Églomisé Rhinoceros

Allow me to introduce you to "Albert," a name that means  both "bright" and "famous."

"Albert" a six foot-wide verre églomisé rhinoceros in rose gold, by Lynne Rutter. photo by David Papas.

Approximately two meters wide, Albert is a verre églomisé mural,  etched into gold on the reverse side of glass, and based on ( and named for)  the famous rhinoceros woodblock print by Albrecht Dürer. 
This commission came about  when my client asked for a large painting with gold or copper and maybe an animal, or an imaginary creature, and then I said well you know if I did this on the back of glass, it would be way more work and so much more expensive but so totally cool!   So of course they said yes.

the enlarged master drawing in reverse
We chose the image of the rhinceros, which Dürer created having seen only a sketch of an Indian rhino.  The folds of the skin look very much like armor.  Dürer added an extra little spiral horn on the spine of his noble beast, as well as a pattern of spots over the "armor."
My first step in creating this mural was to get to know this creature very well, through a series of drawings at large size, in reverse, as this is how I needed to etch the image.

As red gold, coincidentally known as "Albertina Gold," was being used for this piece, it was essential to work on Starfire glass, which is clear and colorless, as the color of normal glass would muddy the special rosy tone of the gold leaf.

The rhino gilt with rose gold leaf on clear glass
I gilt the rhino's body with a mirror finish,  and then began etching the design through the gold. 

etching the 23 karat rose gold
Once the body of the rhino was complete, the background was gilded with the same red-gold leaf, but with a matte finishin in a broken leaf pattern.  Additional features were then etched into it. The piece was backed with a chocolate brown paint, and then mounted in a float frame of solid walnut built by Christine Lando. 

Photographer David Papas takes Albert's fashion portrait in the studio
To photograph a mirror is pretty difficult!   My photographer David Papas created a white environment to reduce reflections in order to document this piece (see  his amazing shot in the first image above.)

Albert the églomisé rhino reflects on his new surroundings
Installed in his new home Albert is the boss of the entire first floor. At first a ghostly apparition, the details of his face and body are visible from certain angles as you- and he- move about the room.  

I love that moment when the gold locks onto the glass...

Thanks to:  
Michelina and Adrian!
David Papas Photographer
Christine Lando, artist, archival framer
Farber Art Services  expert installation
W&B Gold Leaf


Studio visit: Miriam Ellner, New York

Inside the newly expanded studio of the Queen of Verre Églomisé

A collection of translucent samples in Miriam Ellner's églomisé studio
While in New York last month for Salon,  I got a chance to visit Miriam Ellner's new studio in West Chelsea.  High on the 12th floor of a converted factory,  the studio's giant windows fill the space with city views as well as plenty of natural light.

The light-filled and airy workspace in Miriam Ellner's new studio.   Indirect light fixtures are used over the work tables, which reduce the glare on the glass.
work in progress on the carpeted tables in Miriam Ellner's studio

Verre églomisé refers to gilding and painting on the back of glass.  Everything must be designed from the finishing touches working backwards to the "base." This is exacting work that requires immense skill, technical knowledge,  and at least as much planning as vision.  And it's incredibly beautiful.  

Miriam Ellner's work is astonishing in its level of craft and inventiveness. Through hundreds of commissions and thousands of samples,  she has developed techniques for creating beautiful effects on glass that have earned her an international reputation among the most distinguished design professionals as a master artisan as well as an innovator in the art of verre églomisé.  

Once reserved for mirror frames, table tops, or decorative wall panels, verre églomisé is now being used as an integral part of design rather than as a precious accessory.  Miriam Ellner has pushed that boundary throughout her career, creating translucent doors and windows, covering entire ceilings, or why not the entire room?  Although, I haven't seen her design a floor... yet.

A translucent sample with multiple layers of glass and different colors of gold leaf
Having trained as a decorative painter at the prestigious Institut supérieur de peinture Van der Kelen in Belgium in the late 1980s,  Miriam's abilities as a painter added ingenuity to her work once she took up églomisé as part of her practice. By the mid-90s she was working exclusively with glass as her medium.   In more recent years she has taken this work leaps further, using new techniques, multiple layers of gold, layers of glass laminated together; designing pieces to be translucent, or to be viewed from either side, adding layers of intricacy and indeed endless possibilities.

Each project requires many samples and an immense amount of planning and logistics.  Managing Director Wiley Kidd keeps the atelier running with aplomb.  A small team of skilled artisans help to produce the commissions.  Glass fabricators, gold beaters, and of course the architects, designers, and patrons also play a role in the creation of this work, which is in the end so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Samples from past projects in a wide variety of styles and techniques by Miriam Ellner
Design ideas are fueled by ornament of every period, and patterns from every source imaginable, and a library of books covering an entire wall of the office, "and that's not the half of it," she tells me (and I believe it, being a book hoarder an avid reader myself.)    In addition to the traditional materials used in églomisé - gold and metal leaf and paint - Miriam incorporates mica powders, glass beads, crushed abalone shell, and other unusual materials to create interesting surfaces and effects.   This in turn inspires more creative and contemporary use of the medium itself.

"Ocean Forms"  églomisé artwork by Miriam Ellner  created with numerous colors of gold leaf and layers of color (via)
The dimensional quality of verre églomisé lends itself to artistic exploration.  Miriam Ellner refers to her artwork as "moving paintings:" because of the depth of the glass and layers of gold and color, the surface changes appearance at different angles and in different light, and as you move past.
So I mean 'dimensional' in both the physical and the temporal aspect.

Miriam's design office has a pretty nice view
I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to learn from Miriam during two workshops  through the Society of Gilders years ago.  I humbly tip my most bejeweled tiara to Miriam Ellner-- Meeting this artist - and this medium-  has altered the path of my work as well as inspired my art practice.

More!  go look at
Miriam Ellner featured at Architectural Digest

photos by Lynne Rutter, April 2017,  unless otherwise noted
All designs featured in these images ©Miriam Ellner