Tuesday, October 7, 2008


A lithophane is an etched or molded artwork in thin very translucent porcelain that can only be seen clearly when back lit with a light source. It is a design or scene in intaglio that appears "en grisaille" tones. Many times historians credit Baron Paul de Bourging with inventing the process "email ombrant" of lithophanes in 1827 in France. Sometimes the carving table was near a window and had a mirror below the table to provide constant light for carving. Lithophanes by the hundreds of thousands were made in the middle of the eighteen hundreds by such firms as Wedgwood in England, Meissen in Dresden, and Belleek in Ireland. They were also in fireplace screens, night lights, tea warmers, and match boxes. Colt probably got the idea from the 1851 Great Exhibition in London or the New York Great Exhibition of 1853 or in a Prussia visit in 1854. Scenic views and portraits were for the public and private rooms of Colt's wife. Inspirational panes were for the windows of Colt's upstairs bedroom. Lithophanes of humorous nature were put in the windows of Colt's billiard room of his new home. One of particular interest was of the Battle of Trafalgar. Others were of Stolzenfels Castle on the Rhine River and a view of Koblenz. Barnard described the lithophanes as "a veritable art gallery." A photograph of Armsmear taken between 1857 and 1861 shows over one hundred lithophanes. A photograph of 1907 shows the lithophanes of Armsmear still in place. Many of Colts surviving lithophanes are currently at the .

Samuel Colt had 111 lithophanes made of his likeness from a photograph for wide distribution in 1855. In this lithophane portrait he is sitting at a small desk holding a "Belt Pistol" in his right hand and has a directional compass in his left hand. One of these he sent to Senator Thomas J. Rusk who responded in a letter of 3 January 1856 when he received it,


* Carney, Margaret, ''Lithophanes'', Schiffer Publishing 2007, ISBN 9780764330193

* Houze, Herbert G., ''Samuel Colt: Arms, Art, and Invention'', Yale University Press 2006, ISBN 0-3001113-3-9

* Jean-Baptiste-Ambroise-Marcellin Jobard, ''Les nouvelles inventions aux expositions universelles'' , volume 2.

* Jean-Baptiste-Ambroise-Marcellin Jobard, ''C'interniediaie des chercheurs et curieux,'' vol. 17, no. 597 .

* Lise Baer et al, ''Along the Royal Road: Berlin and Potsdam'', 1848. Original at Library of Congress.

*''Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations'' , vol. 3. Original at Library of Congress.

* ''Official Catalogue of the New-York Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations'', rev. ed. . Original at Library of Congress.

* Savage, George et al, ''An Illustrated Dictionary of Ceramics'', Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York 1974, ISBN 0-442-27364-9


Additional reference pertaining to Samuel Colts lithophanes are located at the Connecticut Historical Society - Samuel Colt papers, in particular box 7.

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