So Last Century

Gallé: French Cameo Glass

Cameo glass techniques were developed from the ancient methods that produced such wonders as the Portland Vase which dates from about two thousand years ago and which was shown to great acclaim in the British Museum in 1810. Glassmakers began to experiment and although British designers produced beautiful cameo works, in France, one man, Emile Gallé, brought the art arguably to its highest level.

Earlier cameos had but two layers of glass, one of which was hand-carved or and sometimes etched away with acid to give a white design on a coloured background, but Gallé used more than two colours - even up to five - and, instead of the formal designs that had been used before, used his love of the natural world and his skill in drawing to produce works of art that coincided well with the Art Nouveau movement of the time. Here in this Clematis pattern vase, for sale at £650, you can see three colours, white, purple and blue.

Emile Gallé died in 1904 and after then the original signature, which can be seen on the right, was used followed by a star after the name. There are a lot of fakes and copies out there. Some copies are marked Tip and these are not forgeries but purely copies, 'Tip' meaning type. However, to avoid buying actual fakes, it is important to follow the very useful advice that can be found online.

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