Verre églomisé, from the French term meaning glass gilded, is a process where the backside of the glass is gilded with gold or metal leaf. The metal leaf may be applied using oil-based adhesives (goldsize varnish) to achieve a matt finish. The gilding may also be combined with reverse painting on glass.
The technique dates back to the pre-Roman eras, but its name is derived from 18th century French decorator and art-dealer Jean-Baptise Glomy (1711-1786) who is responsible for its repopularisation. One of the key historical periods for this art was in Italy during the 13th to 16th century. Small panels of glass with designs formed by engraved gilding were applied to reliquaries and portable altars. The method used is described by Cennino Cennini. It has also been used throughout Europe since the 15th century appearing in paintings, furniture, drinking glasses and similar vessels and jewelry. This technique also has been adopted in South America and Latin America
For a distressed look (as shown in the above photograph) the strength of the gelatin size is prepared slightly weak to allow the leaf to abrade when rubbed with cotton, revealing the black backup paint when the mirror is viewed from the front. An umber-black tinted shellac speckled pattern may be applied before the glass is gilded for additional effect .
All karats of gold and white gold as well as genuine silver leaf may be used including 6k, 9k, 12k, and palladium being the most popular. All leaf is selected for its high quality and imported from such countries as Italy, France, England, Germany, and Japan.Various glass thicknesses and optional beveled edges are available, with quarter inch thick glass recommended for mirrors.
Since then, Venice has been a major production centre of this complicated art that became more popular from the end of the sixteenth century. The reverse painting on glass technique spread across Europe starting in France & Germany then extending to Central & Eastern Europe, reaching the coasts of Senegal.
The painting is performed on the back of a piece of glass in such way that, once finished, it can be seen from the flip side. Compared to a normal painting, the work is done backwards: what is usually done first on the canvas is done last on the glass. A meticulous order has to be set for the numerous coats of paint. If a detail is forgotten, it cannot be added afterwards. For every single correction, the latest layers have to be removed first.
Found in Assyrian & Phoenician civilisations. The technique reached its maturity in Venice during the second half of the sixteenth century, using a higher end glass quality (thanks to the technical improvements introduced by the Byzatin glassblowers).
The use of gold or silver leaf on glass goes back to early Roman times and was a popular technique used for Looking Glass Mirrors during eighteenth and nineteenth century England .
Verre Églomisé, the practice of reverse gilding and etched painting on glass incorporating gold and silver leaf, is the foundation for the gilded mirrors offered by Charles Douglas in his Seattle gilding studio.
Each precious leaf is applied by hand and adhered to the back of glass with a gelatin and water solution. When dry, the gold or silver leaf is very gently rubbed and sealed in black paint. The effect is mirror-like with the lap lines between each leaf fully apparent.