The Renaissance of Verre Églomisé

oil gilding
Verre Églomisé is a French term meaning gilded glass. The technique, it is believed, to date back to the pre-Roman era, but its name is derived from the 18th-century French decorator Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711-1786) who was responsible for its revival, notably using this technique to frame his engravings by encircling them with a thin line of gold, subsequently giving his name to the procedure, Églomisé. The gold leaf is applied to the glass using a gelatine based adhesive resulting in a mirror-like, reflective finish in to which designs are then etched.

This 21st-century revival, for me, has become something of a love affair since establishing my bespoke picture framing business some 13 years ago. 

Gilding frames has become a speciality and the desire to develop my gilding technique (with such a ready supply of gilding materials) became irresistible. I experimented at first with Dutch metal leaf on oil size and developed a range of designs on glass panels, vases and dishes. However, I found that using oil size had its limitations, only achieving designs on a 2 dimensional level, with a minimal gilded area of 3mm.

Celtic love birds - 8x8cm oil gilding on glass
the cardoon visitor
Verre Eglomise has allowed me to create designs and draw representational images on gold leaf in the fine detail I craved. Working within the area of 8x8cm, the size of gold leaf naturally attracted me to drawing in miniature and I set about seeking subjects with good texture and contrast which would work well with Verre Eglomise.

The cardoon visitor - 8x8cm, 22.5ct gold leaf on glass

I initially worked from images within my extensive photography collection, producing sketches before adding them to the gold. I then discovered, from a trip to my local garden centre, many inspiring and unusual looking animals such as, exotic fish, reptiles and insects to add to my collection.
sketch of the cardoon visitor
Sketch of the cardoon visitor
  • MANTIS
  • lizard balancing
After many years of working with the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers as webmaster and executive secretary I was inspired to submit three pieces of work, all of which were accepted for the annual exhibition in October 2014. 

in 2015 I submitted five pieces and was awarded with a Gold Bowl Honourable Mention for my Praying Mantis piece, I'm Watching You! - 8x8cm 18ct gold leaf on glass and again in 2016 for balancing act - 22.5ct gold leaf on glass.

gold leaf

gold leaf colours
Gold leaf is produced as books of 25 sheets, either 'loose' or is tissue-backed 'transfer leaf'.  As with all gold, a variety of colours and carats are available to buy, but can be expensive. There are a number of suppliers of gold leaf and gilding materials: Jackson's Art, who are competitively priced, and the more specialist suppliers, Habberley Meadows (Midlands area) and Stuart Stevenson (London area) all of which can be purchased online. A less expensive alternative to gold leaf is Dutch metal leaf, brass (gold) and aluminium (silver). 

The advantage of using metal leaf is that the sheets are bigger than gold leaf, 14x14cm, and can be handled more easily making it ideal for beginners and for experimentation. The greatest disadvantage of gold metal leaf is that it will tarnish over time and the effects are not as fine as with genuine leaf. However, there is fun to be had in experimenting with the colours and patterns it can make!

materials

gold leaf applied to glass
There are two types of gold size, oil and water based. Oil size is a thick, varnish-like medium that is used for painting the design onto the glass using a fine brush. Gold or Dutch metal leaf is then applied to the tacky surface. When the oil size has dried the loose leaf (skewings) are brushed off, to reveal the design.

Water-based size, is a solution of gelatine, water and alcohol. This is applied evenly over the glass, using a small, flat brush. The gold leaf is laid onto the size and left to dry. Depending on the length of drying time allowed, many unusual and exciting textures can be created; solid and highly reflective in areas of greater coverage.