Included in the Barker Collection are sulphides of nineteenth-century personages,
religious subjects, and other contemporary themes. The impetus for creating sulphides
can be traced to the neoclassical revival that seized Europe after the excavations
of the sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the eighteenth century. The word "medallion"
refers to an ancient Greek large coin. The cameos or portraits on the medallions
were a commemoration of a personage.
curiosity about the life and art of the classic past created
romantic interest in antiquarian objects. As a result, many
antiquary shops were soon depleted of their ancient Roman rings,
cameos, and other unearthed objects. To meet this demand, artisans
began creating imitations of classical subjects in gemstone, wax,
mollusk shell, glass paste, and porcelain.
Process of Making Sulphides
The innovative concept of enclosing a porcelain material depicting
classical subjects within glass was originally conceived in Bohemia
during the late eighteenth century. Although these early attempts
were not completely successful, the technique of cameo incrustation
was perfected in France by 1800. In 1819 Apsley Pellatt took out a
patent on "crystalo ceramie," the encasement of a porcelain
medallion in glass, a subject about which he wrote a book in 1821.
Successful experimentation with cameo incrustation led to the
discovery of a silica-clay mixture with a higher melting point that
molten glass and a compatibility with glass in expansion and
sulphide cameo in glass
of Apsley Pellat's books, Curiosities of Glass Making,
written in 1849, illustrates the methods used. After molding, the
cameo was fired and allowed to cool. It was then gradually heated
and held in readiness while the artisan blew a small bubble at the
end of a blowpipe. An opening was cut into the end of the bubble,
the cameo inserted, and the opening in the bubble sealed. The
artisan then collapsed the reheated bubble by extracting air
through the blowpipe with his mouth. The collapsed glass tightly
enveloped the entire cameo.
Another description of making sulphides paperweights lists these steps:
shaping the paperweight
reheating before placing
placing the sulphide with tongs onto the gather, which is on
adding a colored ground by positioning a second gather of colored
glass on the sulphide's and weights lower surface (while still on the pontil)
and cutting the colored glass off with shears.
removing the weight from the
early glass-sheathed sulphides were enclosed in plaques, pendants,
tumblers, goblets, vases, bottles, religious shrines, lusters
(glass pendants decorating a candlestick or a chandelier),
doorknobs, and other glass objects. Later, as companies began to
manufacture paperweights, sulphides were included as a design