A layered-glass technique called “gemmail” (plural: gemmaux). Gemmail uses individual pieces of color glass overlapped and joined together with clear liquid enamel and then fired.
Picasso produced 60 gemmaux masterpieces during his two years of study at the Malherbe Studio in France.
The story of Les Gemmaux begins in 1936. The art form was invented in 1930 by the French painter Jean Crotti, whowas working in Paris after his return from the United States after World War I. The word Le Gemmail (the singular formof Gemmaux) is the contraction of two words: “gemmme,” meaning precious stone and “email,” meaning enamel, themedium used to assemble pieces of glass. Crotti, who in 1950 was awarded the highest French award possible, Chevalierof the Legion of Honor, was a close neighbor of the Malherbe family in a suburb of Paris.
Picasso was introduced to Les Gemmaux in 1954 through his friend Jean Cocteau(above), who took him to the L’Atelier
Malherbe. Cocteau was an influential French writer, poet, ballet scenarist, librettist, volunteer war ambulance driver,screenwriter, director, set designer, and socialite. He knew and interacted with the social, artistic, and creative elites of his day, which in Paris in the 1940s and 1950s, included both Pablo Picasso and the Malherbe-Navarres.
Through the techniques of this new art form, Picasso could envision the great possibilities of artistic expression availableto him to illuminate all his masterpieces. Les Gemmaux are able to show color in a way that cannot be reproduced on canvas or paper, or any other medium of art for that matter. Like a precious stone sparkling in a perfect setting, a Gemmail is essentially a translucent painting, transforming and modulating color by capturing light through the many layers and textures of the glass. Picasso excelled at the difficult and meticulous process involved, layering the variously-sized pieces of fine glass to create and expand depth and intensity of color.
This extraordinary adventure in new art resulted in a series of public exhibitions in respected museums and galleries lasting from 1956 to 1998.
After an exclusive exhibition in March 1957 opened at a prestigious gallery on Faubourg St Honoré in Paris, Les Gemmaux went on to tour prominent museums in the USA, including foremost among them the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corning Glass Museum. At the 1957 retrospective exhibit, among the throngs of socially prominent attendees were the royal family of Monaco, the Queen of England and the royal family, the Belgian royal family, Coco Chanel, Yves St Laurent, Jacques Cartier, Edith Piaf, Pierre Cardin, French Minister of Culture Madame la Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld, Elizabeth Arden, Marlene Dietrich, and Francine Weisweiller, to name just a few. From these exhibitions a number of pieces were sold to members of the social elite of the day, including the Emperor of Japan, Raymond Loewy, Stanley Marcus, Nelson Rockefeller, Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Rothschild family, the Weisweiller family, and several who chose to remain anonymous. In 1964, Raymond Nacenta organized a retrospective exhibition of Picasso’s Gemmaux at the Galerie Charpentier, housed in a mansion built in 1802 at 76 rue du Faubourg St. Honore the exclusive 8th arrondissement of Paris, and famous for contemporary art at that time.
The irregularity of the small, three dimensional glass used in Les Gemmaux obviously produced an impossible surface on
which to place one’s signature.
Accordingly, Picasso creatively resolved this issue. He boldly signed his signature in black
paint on a clear, flat rectangular piece of glass measuring approximately 5cm x 15cm. This flat plank of glass was then laid
over the irregularly shaped smaller colored pieces of glass and heated to a temperature that caused the signature planks to
permanently bond with the work it was resting on. In this way, Picasso was able to apply a distinct signature to each of Les
Please contact me if you have interest in purchasing or buying one or more Gemmeaux Masterpieces by Picasso.