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?