Hampshire Museums Service

Ceramics: Lithophanes

Lithophanes

A lithophane is a low relief picture on thin white porcelain. They are frequently found as plaques. When seen in normal light they appear crude but when light passes through them they are dramatically transformed.

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How were they made?

The modeller worked with a tablet of translucent wax with a light-source behind and an original print or other image to copy. The wax would have been carved away until the right level of tone was achieved in a given place, or left untouched where the deepest shade was needed. A hollow mould would then have been formed around the wax tablet and a master copy made in a more durable material. That master copy could then be used to make a working mould and any number of the finished article by filling with liquid clay.

 

Lithophanes in Hampshire

The Hampshire County Council Museums Service ceramics collection includes around forty lithophanes, which we believe is the largest number of these curiosities in public ownership in the UK.
Our Lithophanes