Portrait of Woman, China, around 1770
Reverse painting on glass
At the present time, there is no museum in Switzerland or anywhere else, nor any private collection that houses such an important collection, of reverse paintings on glass, in terms of quality, variety and quantity, as the Vitromusée in Romont. The collection of Ruth and Frieder Ryser, which was bequeathed to the Vitrocentre for research purposes, constitutes the majority of the reverse glass paintings on display.
The Fribourg wing of Romont Castle is home to a permanent exhibition of the art of reverse painting, presenting an introduction to all facets of it in a display of 300 selected objects ranging in date from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. In the first space to which they come, a splendid Baroque great hall, visitors will marvel at the glimmering and shimmering plays of light that characterise these paintings, which reach far back into Antiquity, and which over the centuries have been produced by many famous artists.
The second room takes the visitor on an artistic voyage through the various countries in which reverse paintings on glass have been produced, from Europe to India and China. One section here provides an overview of the various techniques employed in reverse painting and the materials used. Examples of works by contemporary artists are displayed in the area that connects the second room to the former Salle des Baillis (the salon of the baillis, the governors of Fribourg). This third room has been restored to reveal its original 16th-century décor, and affords the visitor a glimpse of the refinement of Mannerist art in two armorials in glass that were created for display in a private space and decorated with reverse painting. Here the visitor will find an exclusive selection of artworks in glass from the municipality of Saint-Prex, as well as a display of blown, moulded and pressed glass produced between 1840 and 1910.
In the last room, the visitor will be able to appreciate the different forms adopted and the different functions fulfilled by the art of reverse painting on glass. This is an art form that throughout its long history has fascinated not only the highest church and state authorities and the richest art collectors of the Italian and German Renaissance, but also the middle classes in Southern Germany and Switzerland during the Rococo period, as well as simple farming folk during the 19th century.
Since the end of 2017 several examples of Reverse painting on glass are published online on the database vitrosearch. Further pieces will complete this first choice of artworks in the following years.
Elisa Ambrosio (from 2014)
Yves Jolidon (until 2016)
Jolidon, Y. and Ryser, F. (2006). Reverse painting on glass: an introduction based on examples from Vitromusée Romont. Romont, Switzerland: Vitromusée Romont