Celebrating 300 years

Painting in the reverse

Wednesday, 08 March 2017

Painting in the reverse

The acquisition of a painting of the Prince of Wales by the Library and Museum reveals the Chinese art of glass painting

The Library and Museum’s collection is extensive, but just occasionally there is an opportunity to add more objects or books to its world-class displays. One such occasion occurred in November 2016 when Library and Museum staff noticed that a painting of the Prince of Wales (who would become King George IV) was being sold at auction. And unusually, this was a painting on glass.

The Chinese practice of reverse-glass painting dates back to the early 1700s. In Europe the fashion for such pieces became popular in the 1750s but, given their fragile nature, few examples survive.

In this case, the glass artist copied a portrait of the Prince of Wales in masonic regalia with the breast star of the Order of the Garter, seated on the Grand Master’s throne. The Prince was Grand Master of the Moderns Grand Lodge from 1790 to 1813. The glass painting is now on display at the Library and Museum.

The original painting, circa 1802, is by Edmund Scott (1758-1815) and is held in the collections of the Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries – but Scott also drew and engraved a print of the portrait, a copy of which was already held by the Library and Museum.

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