The size and remarkable subtlety of colouring and detail in this magnificent example of verre églomisé or reverse glass painting makes it almost impossible to appreciate the difficulty and complexity of the technique. The artist worked from the front of the painting backwards, that is to say starting with the velvety bloom and delicate highlights on the petals directly on the reverse surface of the glass, working backwards in stages to build up the shadows and background.
The term verre eglomisé is nowadays generically used for the process of decorating glass or mirror from the back. Strictly speaking it defines the process, certainly known to the Romans, of covering the reverse side of glass with a layer of gold or silver leaf which was finely engraved and painted with a layer of colour that showed through the engraving when the glass was viewed from the front. The name verre églomisé however only dates from 1825 when it was derived by the French archaeologist Carrand from the name of Jean-Baptiste Glomy (d.1786), a Parisian framer who had popularised the use of the technique for decorating frames.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries in England, France and America, panels of verre églomisé, generally of gold leaf engraved with geometrical patterns with a black background, were employed in the friezes of mantelpieces, on cabinets and for the tops of small tables. In the late 18th century an artist by the name of Zeuner combined 'frames' of engraved gold or silver leaf with a black background with naturalistic landscapes and seascapes painted in ordinary oil paints. This technique of what should perhaps properly be referred to as 'reverse glass painting' became popular in France during the period of Louis XVIII (1815-1824) and Charles X (1824-1830), with published designs sometimes suggesting it as an alternative to 'marquetry' of inlaid marble or even porcelain. Indeed, the lushness and fullness of the flower painting of this table top echoes that popular in decorative ceramic wares of 1820s in both France and England.