Reverse Paintings on GlassBy Mark Chervenka
Handpainted reproductions from China
Reverse paintings on glass that imitate early American and Victorian styles have been reproduced. The paintings are done by hand in China and distributed in the United States by gift and antique reproduction wholesalers. If you deal or collect authentic paintings, you can probably identify these new pieces by technique, paint colors and artistic skill. But for many of us, the easiest way to detect them is by examining the frames they come in and the glass they're painted on.
The largest source of the paintings, an eastern antique reproduction wholesaler, offers 36 different images in two sizes-- 9 x 6 1/4" and 16 x 12". All are mounted in wooden oval frames with a matching oval wood backing board and all come with a distinctive brass hanger (Figs. 1, & 7-10). The wood frames are stained a deep reddish-brown mahogany and have a satin lacquer finish. This style of frame in these specific sizes with these particular hangers should be considered as proofs of recent manufacture.
Another easy test for age is to look carefully at the glass the image is painted on. From about 1800 to about 1903, all sheet glass was made by first blowing a large glass cylinder which was then split and flattened into sheets by hand. Since the entire process of blowing and flattening was done by hand, glass sheets made this way always have the irregularities characteristic of hand work.
That's why genuine old sheet glass has a wavy uneven surface, random bubbles within the glass and often contains unmelted bits of debris or sand. The new sheet glass the reproduced paintings are on is virtually flawless. Why? Because the glass was rolled with precision on modern sheet making machines, not made by hand.
Logically, if a painting is represented as having been made in the middle of the 19th century, the glass it is painted on would have to be of the same time period and show the natural flaws of glass from that period.