An impressive early 20th Century cameo glass vase of slender form acid cut and etched with deep orange/red roses against a warm yellow field,exhibiting excellent finish and detail, signed Gallé.
Galle Acid Etching
A brief history on Galle’s acid-etching technique which he trialed in the late 19th Century after using the enamelling technique. Acid etching turned out to be a more cost effective and quicker process.
Gallé began experimenting with acid-etching in the mid 1880’s to supplement the time-consuming technique of wheel-engraving. He carefully listed the limitations of the process in his Note to the Jury at the 1889 Exposition:
“Certainly, if acid could have saved me unnecessarily slow work in outlining prominent motifs by hollowing out the background, I would not have hesitated to use it, since in the end what matters in a work of art if the final result. My work, however, involves a material which is no longer in its pure state, but made up of superimposed layers of different density, composition and thickness, the behaviour of which the craftsman cannot predict before he cuts into them. You can therefore understand that the slightest touch by a blind agent (ie. acid) could ruin everything, and that nothing can replace the hand of an artist who knows what he wants.”
Etching was not a technique that would enhance Gallé artistic reputation. One exhibit, a small four-layered vase decorated with pink roses on a black, brown and white ground, was described in the firm’s catalogue solely as ‘cameo’. It was probably an early example of wheel-engraving used in conjunction with etching, the latter’s presence carefully disguised by the engraver in his touching up operation.
Once the choice of colours for a series of vases had been made, batches of each were placed in separate crucibles in a Boetius coke-burning furnace and heated to melting point(1400̊ ~ 1450̊ ). The first colour was the gathered on a pipe and blown onto the marver where it was rolled flat. The second colour was similarly gathered and rolled on top of the first. Each additional colour – seldom more than four – was superimposed in this manor.
The layered mass of glass was then re-heated and blown into a wooden mould. This, fashioned in the cabinet maker’s shop, was made of two hinged sections which were opened wheen the shaped vase had been slowly annealed in the lehr.
The vase was next transferred to a draughtsman decorator who traced the chosen motif – usually floral or a continuous landscape – onto it with an indelible white pencil, carefully indicating which parts were to be retained by etching and which not.
For large editions, especially after 1918, the procedure was standardised. The design, sketched beforehand by a master designer, was transferred onto a transparent was pattern paper which was pierced with tiny holes. The pattern paper was then wrapped around the vase and a white powder sprinkled onto it and rubbed into the holes. When the paper was removed, the outline of the design was visible on the glass surface, providing the decorator with a key by which to apply his acid-resistant paint. The application of the powder, paint and acid, followed by polishing as a final step, took roughly one and a half days for each piece of glass. In his early experiments with the process, Gallé had three designs made up, from which he would, after lengthy examination, retain one and destroy the others.
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Category: Emile Gallé Antique Glass.
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