The collections of glassware and Limoges painted enamels acquired by Sir Richard Wallace may at first glance seem unlikely bedfellows. Yet both are ‘arts of fire’ and both are ‘vitreous art’, albeit with rather different aesthetic ends. Moreover, the collections of glassware and painted enamels at the Wallace Collection are broadly speaking contemporaneous in date of manufacture. Whereas all of the painted enamels in the collection were made in Limoges over a relatively short period from the late fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, much of the glassware was made in Venice or elsewhere on the continent in Venetian style (façon de Venise) at around the same time. Glassware from other traditions includes a mid-fourteenth-century Islamic mosque lamp and early seventeenth-century Bohemian enamelled glasses. All the glass and Limoges painted enamels in the Wallace Collection are published together for the first time.
There are approximately sixty glasses and thirty painted enamels in the Wallace Collection. Preparation of this catalogue has included research into their production, function, and the socio-cultural context in which they were made, while comparative examples have been identified and attribution and dating reassessed in the light of recent developments in scientific analysis.
Techniques from the so-called ‘golden age’ of Venetian glass-making are well represented, including vessels in mould-blown, enamelled and gilt and vetro a filigrana glass. Highlights include a calcedonio goblet, a trick-glass tazza and a chalice-shaped goblet enamelled with the Crucifixion. The Islamic glass mosque lamp, an early seventeenth-century Bohemian beaker (Humpen), evocatively enamelled with scenes of merrymaking and intended for welcoming guests, and an exquisite goblet from a magnificent dressing-table service made in Augsburg in the later eighteenth-century provide fascinating glimpses into very different cultures.
The boldly coloured Limoges painted enamels are decorated with a range of religious and secular subjects. Portraits of key figures at the French Court reflect the fashion for these enamels at the highest levels of French society. Frequently taking inspiration from Dürer, Raphael and the Fontainebleau school, they are among the less familiar but most fascinating manifestations of Renaissance material culture.
Besides examining the evolving manufacturing techniques used for both the glassware and the enamels, the book’s introduction tells the story of how Sir Richard Wallace acquired many of these treasures from Alfred-Émilien O’Hara, comte de Nieuwerkerke.
No written comments on either the glass or the enamels in Sir Richard Wallace’s hand are known. Yet, through this book we can share the thrill he must have felt in gathering together this significant collection of glassware and enamels, the former of a fragility and the latter of a vivaciousness of colour that seem to have defied the passage of time.
Author: Suzanne Higgott
Publisher: The Wallace Collection
Publication date: 2011
400 pages, 305 x 245 mm
Illustrations: 440 colour illus.