Indelible Images: Joubert’s Patent Enamel Pictures on Glass

By Emily Yates MA, Stained Glass Conservator at Naumburg Cathedral, Germany


The window dedicated to the memory of Augusta Upcher in the Parish Church of All Saints in Upper Sheringham, Norfolk, is the only document-ed example of stained glass, anywhere in the world, incorporating Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté’s photo-mechanical transfer method. Pa-tented in Britain in 1860, Joubert’s ‘burnt-in photographs’ were adver-tised as an inexpensive yet durable alternative to traditionally painted stained glass windows. Despite the involvement of two prominent London firms and considerable excitement amongst members of the artistic elite, the invention did not live up to commercial expectations. This feature explores Joubert’s photo-mechanical process, identifies further surviving examples and sheds light upon why the technique failed to flourish in the production of stained glass in Victorian Britain.


On 20th January 1860, French born artist, engraver, photographer and inventor Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté (1810-1884) successfully secured a British patent for a photo-mechanical process through which a positive image could be transferred directly onto glass or ceramic and rendered permanent when fired [1]. Although the particulars of the process remained undisclosed for more than a year after it was patented, the possible applications of Joubert’s photo-enamels excited the press and several leading art journals and publications. After specimens of the invention were presented to a regional newspaper office in July 1860, a short article was printed in which the technology was highly praised:

The specimens we have seen are of various colours and subjects – portraits, landscapes and flowers-and are remarkable for their sharpness and brilliancy, the most minute detail of the photograph being reproduced with extraordinary fidelity; and, what is of still more value, the picture is indelible. The invention is applicable to a variety of practical and ornamental purposes; and, from the extreme moderation of the expense, is likely to develop itself into a very important branch of commerce [2].

The middle of the nineteenth century saw extraordinary industrial growth and productivity. Falling prices and new methods of working stimulated the production of glass in unprecedented quantities and facilitated more commercial applications than ever before. Joubert’s invention coincided with the cultivation of a new glass culture [4]. When the details of his technique were eventually revealed to the Society of Arts in 1861, Joubert emphasised how his photo-enamels could be conveniently applied to the manufacture of pictorial decoration for buildings, primarily as a substitute for stained glass windows [3].

Through collaboration with leading London firms in the midst of a revived and rejuvenated public interest in decorative stained glass, Joubert endeavoured to refine his invention so that it might establish a place in the glass painter’s repertoire. With enthusiastic endorsements in The Builder, amongst a number of other influential journals, a significant transformation of the stained glass industry seemed to be a distinct possibility. Nevertheless, only a single window incorporating Joubert’s patented process has hitherto been acknowledged. The extreme rarity of surviving examples is indicative that the process did not achieve the commercial success that the inventor had hoped. Through the replication of the method and the identification and analysis of further examples, it is here investigated why the technique failed to flourish in the production of stained glass in Victorian Britain.

F. Joubert – Artist, Engraver, Photographer, Inventor

Fig. 1. An engraving of Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté with a colour reproduction of the first surface printed postage stamp of Great Britain. This item is currently held in the Royal Mail Archive and the image was used on a souvenir postcard c.1955.

Fig. 1. An engraving of Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté with a colour reproduction of the first surface printed postage stamp of Great Britain. This item is currently held in the Royal Mail Archive and the image was used on a souvenir postcard c.1955.

Joubert settled in London in the early 1840s [5]. The Parisian soon gained recognition in Britain as both an artist and engraver with the printing firm Thomas De La Rue & Co. By 1847, his engravings had gained him two silver medals from the Society of Arts [6]. He is perhaps most celebrated for his work for De La Rue in the production of engraved dies for stamps, especially for the head of Queen Victoria on the Fourpenny Carmine of 1855 which was the world’s first surface printed postage stamp (fig 1) [7]. Despite being appointed chief engraver in 1856, Joubert continued to devote a great amount of time and dedication to another area of his interest: the rapidly advancing field of photography and photographic printing.

Joubert’s skill in the photographic studio ingratiated him with prominent society. He produced photographs in the popular Carte-de-Visite format from his premises at 36 Porchester Terrace, including a number of collectible portraits of the Royal family which can still be seen today in the Royal Collection. Early on in his career, Joubert’s desire to improve the durability and permanence of photographic prints prompted the development of his own photo-mechanical technique: The Phototype. Although the exact specification was never fully disclosed, the method was seemingly a variant of both the contemporaneous Carbon Print process and the later developed Collotype; both techniques from which a permanent print of deep black tone could be achieved [8]. Despite the circulation of specimens to 3,000 subscribers of The Photographic Journal in 1860, Joubert failed to acquire a patent for this invention. Nonetheless, in the same year, he successfully secured a British patent for an adaptation of the technique with which he was able to produce ‘burnt-in’ enamel pictures on glass [9].

Burnt-in Photographs

New and innovative applications, along with improvements in all aspects of printing, reproduction and permanence, were already being sought when the field of photography was still in its infancy. A burnt- in photograph was not a new concept in 1860. Similar transfer techniques, especially on porcelain, had emerged in the previous decade. By the mid-1850s, mounted portraits had already become popular memorial devices in rapidly expanding rural cemeteries across Europe and in the USA. In seeking ways to improve the durability of these grave adornments, French innovators Bulot and Cattin obtained patents in both France and Britain in 1854 for transferring photographs onto glass or earthenware via a collodion film. The film transfer could be hand coloured with metal oxide paints and fired onto the surface [10].  Although the pair made efforts to popularise the technique in Britain, an article printed in the Photographic Journal for April 1860 revealed that their process had “ended in nothing” [11]. In France however, similar methods were implemented with extraordinary success. The Parisian photographer Pierre Michel Lafon de Camarsac also created photographic enamels through the transferral of a collodion film. The film was lifted from a glass plate onto an enamelled copper plaque coated with a light-sensitive mixture of bitumen of Judea, black resin and turpentine. Camarsac hand coloured the plaques with ceramic paint before firing them in a kiln. In 1867, he was awarded a gold medal for his process at the International Exhibition in Paris, by which point he had produced around 15,000 enamel photographs [12].

Simultaneously in Liverpool, James A. Forrest was experimenting with the firing of ordinary collodion photographs onto glass with a roughened surface. He discovered that the silver compound in his photographic emulsion would produce a permanent yellow image on the glass when fired – identical to the way glass painters achieve a yellow tint in the body of glass through the application of silver stain. Although Forrest successfully obtained permanent photographic transfers on glass in 1857, his yellow images were not directly comparable with the originals, nor were they deemed to be attractive [13].

Joubert’s Method

Shortly after obtaining his patent in 1860, Joubert brought a selection of specimens to the attention of the Royal Court [14]. At that time, Prince Albert presided over the activities of the Society of Arts and it was there, on 22nd May 1861, that the technical aspects of Joubert’s process were eventually made public:

A piece of glass, which may be crown or flatted glass, being selected as free from defect as possible, is firstly well cleaned, and held horizontally while a certain liquid is poured on it, this liquid is composed of a saturated solution of bichromate of ammonia in the proportion of five parts, honey and albumen three parts of each, well mixed together, and thinned with from twenty to thirty parts of distilled water, the whole carefully filtered before using it. The preparation of the solution, and the mixing up with other ingredients, should be conducted in a room from which light is partially excluded or under yellow light, the same as in photographic operating rooms, so that the sensitiveness of the solution may not be diminished or destroyed.
In order to obtain a perfect transfer of the image to be reproduced, the piece of glass coated with the solution, which has been properly dried by means of a gas stove (this will only occupy a few minutes) is placed face downwards on the subject to be copied in an ordinary pressure frame, such as is used for printing photographs. The subject must be a positive picture on glass, or else on paper rendered transparent by waxing or other mode, and an exposure to the light will, in a few seconds, according to the state of the weather, show, on removing the coated glass from the pressure frame, a faintly indicated picture in a negative condition. To bring it out, an enamel colour, in a very finely divided powder, is gently rubbed over with a soft brush until the whole composition or subject appears in a perfect positive form. It is then fixed by alcohol in which a small quantity of acid, either nitric or acetic, has been mixed, being poured over the whole surface and drained off at one corner.
When the alcohol has completely evaporated, which will generally be the case in a very short time, the glass is quietly immersed horizontally, in a large pan of clean water, and left until the chromic solution has dissolved off, and nothing remains besides the enamel colour on the glass; it is then allowed to dry by itself near a heated stove, and when dry is ready to be placed in the kiln for firing [15].

Joubert’s burnt-in photographs were achieved through a variation of the Dusting on Method, a technique which has roots as far back as the end of the 1700s. Like Louis Vauquelin in 1798, Gustav Suckow in 1832 and Garnier and Salmon in 1858, Joubert relied on the hardening properties of a dichromated colloid when exposed to light [16]. Ammonium dichromate, (NH4)2Cr2O7, is an inorganic oxidising agent consisting of chromic acid and ammonium hydroxide, together forming an orange crystalline salt. In a photosensitive emulsion, ammonium dichromate is dissolved in water and combined with starch, gum arabic, gelatine or honey. When exposed to light, the migration of oxygen tans the surface and hardens the emulsion [17].  According to the degree of hardening, exposed areas will retain or repel powdered pigment.

Using the Dusting on Method, two or more colours can be applied and fixed in a single firing. It was this aspect that ensured Joubert’s patent and eventually directed his efforts toward the ornamentation of homes and the manufacture of stained glass windows. According to Joubert, the expense of painted glass prevented the domestic application of the art in all but exceptional circumstances. It was not his objective to compete with the artistic mastery shown by the professional glass painter; instead he endeavoured to provide a high quality alternative to glass painting which was both rapid and inexpensive to execute.

A Glorious Reception

The transcript of Joubert’s lecture was printed two days after it was delivered in the Journal of the Society of Arts on 24th May, 1861. The paper was also printed in full in the Dublin Builder and Photographic Notes in June and in The Photographic Journal in August of the same year. Joubert’s invention received complimentary reviews in The Builder and in numerous local newspapers including The Huddersfield Chronicle, The Royal Cornwall Gazette, The Sheffield Independent and The Sheffield Daily Telegraph. Nonetheless, the most enthusiastic attestation was offered to the readers of the seventh volume of The Art Journal. In response to the innovation, the writer declared: “even as it is, and without the improvements in prospect, it must be regarded as one of the most beautiful and valuable inventions of our time – as superseding at once all the bad art that we see in windows available for decoration” [18].

Joubert’s Agents

Fig. 2. Advertisement for Joubert’s Patent Enamel Pictures on Glass which appeared in issues of The Builder and Photographic Notes between March and September 1861. (The Builder (April 6, 1861): xiii.)

Fig. 2. Advertisement for Joubert’s Patent Enamel Pictures on Glass which appeared in issues of The Builder and Photographic Notes between March and September 1861. (The Builder (April 6, 1861): xiii.)

Joubert’s invention was advertised in 13 issues of The Builder between 16th March and 15th June 1861. The same advert ran for 12 consecutive issues of Photographic Notes between 1st March and 15th September 1861 (fig.2). Featured in this advert are the names of Joubert’s two exclusive London agents: Messrs. Powell & Sons and Messrs. Baillie & Co. In 1861, Powell and Sons of Whitefriars Glassworks were the most prolific makers of stained glass in Britain [19]. Alongside the manufacture of the raw material, the firm ran a successful stained glass operation from 1844. Their output doubled between 1852 and 1872 and their progressive outlook ensured continued success throughout the century [20]. Powell and Sons were technological innovators and their advancements in glass production helped direct the entire stained glass industry [21].  As the pace setters for technological advancement in the field, their willing partnership with Joubert in bringing his much extolled invention to fruition is far from surprising.

The connection with his other agent is a less obvious one. In June 1861, with reference to Joubert’s invention, the architectural publication Building News announced that “several examples, although by no means the best, are to be seen at Mr. Baillie’s stained glass warehouse in Wardour-Street, who will readily show them to all who are interested in this beautiful discovery” [22]. Together with his sons Edward and Thomas, Scotsman Benjamin Baillie established a stained glass firm in London in 1832. Freelance artist and glass painter George Mayer became a partner in 1854. The firm seems to have had an extensive output, indicated by the fact that in 1861 Thomas Baillie was employing twenty men and five boys [23]. Even so, Baillie & Co. are certainly not considered to have been principal makers of stained glass in the Victorian Period [24]. By 1860 there were a number of firms in London alone which would have been more suitably equipped to enter into partnership with Joubert. His involvement with Baillie & Co. only becomes less incidental when consideration is given to the wider interests of George Mayer. A keen amateur photographer, Mayer was a member of The Photographic Society from January 1854 where he no doubt became acquainted with Joubert and his inventions [25].  It is likely that mutual interests between the two prompted their association in developing permanent photographic transfers for use in stained glass windows.

With two firms assisting Joubert in the development and distribution of his newly patented process from the earliest stages, including probably the most influential firm operating in Britain at that time, the realisation of photographic stained glass windows seemed to be fast approaching.

The Upcher Memorial Window

Fig. 3. Window sVII All Saints Parish Church, Upper Sheringham, Norfolk. (© Christopher Parkinson.)

Fig. 3. Window sVII All Saints Parish Church, Upper Sheringham, Norfolk. (© Christopher Parkinson.)

By 1860, memorial or obituary windows were already commonplace in religious buildings. In the production of stained glass where a likeness of the deceased was desired, the transferral of a photograph which could be rendered permanent appeared to be an invention of exceptional promise. Accordingly, it was not long after it was patented that Joubert’s process was applied to this purpose. The Upcher memorial is the only surviving example of a window incorporating Joubert’s method to have been authenticated by stained glass historians. Augusta Upcher (1848–63) was one of eleven children of Henry Ramey Upcher and Caroline Morris. The Upchers were a wealthy family and prominent members of the Norfolk community. After the premature death of Augusta at the age of 15, a memorial window was installed in the parish church of All Saints, Upper Sheringham, in 1864 (fig. 3).

Citing the characteristic pressed quarries, both Nikolaus Pevsner and Birkin Haward identify the work as Powell and Sons in their county gazetteers [26].  Developed by Powell’s in their early years, the patterned and textured quarries were made by stamping, rolling and pressing soft glass into prefabricated moulds. These quarries – shown at The Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition of 1851 – cost less to produce than their hand cut and painted counterparts. Powell’s pressed quarries facilitated the mass production of decorated glass by eliminating the hand-work of traditional methods. Likewise, Joubert’s process was deliberately mechanical. Accordingly, the two approaches were sympathetic toward one another and, one can assume, presented a somewhat obvious combination.

Fig. 4. Detail of a roundel containing a portrait of Augusta Upcher d.1863. Example of Joubert’s photo-enamel process, sVII, All Saints Church, Upper Sheringham, Norfolk.

Fig. 4. Detail of a roundel containing a portrait of Augusta Upcher d.1863. Example of Joubert’s photo-enamel process, sVII, All Saints Church, Upper Sheringham, Norfolk.

In an article entitled The Victorian Memorial Window, Michael Kerney attributes the photographic portrait of Augusta Upcher to Powell’s using Joubert’s photo-enamel method [27].  Although the unconventional roundel closely resembles a photograph, the likeness of Augusta has been transferred to glass from a drawing – the artist’s pencil strokes clearly discernible upon close inspection (fig.4). This is perhaps a clue as to why the method was not more frequently used by the firm. If actual photographs could indeed be transferred with ease, it seems unlikely that an attempt to do so would not have been made in this case. Joubert’s method depended entirely on the transmission of light through the positive image and it is therefore possible that the thickness of the paper supports used for photographic prints hindered the process. It is conceivable that a drawing rendered from the original photograph on parchment or similar lightweight paper could have been a solution to a technical problem.

A Curious Crucifixion Scheme

Fig. 5. Window sIV, St. James Parish Church, Little Clacton, Essex. (© Christopher Parkinson.)

Fig. 5. Window sIV, St. James Parish Church, Little Clacton, Essex. (© Christopher Parkinson.)

The case for the validation of two further examples of Joubert’s photo-enamels at St. James Parish Church, Little Clacton is persuasive. Although it is unsigned, a strikingly unusual window installed in the south wall of the 12th century church in Essex can also be connected with the firm of James Powell and Sons through the presence of pressed quarries. The borders are identical in design to those in the Upcher memorial. Both lancets incorporate scenes from the Crucifixion and a single tracery light contains the head of Christ crowned with thorns. The window is dedicated to a former vicar of the parish, John Lawrence Kirby, who died in 1850. The right-hand lancet contains a reproduction of The Descent from the Cross, a painting by Peter Paul Rubens c.1612. It has been executed using traditional glass painting methods and is therefore visibly incongruous with the rest of the scheme (fig.5). As the window exhibits signs of extensive restoration, this is likely a later replacement.

The two remaining panels demonstrate that an unconventional method of decoration was employed in the creation of this window. A reproduction of an engraving entitled Christ Bearing his Cross by W. Holl appears in the left lancet. The engraving is a copy of Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, a work in oil by Raphael c.1514. Holl’s engraving was published as plate no.18 in vol. 7 of The Art Journal for 1861. A number of Joubert’s engravings were also reproduced in the same volume. Although the exact work could not be identified, it is clear that the depiction of Christ in the tracery is also a facsimile of an engraving. According to Joubert and his reviewers, his invention was able to faithfully transfer any image onto glass, including “engravings, prints, devices and designs” without any loss of detail [28]. Despite damage, the retention of detail in both panels is extraordinary (fig.6). An approximate date for the window between 1850 and 1860 can be reasonably assumed considering the presence of Powell’s pressed quarries and the date given on the memorial plaque, thus coinciding with the development of Joubert’s technique.

Fig. 6. Detail of Panel 1a, window sIV, St. James, Little Clacton. Transfer exhibits extraordinary detail.

Fig. 6. Detail of Panel 1a, window sIV, St. James, Little Clacton. Transfer exhibits extraordinary detail.

A short article in a West Yorkshire newspaper printed on 7th July 1860 provides another possible connection between Joubert and St. James Church. The Huddersfield Chronicle revealed that the inventor had another associate:

We have been favoured by Major Kirby F.S.A (who is at present on a visit to the town) with a view of some specimens of a new and beautiful process in which that gentleman is at present engaged, in connection with the inventor, Mr. F. Joubert [29].

If Major Kirby was related to the Reverend John Lawrence Kirby, vicar of the parish and to whom the window was dedicated, the use of Joubert’s invention becomes less incidental. Although no further evidence of a family connection is forthcoming, the possibility presented by corresponding surnames is worth noting. Unfortunately, no record of the window at Little Clacton was traceable in Powell’s cash books for years between 1850 and 1880. A lack of documentary evidence for both windows suggests that their provision may have been treated differently by the firm. No surviving windows by Baillie and co. incorporating Joubert’s method were found during this study.

Shifting Focus

Recognising Joubert’s achievements, The Art Journal stated “we have made a few observations on glass painting – it is not the object of the invention to enter into competition with glass painters, but it must be that in the end this method of producing pictures on glass will supersede all the common products of what is called glass painting” [30]. Such a strong pronouncement by a publication with which glass painters were likely to have been acquainted raises a question of the motives of Joubert’s agents, especially of Powell and Sons. If a new photographic innovation was indeed on the verge of eradicating all other modes of glass decoration, the most prolific makers of stained glass in the country would have naturally wanted to be in a position of control, both for financial benefit and, conceivably, to be able to direct or suppress it if necessary. Not all reviewers of the invention showed the same level of enthusiasm, however. The architectural and engineering publication Building News made a more conservative estimation: “It will not of course interfere with original paintings on glass. The exercise of the highest branch of the art will no more be eclipsed by it than the art of oil painting is diminished by that of engraving” [31]. Evidently, Building News was more accurate with its prediction as the invention did not live up to the expectations of the inventor nor its enthusiastic reviewers.

As Claudine Loisel and Flavie Vincent-Petit observed in their 2007 study of photographic windows in France, photo-mechanical methods were implemented extensively from the 1860s until the 1920s [32]. The rarity of examples in Britain is indicative of a much smaller market. As the 1860s progressed, it is likely that Joubert’s photographic windows encountered strong competition and, to some extent, opposition, within the stained glass industry. The invention epitomised industrial ingenuity and modern techniques, therefore appealing little to Gothic Revival architects. Simultaneously, Arts and Crafts pioneers Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. were producing new designs in response to the damaging effects of industrialisation. By 1864, Arts and Crafts motifs were gaining popularity in the homes of British aesthetes, demonstrating that even in the domestic setting, where Joubert identified his primary market, demand could only have been short lived.

The influence of Joubert’s photo-enamels on the momentum of the Gothic Revival in Britain or indeed the wider field of stained glass production as a whole, was miniscule. The successful application of the process was seemingly so infrequent that details of the invention may not even have reached the attention of glass painters nationwide. The poor uptake may have explained why Joubert decided to abandon his work with glass in 1866. Ever in search of success as an innovator and prime mover in his field, Joubert turned his attention to the production of enamel miniatures through the transferral of a collodion film, a technique which had not yet been successfully mastered in England [33]. The inventor allowed his patent to lapse the following year and ceased activity in the decoration of stained glass windows in 1867.

Condition Analysis: Insight into Joubert’s Technique

In situ condition analyses were carried out on the examples of Joubert’s technique identified in this study. In both windows, the transfers have additional glass backing plates. This discovery improves our understanding of the manufacturing process. Joubert’s transfers were achieved by placing a sensitised glass plate in direct contact with a transparent positive. Therefore, once lifted away and dusted with glass paint, the image on the plate appeared reversed. This observation is especially important when considering the application of the technique to stained glass. In order for the transferred image to match the original – necessary if the original is a famous work – the decorated side must face the exterior of the window where it would be exposed to the damaging effects of the weather. It is likely that the addition of an outer protective plate was a solution devised by Joubert’s stained glass agents, especially as there is no mention of a second plate in his specification. In fact, the elimination of the need for a protective barrier or coating was an aspect of the invention Joubert emphasised.

Fig. 7. Repainted detail on left eye where original paint had been lost (on reverse side). Likely part of the restoration carried out by G. King and Sons prior to 1984.

Fig. 7. Repainted detail on left eye where original paint had been lost (on reverse side). Likely part of the restoration carried out by G. King and Sons prior to 1984.

Fig. 8. Panel 1a, sIV, St. James Church, Little Clacton. Photographic transfer exhibits severe paint deterioration in the lower half.

Fig. 8. Panel 1a, sIV, St. James Church, Little Clacton. Photographic transfer exhibits severe paint deterioration in the lower half.

All of the transfers exhibit significant and unusual patterns of paint loss, exacerbated by damage and ineffective plating. Extensive retouching of the Upcher roundel suggests that a significant portion of detail had been lost through this phenomenon (fig.7). The deterioration has occurred in progressive stages. Darker areas of paint appear in clusters where blistering has started to develop. Where the process is more advanced, paint has pulverised from the centre of the raised blisters (fig.8). These patterns of deterioration are identical in both windows.

Re-creating Joubert’s Process

Fig. 9. Above: Overexposed plate, paint could not adhere sufficiently to the surface. Below: Correctly exposed plate, powdered paint adhered only to the unexposed areas as Joubert described.

Fig. 9. Above: Overexposed plate, paint could not adhere sufficiently to the surface. Below: Correctly exposed plate, powdered paint adhered only to the unexposed areas as Joubert described.

A replication of the process was attempted as part of this study. Experiments were devised in three sets. The first set paralleled Joubert’s specification as closely as possible to ascertain if a successful photographic transfer could be achieved using only the details revealed to the Society of Arts in May 1861. The second and third sets of experiments were carried out using a combination of Joubert’s specification and other contemporary and modern guides to the Dusting-on technique [34]. Additional texts were consulted in these sets to determine if Joubert omitted any significant detail. The methodological approach replicated the process as it would have been experienced by the stained glass manufacturer and not by Joubert himself. This approach was used to gain insight into the possible constraints and limitations experienced by Joubert’s agents. Accordingly, tests were carried out in a stained glass studio and not in a photographic laboratory.

The experiment immediately revealed a number of disadvantages. A degree of skill and photographic knowledge was necessary when preparing the glass plates and a dedicated work area excluded from light was essential. The exercise also epitomised the restrictions imposed by poor weather and the significance of imperfect exposure conditions on overall success rates. The first set of experiments encountered 100% failures. No additional texts were consulted, nor actions supplemented in this group. In the second and third sets of experiments, the failures encountered were 83% and 33% respectively. These groups included two additional actions: the humidification of the plate during paint application and the introduction of a dichromated albumen basecoat beneath Joubert’s emulsion (third set only). Four successful photo-mechanical transfers were achieved out of a total of sixteen attempts across all groups. Considering all variables, it is likely that the failures were a result of combined influences. Nevertheless, failure rates decreased with each set of tests suggesting that an increase in knowledge and skill significantly reduced detrimental factors.

Fig. 10. Successful photo-mechanical image transfer onto glass using Joubert’s patented process, approx. 5 x 9in. Portrait of the inventor Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté, from an engraving.

Fig. 10. Successful photo-mechanical image transfer onto glass using Joubert’s patented process, approx. 5 x 9in. Portrait of the inventor Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté, from an engraving.

For the purpose of this study, a nineteenth-century pressure frame was obtained. The sensitised plate was placed face downwards onto the original to be copied within the frame. An aperture in the front allowed the penetration of light onto the plate. The pressure frame is a specialist piece of photographic apparatus with which stained glass workshops were unlikely to have been equipped. Additionally, the size of the photo-enamel achieved is determined by the size of the frame. In all sets of experiments, the exposure of the plate was the most difficult element to control. A number of variables impact significantly on the success of a daylight exposure including the opacity of the original image, the light availability, humidity and exposure time. Joubert suggested that the length of exposure necessary was only “a few seconds” although he did acknowledge this may change “according to the state of the weather” [35].  In cloudy or changeable weather conditions, obtaining an optimal exposure requires photographic knowledge and close attention. Almost all of the failures encountered in these tests were due to unsatisfactory exposures (see fig. 9). It is important to note that all attempts to transfer actual photographic prints made translucent through waxing, both historic and modern, were unsuccessful. The thickness of the print prevented adequate light transmission in all cases. The Dusting-on Method is notoriously ineffective in reproducing shadows and half tones [36]. The greater the contrast and transparency of the original image, the greater the chances of success. Therefore, in the final set of experiments, only monochrome transparencies without half-tones were used. As anticipated, the success rate increased significantly in this group (fig. 10). It is possible that Powell and Sons experienced similar problems when creating the Upcher memorial window and devised a solution through the transferral of a drawing.

Fig. 11. Two colour photo-enamel achieved using Joubert’s technique.Fig. 11. Two colour photo-enamel achieved using Joubert’s technique.

Fig. 11. Two colour photo-enamel achieved using Joubert’s technique.

Joubert claimed that it was the possibility of applying two or more colours to a single plate that set his invention apart from all other contemporary photo-mechanical transfer methods. It was his achievement of polychromatic images which made his photo-enamels seem to be a promising alternative to glass painting. This study proved that the introduction of two or more colours was indeed possible. Using a small brush, different colours of paint could be applied where required within a single composition. In this experiment, finely ground red enamel was used in combination with black grisaille to create a two-colour transfer. Although this was successfully achieved, it simultaneously demonstrated that the fixing and washing process does not remove all traces of emulsion from the plate. It also highlights the unsuitability of translucent enamels in the colouring of Joubert’s glass pictures. The chromate salts colour the photographic emulsion a strong yellow/amber. Even after firing, the yellow colour remained visible on the plate beneath the red enamel layer causing it to appear peach/orange in both transmitted and reflected light (fig. 11). Furthermore, the dissolution of residual photographic emulsion between the paint layer and the glass surface may be instrumental in the accelerated deterioration of the transfers. In traditional glass painting, paint is often mixed with a colloid (usually gum arabic or copaiba balsam) before application, assisting adhesion onto the surface. Crucially, in the Dusting-on Method, powdered paint is applied on top of the colloid, resulting in two separate layers with less of the paint in contact with the glass. In a scientific investigation conducted as part of Loisel and Vincent-Petit’s study, a sample of porcelain which had been decorated through a photo-mechanical process directly comparable with Joubert’s technique was analysed using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). The investigation revealed a significant amount of chromium (Cr) still present within the paint layer, demonstrating conclusively that the washing procedure does not dissolve all of the emulsion from the plate [38]. As Joubert’s emulsion is water soluble, even after firing, his transfers remain vulnerable to attack by moisture. The dissolution of the emulsion further reduces adhesion between the paint layer and the glass contributing to the blistering, lifting and flaking observable in all examples.

The primary objective in the first set of experiments was to ascertain if it is possible to replicate Joubert’s process using only his published specification. As this group of tests yielded 100% failures, the results suggest that it is unlikely. It is conceivable that some steps were intentionally omitted in order to preserve ownership of the technology. Even after the consultation of additional manuals and the introduction of supplementary steps, the second and third sets of experiments illustrate that the entire process was fraught with difficulty. What’s more, frequent failures would undoubtedly have impacted on the speed of execution. Joubert himself admitted that his failure rate was “as much probably as 50 per cent” during the first two years of development [37].  Although Joubert’s agents were likely to have encountered many difficulties, two surviving windows prove that Powell and Sons were indeed able to create photo-mechanical transfers of drawings and engravings for use in stained glass. It is probable, however, that those same difficulties contributed significantly to the infrequency of application and to the eventual abandonment of the method.


Despite the ripples of excitement generated in elite circles by Joubert’s innovation, the entire episode had little impact on the historical trajectory of stained glass making in Britain. Joubert’s process was one of a myriad of photographic innovations conceived in a new industrial world, a culture of commodity and novelty. Like many others, the invention was never fully perfected to a degree of widespread utility. The process was far from simple or rapid and relied upon specialist equipment, the procurement of chemicals and the state of the weather. Joubert’s transfers must be regarded as hybrid objects which require cross-disciplinary consideration. The effective conservation of the paint layer involves the preservation of any traces of photographic emulsion within and/or beneath it. As moisture is a catalyst in the deterioration of both stained glass windows and photographs, controlling the relative humidity of the environment is essential in both cases [39]. Creating stable microclimatic conditions for windows incorporating photo-enamels is the most effective way to slow active deterioration and mitigate further risks.

Although Joubert’s photo-enamel technique was not a new concept in the fertile and dynamic field of early photo-mechanics, it was extraordinary in its application to the manufacture of stained glass windows in Britain. Continued research is key to the preservation of these rare and extraordinary nineteenth century curiosities which are the embodiment of the industrial, scientific and aesthetic attitudes of their time.


Special thanks are due to Sarah Brown and Dr. Ivo Rauch for bringing this understudied topic to my attention and for their continued support. Thanks are also due to Jessica Blizzard for providing translations of French sources and to Chris Parkinson for kindly allowing me to reproduce some of his excellent photographs in this work. It was through conversations with Chris that other possible examples of Joubert’s process came to light.
This article arose from the author’s MA dissertation written at the University of York in 2017. All photographs are by the author unless otherwise indicated.


1. Bennet Woodcroft, Chronological Index of Patents Applied for and Patents Granted For the Year 1860 (London: Great Seal Patent Office, 1861): 12.

2. “New and Permanent Applications of Photography”, leading article, Huddersfield Chronicle, July 7, 1860, 5.

3. F. Joubert. “On a New Method of Producing on Glass, Photographs or Other Pictures, in Enamel Colours”, The Journal of the Society of Arts 9, no. 444 (May 24, 1861): 500.

4. Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008): 23.

5. Edward Chilton, “Joubert de la Ferté, Sir Philip Bennet (1887-1965)” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004) online edition, ed. David Cannadine, January 2011.

6. Glenn H. Morgan, “Fourpenny Carmine Stamp”, 2005.

7. Chilton, “Joubert de la Ferté,” 2011: Morgan, “Fourpenny Carmine Stamp,” 2005.

8. Brian Coe and Mark Haworth-Booth, A Guide to Early Photographic Printing Processes (Lon-don: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983): 18.

9. “Patent Enamel Pictures on Glass,” The Builder 19, (April 6, 1861): 235.

10. Helmut Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography 1850-1880 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1988): 265.

11. John Wyard, “The Production of Photographic Images on Plates of Glass or Porcelain, By The Action of Light, Enabling Them To Be Permanently Fixed By Being Burnt In With Ceramic Col-ours,” The Photographic Journal 6, no.96 (16th April 1860): 200.

12. Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography, 266.

13. Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography, 265.

14. “Fashion and Varieties: The Court,” Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, Feb 10, 1860, 4.

15. Joubert, “On a New Method,” 500.

16. Christopher James, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, Third Edition (Boston: Cengage Learning, 2016): 555.

17. Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, The Chemistry of Light and Photography (New York: Appleton, 1875): 222, 225.

18. “Photographic Pictures on Glass,” The Art Journal Vol. VII (1861): 238.

19. Martin Harrison, Victorian Stained Glass (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1980): 82; Wendy Evans, Catherine Ross and Alex Werner, Whitefriars Glass: James Powell & Sons of London (London: Museum of London, 1995): 32.

20. Jim Cheshire, Stained Glass and The Victorian Gothic Revival (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004): 48.

21. Ibid.

22. “Enamel Pictures on Glass,” Building News 7 (June 28, 1861): 537.

23. Birkin Haward, Nineteenth Century Norfolk Stained Glass: Gazetteer; Directory; An Account of Norfolk Stained Glass Painters (Norwich: Geo Books, 1984): 134.

24. Harrison, Victorian Stained Glass, 75.

25. Keith Hill, “The Diary of George Mayer 1822-1844: An Artist in Glass,” The Journal of Stained Glass, vol. 22 (1998): 61.

26. Haward, Norfolk Stained Glass, 134; Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson, Norfolk I: Norwich and North-East, 2nd ed. (London: Penguin, 1997): 661.

27. Michael Kerney, “The Victorian Memorial Window,” Journal of Stained Glass 31 (2007): 86.

28. Joubert, “On a New Method,” 501.

29. “New and Permanent Applications of Photography,” Huddersfield Chronicle, 5.

30. “Photographic Pictures on Glass,” The Art Journal Vol. VII (1861): 238.

31. “Enamel Pictures on Glass,” Building News 7, 537.

32. Claudine Loisel and Flavie Vincent-Petit, “Le Vitrail Photographique au XIXe Siècle: Techniques et Identification,” in Techniques du Vitrail au XIXe Siècle: Forum Pour La Conservation et La Restauration des Vitraux, Namur, 14-16 Juin 2007, ed. Isobelle Lecocq and Jacques Barlet  (Namur: Institut du Patrimoine Wallon, 2007): 129, 132.

33. Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography, 266; “Photographic Enamels and The Magnesium Light,” The Photographic News, vol.10, no.424 (October 19, 1866): 493.

34. Texts consulted during experimentation were: Wyard, “The Production of Photographic Imag-es,” 198 – 201 and James, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, Third Edition (Boston: Cengage Learning, 2016).

35. Joubert, “On a New Method,” 501.

36. Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography, 262; Vogel, The Chemistry of Light, 230.

37. Joubert, “On a New Method,” 502.

38. Loisel and Vincent-Petit, “Le Vitrail Photographique,”138; The photographic porcelain was made by a studio in Tbilisi, Georgia, using comparable ingredients and based on exactly the same chemical interactions as Joubert’s method.

39. CVMA, Corpus Vitrearum Guidelines for the Conservation and Restoration of Stained Glass (Nuremburg, 2004): 3.1, 3.2.1; Bertrand Lavédrine, Photographs of the Past: Process and Preservation (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2009): 132; Stefan Oidtmann, Johanna Leissner and Hannelore Römich, “Schutzverglasungen,” Restaurierung und Konservierung Historischer Glasmalereien, ed. Arnold Wolff (Mainz, 2000): 208.





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