. A greater variety of styles are evident in the Croismare cameo pieces with both acid and wheel cutting used. In some of the Croismare pieces wheel engraving was the major cutting technique. The exact dates of operation of the Luneville and Croismare glassworks by the Muller brothers are unknown to us, although the most active period of production has been stated to be from about 1905 to 1937.
deVez, Mont Joye, and Pantin: ~
Cameo glass bearing the name "deVez," "Mont Joye," and "Pantin" was produced by the same company. E. S. Monot at La Villette near Paris founded this company in 1850. In 1859, known as "Cristallerie de La Villette" the company was transferred to Pantin, at that time a suburb of Paris and now a part of Paris. After F. Stumpf joined the company in 1868 it became "Monot & Stumpf." In 1873 Monot's son joined the company and the name changed to "Monot, Pere et Fils et Stumpf." About 1894 the company became known as the "Stumpf, Touvier, Violette & Cooye," and the same company produced "Pantin" E. S. Monot at La Villette near Paris founded this company in 1850.
August J. F. Legras started work in glass in 1864 at Saint-Denis near Paris, and continued production until about 1914. He produced a variety of art-glass, much of which can be classified as cameo glass. Some of his glass is of good quality with multi-layered and well-cut glass; but much of his work presently available is of simple acid cutting with decorative work, which occasionally leaves much to be desired. Legras developed styles, which were his own and gained the respect of other glass workers of his time. His being awarded the Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 evidences that he produced some fine glass with originality.
Le Verre Francais: ~
Le Verre Francais cameo glass was produced in Paris and has a rather distinct style. Usually of only two layers and with a single acid cutting, both the thinner outside and thicker inside layers are almost always mottled, streaked or clouded with glass of varying colours. Both layers generally change in colour from top to bottom. Floral designs were chosen as the decorative motifs. The signature is usually with the name "Le Verre Francais" etched or engraved at the top of the base, with the name "Charder" occasionally appearing in cameo relief somewhere in the lower portion of the body of the piece. A small bit of striped or "candy cane" glass was sometimes imbedded into the base of the cameo piece as the identifying mark of the company. In some instances both the engraved or etched signature and the "candy cane" mark appear in the same piece.
D'Argental, Richard and Arsall: ~
Among the other more frequently encountered names in French cameo glass available in the market today are D'Argental, Richard, and Arsall. All pieces encountered by the authors with these names are multilayered, acid-cut cameo with either floral or scenic designs. D'Argental apparently had a preference for dark pieces, particularly those with caramel-coloured backgrounds and outside layer of dark reddish-brown glass. Richard and Arsall generally used much brighter colours. Richard demonstrated a greater degree of variety in both colours and shapes than either D'Argental or Arsall.
Baccarat, Saint Louis, and Val Saint Lambert: ~
Baccarat and Saint Louis of France and Val Saint Lambert of Belgium are all large glass companies and each produced a variety of types of glass. All three produced cameo glass, much of which was in a similar style with a thin layer of transparent coloured glass on a clear glass base with acid cutting. Designs were usually floral and backgrounds generally had geometric or delicate pattern designs cut in relief in the clear glass. They also produced some cameo in layered semi-opaque glass with floral and scenic designs. Wheel cutting is occasionally evident in the surfaces.
D. Christian Meisenthal, Vallerysthal, and Burgun and Schverer: ~
Cameo glass signed D. Christian Meisenthal, Vallerysthal, and Burgun and Schverer is infrequently found in the market today, yet glass with these names o relief. Cameo pieces made by Christian Meisenthal and by Burgun and Schverer were produced at Meisenthal.
Two brothers, Charles and Ernest Schneider founded the Schneider glassworks in 1903 at Epinay-sur-Seine. Ernest was manager and administrator. Charles was art director and supervisor of the art glass department. The Schneider plant moved to Lorris, France, in 1962 and is still in operation there. Charles Schneider was born at Chateau-Thierry in 1881 and moved to Nancy as a small child where he grew up. Charles studied under Emile Galle, worked in the Galle factory for a time, and also worked as a designer for the Daum brothers. The art glass of Schneider either was made by him or was closely supervised by him in the different stages of production. Art glass was produced between 1903 and 1930; crystal wares and lightly coloured glass were made until 1945; and only clear crystal has been produced since 1945. Cameo glass was a relatively minor part of the art glass production of Schneider, with both acid and wheel cutting techniques used. Pieces are signed "Schneider" with or without an outline of a vase by the signature, and with or without the name "France" by the signature.
Kosta, Reijmyre, and Hadeland: ~
The Kosta glassworks in Sweden began cameo glass production in 1897 with Gunnar Gunnarsson Wennerberg as designer. In 1901 Wennerberg left Kosta and the company ceased cameo glass production. A. E. Bowman had assisted Wennerberg at Kosta. When cameo production stopped at Kosta, Bowman moved to the glass factory at Reijmyre where he produced cameo glass designed by Ferdinand Boberg. In 1911 Bowman moved to the Hadeland Glasverk in Norway where he produced in that year over one hundred signed cameo pieces. The cameo glass at Kosta, Reijmyre, and Hadeland was in the style of standard or commercial Galle.
Maurice Marinot entered the glass trade in 1911. His first work was with enamelware and later in glass with deep geometric engraving. He is best known for his work in cased, coloured glass with colourful effects produced by chemical staining. Marinot made some cameo glass; however, he is not well known for this technique. He was very skilled in glasswork and developed an international reputation in this field. Marinot was, for a time, head of the Ecole de Nancy (School of Nancy), a position previously held by Emile Galle. Edward Michel was an engraver of glass who worked for Rousseau and Leveille. He later made a small amount of good quality cameo glass under his own name. Paul Nicholas worked for Galle and later produced cameo glass. Jacques Gruber worked for Daum and later became famous as a maker of stained glass windows. In addition to producers previously mentioned, many other manufacturers of art glass during the 1890's and early 1900's made cameo glass in the French style in limited quantities.
Roman Cameo Glass: ~
As the Hellenistic empires of the third century BC were systematically conquered and often ruthlessly plundered, Republican Rome quickly became the focal point of wealth and patronage of the arts. Even if the accounts of ancient historians such as Pliny and Livy are grossly exaggerated, the quantities of artwork and precious metals brought to Rome must have been staggering.
Pliny, a historian of simple tastes, recalls that luxury items from the continent of Asia were first sent to Italy when Scipio brought more than 1,400 pounds of engraved silverware and 1,500 pounds of gold vases in 189 BC He laments that Rome learned not just to admire foreign opulence but to love it! Such opulence was hardly a desirable attribute of a Republican form of government.
By the first century BC, this massive amount of foreign art and culture was being absorbed and disseminated. Pearls and gems excited interest, but Pliny was less than enthusiastic when a gaming table three feet by four feet, made from two gemstones, as well as dozens of pearl crowns, and a pearl portrait of Pompey himself were flaunted at Pompey's triumph celebrating his Asiatic victories in 61 BC
Descriptions of such wealth leave little doubt that many Roman patrons could easily afford the costliest carved gemstones. Indeed the quality of gem carving, both relief and intaglio (cutting the design into the surface) showed a marked improvement as the Republic faded and the Peace of Augustus heralded a new era for the Roman people. Augustus himself commissioned one of the most famous gem carvers, Dioskourides, to create his seal. In his passion for gem carving, Augustus was not a leader but followed a tradition encouraged by such predecessors as the dictator Sulla and Julius Caesar. Other wealthy Romans acquired a taste for owning personal seals, and craftsmen flocked to Rome seeking patrons: "Every Roman with any pretension to dignity had his own seal ... the concentration of wealth to Rome in this age attracted Greek and Oriental artisans to the capital."
The sophistication of the great gems carved in the cameo tradition is impressive. These huge stone cameos, such as the Gemma Augustea or the Grande Camme de France, imperial commissions as large as dinner plates, exemplify the technical skill and virtuosity that can be seen in Augustan art both on the official and secular level. The crisp quality of stone carving on the famous Ara Pacis, the casting and finishing of vegetal design on the silver vessels from Boscoreale or Hildesheim, and the carving on the Gemma Augustea reflect the popular style.
Each shows the acquired taste for earlier Greek art, a Hellenistic neo-classicism that was executed by the most adept imported craftsmen. Attention to detail was paramount, composition was often purely decorative, and the infusion of historical and political propaganda on several levels was typically Roman. The Scene on the cameo fragment in the Kunsthistorisches Museum seems to be relatively straightforward: the Emperor Augustus seated beside the personification of Rome. The composition of this fragment is similar to that of the Gemma Augustea or the Grande Came de France. Yet, on both of these works, scholars argue that more than one event may be represented and that several levels of interpretation are reasonable (historical, allegorical, or mythological); there is not even general agreement as to the identification of the figures.
Amid the opulence of Augustan Rome, glass technology provided lapidaries with a new medium on which to continue this carved tradition. The discovery of glassblowing enabled glassmakers to case layers of one colour over another." Form and colour were no longer discovered and adapted as the gem carver worked a natural stone, for he knew exactly how the various colour bands in the glass blank would relate to each other and to the general vessel shape. Surprisingly, they were not affected by the problems of glass incompatibility, which plagued their Victorian successors. The cased blank was carefully annealed by the vitriarius (the man who worked with the hot glass). Not only were hollow cameo-carved vessels now possible (they were nearly impossible to create from banded stones), but also the irregularities left to nature in any layered gemstone were entirely eliminated. It would seem logical that the gem cutter ordered a glass vessel of the desired shape and colour sequence, each layer being of a specified thickness, to give the desired and effect.
Just how this casing was accomplished is still unclear. Several techniques may have been used to apply a contrasting glass layer over the gather on a blowpipe. The following ways may have been employed:
i. Dipping, the most obvious, is used today for glasses, which have a single casing. When a gather of blue glass is dipped into a pot of hot opaque white glass, the end or bottom of the gather tends to accumulate more white glass than the sides. The excess is removed by tooling and shearing. This operation requires a great deal of control; otherwise the glassworker is not able to maintain the uniform thickness of the outer layer.
ii. Preformed cups or cylinders are also used today in casing glasses. Their use has been mentioned as an alternate possibility for the formation of the Portland Vase blank, and this technique was certainly known in the 19th century when glassmakers were trying to duplicate the Portland. Making a two-colour blank by this technique is not difficult, but it is hard to envision how a five or a six-layer cameo would be cased this way.
iii. Several authors refer to blowing the form and casing it. The problem with this technique is one of marvering the outer surface without distorting the blown shape. Study of many fragments suggests that the two layers were very well marvered and frequently reheated to insure as much contact along the interface as possible. Such manipulation and repeated marvering would be difficult if the blue gather were very much inflated or shaped to the finished specified form. Thus it would seem easier to wind on the casing glass over a paraison or solid gather.
iv. In an unpublished manuscript on cameo glass, Fahim Kouchakji mentioned the technique of applying trails to the surface of the glass. Although he alludes to this process in his later publication with Gustavus Eisen, he expands on an elaborate moulding process, which is very difficult to reconstruct. Nevertheless, winding on softened trails or possibly strips of glass would be one way to insure an even distribution of one layer over the base glass. Inflation would further reduce the thickness of the final casing. The technique would be related to the core-forming process where glass was gathered over a core by winding on hot glass from the furnace Marvering and reheating would press and flatten the glass against the rigid substructure The popular Venetian tradition of casing glass by picking up flattened strips of glass from the marvering table may have evolved as a variation of this technique.
v. Finally, one must consider a technique which is used by contemporary glassmakers but which may be of considerable antiquity. The process involves blowing a gather of the outer white layer into a large bubble and pushing the blue paraison deeply into it. The casing bubble is then sheared, and the cased blank reheated. It is a difficult process, which often results in uneven fusion along the interface if it is not done correctly.
Some of these explanations are hypothetical; the Roman methods remain unknown. One cannot confidently point to any single technique and confirm that it was used in antiquity. The basic glassblowing tools and processes have changed very little in the past 2,000 years and one should not assume an extraordinarily complex technology for the manufacture of cameo blanks. Future research may help clarify this vexing problem.
Having failed to give a clear answer to the question of forming the glass blank, let us move from the skills of the vitriarius to those of the diatretarii, the cutter or engravers of Roman glass, especially cameo vessels. Stylistically and technically it seems reasonable that the artists and craftsmen who carved natural gemstones into imperial cameos were the same individuals who worked in glass. Stones such as agate, sardonic, and chalcedony were softer than glass, but quartz and obsidian were somewhat harder. The cutting, faceting, grinding, polishing, and carving of stone as hard as or harder than glass was commonly and continuously practised in antiquity using various tools. Throughout history lapidaries were using a variety of tools fed with abrasive powders to cut and polish stories. According to Pliny, there was a wide range of abrasives available to the Roman gem carver. Some 1,500 years before man ever made glass, Egyptian craftsmen were fashioning objects from granite, basalt, diorite, flint, obsidian, or quartz!
By the third century BC the ancient bow drill had been adapted and mounted into a horizontal position to form a simple lathe. The often-cited tombstone of the Hellenistic gem-engraver, Douris of Sardis, depicts the lathe; some writers feel that lathes existed as early as the 3rd millennium B C.
The cutting and engraving of Roman glass was certainly accomplished with a rotary instrument, which powered abrasive-fed wheels; it is probable that the instrument might well have been an all-purpose tool, which could be adapted as a lathe, or engraving wheel as needed. A fist-sized fragment of cameo glass, in the John Woodman Higgins Armory confirms that a cutting wheel was used in the Roman tradition. The piece must have formed the central portion of a large plaque or plate. The design of a central boss with radiating flutes or grooves was being cut into the thick white casing layer when it probably broke. The grooves are wide and deep with rounded and tapering ends characteristic of wheel-cut strokes.
Examination of many cameo vessels and fragments confirms that an engraving wheel was certainly used to fashion some of the more delicate designs. The treatment of the drapery and the lines delineating the fingers of the woman on the Morgan Cup are typical of wheel engraving.
However, engraving wheels were certainly not the only cutting tools used by the Roman cameo-carver. Evidence of the use of hand tools for cutting, scraping, and polishing is clearly evident. Perhaps they were as simple as those used by their 19th-century successors. The tufts of hair on the satyr's head from the skyphos in the exhibition seem to have been finished with hand tools not a wheel. Much of the final polishing and modelling of figures seems to have been accomplished with a non-rotary tool.
In the final analysis, one must marvel at the quality of detail achieved by the Roman cameo carver even though it does not equal the technical excellence that was achieved by George Woodall in the late 19th and early 20th century. One needs the assistance of a microscope to study the carved details on these ancient vessels. For the perennial question of how did they do it without a magnifying glass? The reader is referred to an intriguing suggestion that such craftsmen were myopic and thus had unusually close vision!
The interpretation of the decoration on the Portland Vase continues to occupy scholars after more than three centuries; it is unlikely that any superficial discussion here would add to able that our knowledge. The myth of Peleus and Thetis is the most could widely accepted interpretation.
None of the cameo vessels other than the Portland Vase seems to depict a scene of comparable complexity. Most cameo scenes present some sort of sacrifice or initiation, even those with clearly Egyptian-style motifs such as the Kofler-Truniger bottle or the Corning fragment. The scene on the bottle is an Egyptian sacrifice; the Corning fragment is decorated with two men bearing gifts or offerings. Many same fragments in museum collections are decorated with grape vine or leaf motifs. Many of these same fragments preserve the profile of a cup, or more specifically, the handle or profile of a skyphos, a favourite wine vessel made both in glass and metal. One exception to the Dionysian related decorative cycles is the scene of two chariots with drivers recently advertised on the use of European market. The faces under the handles are said to be youths, not satyrs or Dionysian masks
My sincere thanks to Sam Thompson for giving me an insight into the art of Cameo Glassmaking through his own experienced gained as an apprentice to John Northwood when he commenced with Stevens & Williams.