German. Second Quarter Of The Nineteenth Century.


Height: 23" (58.4 cm); Width: 8 4/5" (22.5 cm); Depth: 5" (12.7 cm);


The rectangular porcelain plaque cast with a view of Dresden mounted in a gilt- bronze frame surmounted by putti on neo-rococo stand with a two-light adjustable candlestick.

Hand-incised on the back lower left corner:

Private Collection Massachussetts

Developed in Europe in the early nineteenth century, lithophanes are porcelain plaques cast with a design that, when back-lit, gives the appearance of being painted en grisaille. The name lithophane derives from the Greek lithos, meaning “stone,” and phainen, meaning “to cause to appear.” They were created by translating an engraving into a three-dimensional wax model, which was carved against a back-lit glass panel. A plaster mold was then made from the wax model and, finally, a porcelain plaque was created from the plaster mold, with low relief on the front and a smooth, flat back. The gradations of light and shadow depend on the thickness of the porcelain; where it is thinner, the lithophane appears brighter, whereas thick sections are more difficult to penetrate with light, and result in darker areas. The finished product was entirely made of porcelain, but when backlit was “as detailed and beautiful as any mezzotint.”1

Lithophanes were produced mainly in factory settings by skilled craftsmen using precision hand tools. Carving a model in wax could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the size and complexity of the design. The works of art reproduced on lithophanes were derived from paintings and engravings familiar to nineteenth century consumers, including old masters, genre paintings and scenes of idealized family life, portraits, historical figures, scenes from popular literature, religious and biblical stories, hunting and battle scenes, and vedute, or scenes of well-known places in Europe.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.