The Wallace Collection

Footed Bowl and Cover, Probably Venice, possibly Innsbruck (façon de Venise), c.1560 – c.1590.
Treasure of the Month - January 2012

Footed Bowl and Cover, Probably Venice, possibly Innsbruck (façon de Venise), c.1560 – c.1590.

The form of this elegant glass, embellished with applied scroll handles, a finial and raspberry prunts, suggests monumentality. The diamond-point engraved decoration of stylized foliage and tear-drop motifs is arranged in symmetrical bands. The empty rectangular cartouches on the lower part of the bowl appear never to have contained cold painted decoration, but on some closely comparable examples painted decoration survives, such as a coat of arms.

Diamond-point engraving is one of the decorative techniques associated with glass made in Venice during the so-called ‘golden age’ of Venetian production, which lasted from the second half of the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century. A cold working technique that had been practised by the Romans, diamond-point engraving was in the mid-sixteenth century revived in Venice as a method of decorating vessel glass. Vincenzo d’Angelo, who had been decorating mirrors in this way in Venice since the mid-1530s, was in 1549 granted a ten-year patent to use the technique on blown glass in general. This method of decoration was popular enough by 1562 for Johannes Mathesius, a Bohemian cleric, to observe that ‘nowadays all sorts of festooning and handsome lines are drawn by diamond on the nice and bright Venetian glasses’. There are numerous examples of similar vessel forms with closely comparable decoration.  It is possible that the repertoire of motifs may have been inspired by lace making, another important Venetian industry.

There is evidence for the use of vessels of this form as reliquaries in Venetian churches, while examples containing wine occur in early seventeenth-century still life paintings. If some of these vessels were produced in the Venetian style (façon de Venise) in the Tyrol, they would have been made either in Hall or in the nearby court glasshouse at Innsbruck, established by Archduke Ferdinand II in 1570. This latter employed Venetian glass-makers and operated for a short period each year, until its closure in 1591. The range of glassware embellished with diamond-point engraving in this lively and delightful decorative style testifies to its popularity in the later sixteenth century.  

Gallery Talks:

Monday 9 and Tuesday 31st of January with Suzanne Higgott.

Further Reading:

Dorigato, Attilia Murano Island of Glass, Verona, 2003
Higgott, Suzanne, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Glass and Limoges Painted Enamels, London, 2011