Monday, December 14, 2009

LITHOPHANE….. “Light in stone”




A few months ago I visited my daughter and her husband in New York. One night while there I noticed an interesting piece of artwork on the windowsill. It was the shape of a small tile, perhaps 4”x 6” , and seemed to be made of a very thin porcelain. On the surface was an etching of a young girl but it was barely visible and not too interesting.

“What’s this?” I asked them and they explained that it was a lithophane. “Wait until tomorrow and look at it again with the sunlight behind it”.

Sure enough, the next day I did just that and was amazed to see how the three dimensional image came through. I learned that a lithophane is an etched or molded artwork in thin, very translucent, porcelain and that it can only be seen clearly when back lit with a light source. Lamp shades are particularly well suited to this technique.

I thought I was fairly well versed in the Arts but I had never seen nor heard of anything like this. Evidently there are many historians who feel that the inspiration for the idea of lithophanes came originally from China a thousand years before the Tang dynasty. They produced bowls that were almost as thin as paper with secret decorations in them. However it was the Europeans who perfected lithophanes.

Have any of you out there heard of it or perhaps even own one?

7 Comments:

Blogger Diana said...

I have heard of this Ginnie but have never actually seen one. It's quite fascinating isn't it?
Love Di

4:28 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Nope. Never heard of it till now, but it;s pretty neat.

5:15 AM  
Blogger KGMom said...

Nope--that's a completely new one on me.
It looks a bit like etched metal--but only before the light is turned on.

12:20 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

I remember hearing or seeing the word before, but I have never seen one and didn't know what it was. Learn something new every day!!

2:31 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Quite remarkable. I have never heard of it but that should be no surprise to anyone; art is not my strong interest.

At first I thought, "Is that a kind of a copy of Whistler's Mother. The young woman seemed to me positioned in a similar way.

My grandmother who came from the Potteries in Britain would have loved that. She knew a lot about china and never passed up an opportunity to turn a cup or saucer over and look for the maker's imprint and pass her hand between the cup and a light source to see if she could see her hand through it. If it was a particularly fine piece she would invariable say, "Lovely, must be British." Did I say she was a bit of a British Royalist!

12:04 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

I had not heard of that. Very interesting.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Concerning your comment on my blog about being a thrifty New Englander I know of what you speak although I blame it on parents who survived the Great Depression.

One thing that confuses me is that the government wants to stimulate spending, having us spend in retail is part of it. Then there are the economists who say personal debt is too high and if interest rates go up many people will not be able to pay their mortgage and other ongoing debts. Here we have contradictory advice: spend . . . .save! No wonder economics is confusing. For me, with the exception of a house and a car, "if you do not have the cash you cannot afford it."

1:34 PM  

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