Cloisonné Glass Company (1897 - c.1910)

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In 1897 the manufacturer Theophil Pfister and the businessman Emil Barthels registered a patent in London under the title ’Improvements in Cloisonné Work’; until then, the cloisonné technique had only been heard of in relation to enamelwork. The text of the patent explains the discovery.

»A method of producing cloisonné work which method consists by forming and securing a raised outline design upon a transparent plate, then filling in the interstices oft he design with suitable materials, broken or powdered, and preferably of different colours, and cementing the same into a solid mass by means of fish glue or silicate of potash or their equivalents, and then securing thereon a transparent cover plate in the case of a transparency or a suitable cement or opaque plate in the case of opaque work, substantially as described.« (Quoted from Sebastian Strobl, 2007, p. 56)

We are dealing therefore with a layer of glass particles ground to different degrees of delicacy that have been sandwiched between two panes of glass, with coloured glass particles divided into areas by brass strips according to the design and bound together with fish glue.

In the years that followed, cloisonné works in glass were produced in London at The Cloisonné Glass Company, which was owned by Pfister and Barthels. The two partners separated only a few years later however, in 1900, and Barthels managed the company by himself thereafter. It is not known how long the firm remained in business, although from 1900 onwards licences were granted in other European countries and also in the United States of America.

Frederic Vidal Puig (1882–1950) became well known in Barcelona. In 1898, he had been sent by his father to London for a year, to learn with Pfister and Barthels. The father had founded the firm Casa F. Vidal, which specialized in interior decoration, so it was not just windows that were produced using this technique, but also lamps, screens, doors, furniture and all kinds of everyday objects with cloisonné inlays. It is presumed that the cloisonné work found in and around Barcelona comes from this workshop, which flourished for only a brief period of five years (1899–1904). The Bertrand i Serra Collection in the Museu National d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona probably houses several examples of objects manufactured using this technique, but a systematic review has yet to be undertaken.

Sebastian Strobl, Painting with Beads – The work of the London Cloisonné Glass Company, in: Techniques du vitrail au XIXe siècle (I. Lecocq, ed.), pp. 55-68, Institut du Patrimoine Wallon = Les Dossiers de L’IPW 3 (2007), p. 55.

Jordi Bonet, Conservation-restoration of cloisonné windows: A case study, in: Journal of Cultural Heritage 9 (2008) e69-e72

Vila Grau J., Le vitrail cloisonné, Technique et science. Les arts du verre, actes du colloque de Namur, 20-21 Octobre 1989, Namur 1989, p. 75-81.