The Renaissance of Verre Églomisé

oil gilding
Pronounced Verr Egg-loam-eezay, it is a term used to describe the application of gold leaf on glass using a gelatine adhesive (gold size).

Designs can be drawn/scratched into the gold leaf with a fine needle creating minute detail. The drawing side is the reverse side, as the final image is viewed through the glass, the opposite way around. 

The technique of Verre Églomisé is believed to be thousands of years old, but its heyday came in the 18th century when French decorator Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711–1786) was responsible for its revival and consequently his name became synonymous with the decorative procedure, Églomisé.

This 21st-century revival, for me, has become something of a love affair since establishing my bespoke picture framing business some 15 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
sketch of the cardoon visitor
Sketch of the cardoon visitor
I work from my own photographs, producing sketches before adding them to the gold. 

My inspiration predonmiantly comes from the natural world, mainly insects, flowers, reptiles and many more exciting forms which capture my imagination.

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!

Gold Size

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.