A lithophane (In French: lithophanie) is an etched or moulded artwork in thin very translucent porcelain that can be seen clearly when back-lit with a light source.
A lithophane presents a three-dimensional image which will change characteristics depending on the light source behind it. Flat lithophanes have been used as window panels; the scenes changing throughout the day depending on the amount of sunlight. The varying light-source is what makes lithophanes more interesting to the viewer than two-dimensional pictures.
The word “lithophane” derives from Greek “litho”, which is from “lithos” meaning stone or rock, and “phainein” meaning “to cause to appear”. From this is derived a meaning for lithophane of “light in stone” or to “appear in stone” as the three-dimensional image appears suddenly when lit with a back light source.
European lithophanes were first produced, almost at the same time, in France, Prussia, and England in the later part of the 1820s. Many historians argue that the inspiration for the idea came originally from China nearly a thousand years earlier during the Tang Dynasty.
Bernardaud, one of France’s finest porcelain makers, has an enchanting collection of lithophanes, made in the characteristic translucent porcelain of Limoges. Bernardaud artisans use the same technique of hand-sculpting fine non-glazed porcelain that was first demonstrated by the French artist, Paul de Bourgoing, in 1828. The glow of the candle shines through the raised and carved surface of the votive to contrast light against shadow, revealing its richly detailed design.
At Fleur de Lys, although not exclusive, we are one of very few stockists in Australia – a fact of which we are extremely proud.