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Featured Gold Glass from Reflecting Antiquity

Circular gold-glass plaques were made by sandwiching gold foil in figurative or decorative designs between layers of glass. The subject matter of the pieces varied and included biblical and Jewish iconography, mythological figures, and portraits. The leading scholar of gold glass in the 19th century was a Jesuit priest named Raffaele Garruci, whose studies illustrated more than 380 examples and coincided with mounting Venetian interest in the manufacture of historical glass.

  • Artwork
    This two-handled cup was found in Cologne, Germany, in 1866. It is decorated with gold foil that was applied to the outside of the cup and then carefully cut away so that only the figures of cupids playing among flowers remained. Unlike the gold glasses, however, the Disch Cantharus has no cover glass to protect the gold. Instead, the maker constructed a “poor man’s cage cup” from trails of hot glass.
  • Artwork
    This is one of several copies of the Disch Cantharus. It lacks the handles of the original, and its cage consists of seven zigzag trails instead of six. Copies of the Disch Cantharus were made in both Italy and Germany. All of the published examples are shown with handles. The slightly yellowish color of the glass of the Corning reproduction supports the view that it was made on Murano.
  • Artwork
    This is probably a fragment from the base and foot of a large plate, bowl, or vase. It is attributed to Toso Borella (1846–1905), whose principal design sources were probably the monographs on gold glasses published by Raffaele Garrucci in 1858, 1864, and 1876. This example imitates a fourth-century gold glass in the Museo Sacro of the Vatican Library. Toso Borella’s figures, however, do not follow the original closely, and one of the busts in the central medallion has a somewhat “Renaissance” appearance.