Saturday 20 April 2024

automatic translation

Saturday 20 April 2024

automatic translation

    Glass paste: a timeless art, between tradition and innovation

    There are artisanal techniques that transcend the centuries and continue to amaze us with their charm, comparable to an art form. This is the case of glass paste: an ancient practice based on the fusion of glassy materials to create products of high aesthetic quality. 

    Let's first try to understand what glass paste is. It is essentially a material with a composition similar to that of glass, from which it differs due to two determining characteristics:

    • the much higher silica content (around 90-95% versus 65-75% for glass);
    • cooking at a lower temperature (around 800°C), which favors only a superficial fusion of the ingredients.

    The origins of glass paste

    The glass paste technique dates back to the dawn of civilization. The first testimonies that have reached us date back to 3rd millennium BC in Mesopotamia, And in Egypt at least from the Middle Kingdom (2055-1790 BC).
    The vitreous pastes were used as decorations to make glass beads, inlay plaques or amulets.

    Vitrum: one word, multiple meanings

    This artisanal practice spread throughout the Mediterranean, evolving through different styles and techniques. 
    In Roman times, the craftsmen did not distinguish the concept of glass from that of glass paste, both materials were in fact described with the generic term "vitrum", albeit accompanied by more specific adjectives.
    On a chronological level, pasta vitrea it certainly preceded glass, which can be considered as a very important technical evolution of the material discussed in this content.


    Glass paste lends itself to a wide range of applications, from everyday objects to works of art and design. Lamps, jewellery, sculptures and vases they are among the artifacts favored by the artisans who work with this material. But there is no shortage of jobs in industrial and architectural fields. The pasta vitrea it is in fact used, for decorative purposes, in the creation of tiles or mosaic tiles for internal and external coverings and flooring.

    The twentieth-century renaissance

    Glass paste returned to being worthily valorised only between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, thanks toArt Nouveau, an artistic movement that spread across Europe and the United States between the two centuries, strongly influencing applied arts and architecture.

    The spearhead of this current in France was the Nancy School, which aimed to create “a sort of union of art industrialists and decorative artists” to promote the decorative arts and make them accessible to a wide audience. 
    The Nancy school therefore began an elegant research inspired by nature and plant forms, through the use of different materials, including iron, steel, wood, glass and glass paste.

    The beginning of the twentieth century was also characterized by a series of autonomous experiments: this is the case of Henry Cros, who created a die-cast glass paste, vitrified by firing. But also of the glassmakers and ceramists François Décorchemont and Georges Despret, of Almaric Walter and Gabriel Argy-Rousseau. These attempts, however, were interrupted by the First World War and the economic crisis of 1929.

    Ma Jacques Daum he managed to relaunch glass paste, together with the glassware of the same name, through collaboration with contemporary artists of the caliber of Salvador Dalí and César. Daum analyzed the ancient recipe and perfected it by adding 30% lead to the silica base. A trick that allowed him to obtain a crystal paste and a process comparable to that of lost wax. 

    And even today glass paste nourishes the creativity of artists and artisans, skilled in combining traditional techniques with more modern approaches.


    Image source: Louvre Museum, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

    You may also be interested in: The history of glass told by painters: between ancient and modern
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