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Glass Marquetry
Technic description

Emile Gallé, the master glass artist who was first to confer upon his work the status of “objet d’art”, perfected a technique christened marquetry which in his own words “imitates the facing of metals”. This method of decorating, an outgrowth of the earlier technique of cased and etched glass, became the object of a patent delivered on August 12, 1898; (“...I imagined no longer simply superimposing layers of glass, but embedding into the hot, kneadable and vitreous mass, fragments, slices, or small bits of varying forms and thickness. The insertion could happen at different depths depending on the mass which serves as support, or what I call the ‘excipient surface’, becoming in the end penetrating or even perforating.” From now on, the decoration is no longer extracted, by etching, from the underlying layers, but is created by the insertion of bits of colored glass, prepared beforehand, sometimes wheel engraved or acid etched, sometimes lined with metallic leaf or covered with patina. These pieces are then placed with tweezers in the parison which is then marvered, reheated, reshaped, until fully integrated. One major difficulty posed by marquetry is the varying coefficient of expansion of the different parts which can lead to stress and fractures. This ambitious technique, complex and perilous, will paradoxically offer Gallé a freer means of expression. His greatest masterpieces owe their poetic force and truly innovative beauty to marquetry.


At the turn of the XXth century, Sweden’s Betzy Ahlstrom seems to have become the only other artist to adopt Gallé’s technique as her own. As for the brothers Daum, they perfected the related but different technique of “plaquettes”.


Marquetry seems to have left no legacy.

Glass makers



CHARPENTIER Françoise-Thérèse, THIEBAUT Philippe, “Gallé”, Edition R.M.N , Paris, 1985 DUNCAN Alastair, DE BARTHA Georges, “Gallé-Le Verre”, Bibliothèque des Arts, Paris,1985

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