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art glass

Glass art is such an ancient art-form that as of date, its origin is unknown. One theory suggests that stained glass art probably developed from jewelry-making techniques or from mosaic work. The reason why glass was a popular medium in mosaic and jewelry may lie in the unique chemical properties of this material which is essentially a product of a chemical reaction that occurs when sand is subjected to fire. Glass also tends to reflect light, even though light may pass through it as well. This gives glass its shiny jewel-like appearance.

In ancient times, artists learned to color glass by using certain minerals like specific oxides and salts. A gold metallic salt could, thereby, be used to make a piece of glass appear crimson in color. Cobalt could render glass blue, while copper could be used to create green or even red tints. Gradually, stained glass techniques became popular in the construction of churches. Church windows were often stained to depict scenes from the bible or Christian themes and beliefs. This became the practice around the tenth century and such scenes are still visible on stained glass windows today. However, art glass supplies are so expensive in modern times, because of the popularity of the art form and the use of chemical staining agents, that most churches rarely commission such works now.

As stained glass gradually evolved through time, it slowly lost its specialty and after the Renaissance period, this once cherished art-form was even used in residences. And the presence of art glass was no longer restricted to windows since the birth of fused art glass. Fused art glass was another common product that became available as glass is easy to fuse and only requires heating in a kiln oven to reach melting point.

It was not unusual to see an art glass clock or art glass lamps in homes. Such objects are also available today for the art-glass aficionado. Vintage Italian art glass pieces such as lamps, perfume bottles, paperweights and vases were however still exquisitely designed and made beautiful objets d’art. These are still popular with collectors and a well-crafted piece can demand a huge price in a collectors’ market.

Art glass in India is a relatively recent development in the art scene. Though there is evidence to suggest that stained glass pieces were used in ancient Indian jewelry, the product did not gain popularity in the area of windows till much later.

Stained glass art in India is believed to have been developed in Gujarat sometime during the eighteenth century. The style of art was probably introduced into Indian society by Chinese merchants. Gold embellishments are common features of Indian art glass. Precious and semi-precious stones were also used in that era to decorate the art works. Indian art themes depict the Radha-Krishna stories that form an important part of Indian mythology. However, ancient art glass creations from the Victorian period also made their way to India in the form of decorative objects that were brought to the country during the British occupancy.

Author ~ Anjana Vaswani


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