Joseph Brocard

Philippe-Joseph Brocard (b.1831 (fl. 1867-1890) d. 1896) was an independent French craftsman who began his career as a restorer of antique glass, which gave him the capability of understanding in minute detail the techniques used. He is considered the first to revive the Mamluk enameling techniques. His first Works of Art in enamelled glass were presented at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867 and created quite a stir. Even then his most important pieces were enamelled glass mosque lamps he continued to exhibit at international fairs and won a first prize at the Exposition universelle in Paris in 1878.

The history of glass enamel began in Egypt and Mesopotamia around 1500 BC and continued until Roman times. The technique got lost after about the second century AD to reappear in the middle of the Middle Ages among Muslim countries as well as among the Byzantines. Later in the 15th century, Germanic Europe continued enamelled glassmaking until the 18th century. In the early 19th century Ludwig Lobmeyr -J.&L Lobmeyr started making Islamic style glasswork in Austria. To the last third of the fabulous 19th century, Philippe Joseph Brocard perfected making of enamelled Mosque lamps. It was followed by some artists like Joseph-Philippe Imberton and Emile Gallé.

Enamelled glass mosque lamp, by Philippe Joseph Brocard Paris, France, AD 1867

In late nineteenth-century Europe, there was a great wave of interest in Islamic art, which influenced many aspects of the applied arts and interior decoration. Brocard Mosque lamps were inspired by the enamelled glass mosque lamps made during the twelfth to fourteenth centuries in Mamluk Egypt and Syria. Philippe Joseph Brocard became inspired by the mosque lamps he saw at the Musée de Cluny in Paris, he began to collect them and then to copy them. The particular piece he copied from is based on a specific fourteenth-century example, then owned by Gustave de Rothschild in Paris, and now in the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, although some extra details have been added, such as the winged creatures around the foot.

The vessel is made of pale glass. Before the enamels were applied, the surface was gilded; then the outline of the pattern was painted, and afterwards filled in with coloured enamels. The main decoration consists of embellished Islamic script. It is very likely that most of his lamps were shown at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867.

A collection of Brocard mosque lamps were originally given to The British Museum by the then Keeper of Ceramics and Glass, as a modern copy of an Islamic mosque lamp. Only in recent decades, as The British Museum has built up its collection of nineteenth-century applied arts, and the lamps been displayed as a major example of nineteenth-century historicism.


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