What is a Lithophane?
Lithophanes are three-dimensional translucent porcelain plaques which when backlit reveal detailed photographic-like images. First created in Europe in the 1820s, the largest collection of this 19th century art form in the world is now on view at the Blair Museum of Lithophanes.
Lithophane is a term derived from the Greek litho meaning stone and phainen meaning to cause to appear. This Greek derivation has proven confusing to people who might know some basic Greek, but do not know that lithophanes have nothing to do with stone or a stone product, but are made of porcelain.
There are many varities, styles, and uses for lithophanes. This page will only cover those used in fairy lamps, candle lamps, and a few used in food and tea warmers.
The following images are courtesy of private collectors who supported the Fairy Lamp Club through Newsletter articles and the Undocumented Fairy Lamp database. In some cases, images may have been courtesy of the reference "Fairy Lamps - Elegance in Candle Lighting" by Ruf, c. 1996.
Comparison - Unlit and lit.
Three colored scenes, all depicting young children. Top left scene is in natural light. The remaining are backlit.
1888 Stembridge (British Importers) advertisement that refers to them as "Bijou Transparencies."
Many lithophanes are German in origin but many other countries produced them as well. This example is French, it has three scenes, the original pottery base, and is stamped with the makers mark, a sickle with the initials "P.R.". I have researched the maker's mark but there seems to be some disagreement as to what the PR stands for so I won't report what I have found. If anyone has conclusive evidence what the PR stands for, I would like to see it.
I have included photos of the scenes when they are lit and one example of one scene with natural lighting. I have also included a 1888 Stembridge (British Importers) advertisement that refers to them as "Bijou Transparencies."
Two panel lithophane dome known as "Little Miss Muffet" depicting a child scared by a frog in her dish and same child sitting happily in woods watching rabbit.
Lithophane in ball shape on short brass base. The lithophane shade has four scenes; boy with dog, two children painting, child with pitcher and cat, & two children kissing with doll.
Pyramid-size lithophane shade on colored porcelain figurine standard. Shade has three panels - a beggar woman talking to another woman; a woman at a window talking to a man; and a woman talking to a man over a fence.
Food warmer with round four scene lithophane:
Three children and a dog.
Two children, one older girl showing the second younger child something in her hand. Two boys and a dog. Two boys, one eating grapes the second boy cutting the melon.
Handled painted porcelain lithophane lantern with three panels. Color is pink/mauve trimmed in gold. Clear handled godet. Painted version of R-448. 6.5"h x 3.5"w.
Lithophane dome, gold trim, showing same scenes as R-461 on a white porcelain base. The rich chocolate background color on the base is also used for detail on the white foli- age. Base marked "Koenigl Porzellan Manu- faktur". 5.0"h x 5.75"d.
Square varnished metal frame with flared openwork top and cast metal feet. Four 3" x 3.56" lithophane panels imprinted with PPM and a number. Clarke pyramid-size lamp cup and diamond point shade is supported inside on the metal frame. 5.5"h. x 3.5"square.
Fairy-size colored lithophane dome embel- lished with ormolu crown from which is sus- pended jeweled medallions between the pan- els. Dome sits in handled, jeweled ormolu base. (Dimensions unknown).
Cast iron frame supporting a 4.25" x 5.25" porcelain lithophane of a stylishly dressed young woman. (marked P.P.M. 85) Stem- bridge diamond pattern pyramid-size fairy lamp and a sheet metal reflecting cup. 12"h. x 5"w. x 4.375"d.
Colored lithophane dome with four panels depicting childrenatplay. Dome isa ttached to ormolu footed standard. Removable ormolu crown has attached frame to hold candle cup. 8.5"h x 4.5"d.
Painted lithophane fairy-size dome with gold
trim depicting: boy and girl reclining in garden, girl peering from window, girl carrying basket and pole, boy and his dog. Similar dome illustrated in R-444. Dome rests on spun and stamped brass stand. Approximately 7.0"h. overall.
Cylindrical-shaped Lithophane shade with
three colored scenes. The three-legged brass frame, in a bamboo design similar to R-455, has a finger handle with thumb rest and supports a blue flowered cloisonné bowl which supports a stick candle holder. The shade and brass stand are unmarked.
Cylindrical-shaped Lithophane shade with
three colored scenes. The three-legged brass frame has a finger handle with embossed leaf thumb rest and supports a brass circular can- dle holder which will accommodate a stick or squatty candle. The shade and brass stand are unmarked.
Ball-shaped Lithophane shade with four
colored scenes similar to R-462. The Lithophane shade screws into the ornate brass pedestal base. The brass "crown" provides support for a squatty pyramid-size candle or glass candle cup and allows for easy lighting. Unmarked.
Ball-shaped Lithophane shade with four
colored scenes similar to R-462. The Lithophane shade screws into the ornate brass pedestal base. The brass "crown" (shown separately) provides support for a squatty pyramid-size candle or glass candle cup and allows for easy lighting. Unmarked.
Source: Internet Auction
Lithophane Food Warmer - Candle Lamp
specifics and dimensions are unknown.
Two piece porcelain lithophane, signed Ad.T., enameled crenated projections on rim, 1.75"d top air vent surrounded by six .375" holes, resting on a low footed base having six holes.
Scenes depict: typical Tyrolean cottage surrounded by snow capped peaks, Mosque by lake with palm trees and small boat, small dhow on lake near castle and pine trees. 5.75"h x 4"dia.
Lithophane newel post domes multiple air holes in bottom rim, center post tapered to insert in stairway newel post. Dome depicts: lady in window and cavalier outside, lady by well, lady in Dutch door talking to another lady outside in the wind. The second depicts: man with sword talking to boy and girl, girl with three small children and dog kneeling at her feet, girl child with younger boy carrying book with two other children in background. 3"h x 3"dia.
Painted lithophane fairy size dome, gold accents, depicting: boy and girl reclining in garden, girl peering from window, girl carrying basket and pole, boy and his dog. Four small (.125"dia) holes drilled near base. Clear glass lamp cup. 4"h x 4"dia.
Porcelain lamp, embossed grapevine, grapes, and gilt highlights on all sides, holding porcelain candle cup. Removable painted lithophane of religious statue in background, angel and two children in foreground. Font in front below panel. 6.25"h x 4"w x 5.125"l.
Painted Tramp standing on square of cobblestone and carrying two picture frames. Painted lithophane depicts grandmother holding child while making house of cards. Second panel on back side depicts grandfather with Russian style fur hat holding his watch to ear of blonde child. Green cistern water pump in left rear is supporting back lithophane. 9.875"h x 5"w.
One piece porcelain sedan chair with painted lithophanes depicting: lovers in swing, man with flowers peering around corner at female, and man and lady running through woods with drape overhead. 8"h x 7.5"w.
Two piece painted porcelain lithophane with young lady peering through door window of beach cart. Three lithophane panels depict: two ladies talking, cavalier courting lady, and light house. 7"h x 3.5"w x 4.75"l.
One piece lithophane ball shaped dome on porcelain gilt decorated three legged stand. Colored crosses on dome are glass screening which is applied to interior surface. Four scenes depict four different castles. 4.875"h x 4.125"w.
Onion Meissen lithophane lamp depicting: inn with mountains and river, multiple story buildings in village with three men standing by a lake, mountain scene with tree in foreground and two people and horse in the background. 6"h x 6"w.
Painted lithophane ball shape dome on heavily embossed footed metal standard. Scenes are young boy, wearing Pilgrim hat and sword, with his dog holding leash in its mouth, girl by a piano sitting on floor with pet, girl sitting at the piano trying to get the pet to play the piano, and older girl looking out window with potted plants below. 9"h x 4"dia.
Fairy size porcelain painted lithophane dome with pink trim. Scenes depict: angel holding child outside of window, angel appearing to woman in prayer, and angel ascending with child and flowers in her arms.Three arms ending in open balls, forming calyx, to which three frosted leaves are inserted. 7.875"h x 5.375"w.
Painted lithophane dome depicting romantic scenes: boy and girl running through woods with drape overhead, boy and girl on swing, and couple walking through woods. Lamp called "Fanning the Flames of Love". Monkey, dressed in gold buttoned double breasted jacket, working bellows is doing just that. 5.25"h x 8"w.
Painted bisque building with painted lithophane of castle on a hill. 2"h x 2.25"w rear candle opening. Chimney and windows open. 6.25"h x 3.5"w x 4"l.
Porcelain lithophane dome, slightly scalloped top rim, two scenes depicting: two sailing ships and a windmill scene, resting on shoulder in low base impressed with sea shells and coral. 3"h x 2.875"dia.
Porcelain Lithophane Candle Lamp. Cylindrical form with scroll embossing between two curved lithophanes, depicting bust of possibly Queen Alexandra and King Edward, underside base with central opening for candle cup and two vent holes, sides with four additional air vents. 5 1/4" H, 4 1/8" D base.
Fairy-size lithophane shade with three colored scenes with children. Original porcelain base with a ring of air holes beneath shade.
Unusual ball-shaped lithophane with three lithophane panels.
(Probably designed for hanging electric lamp.)
R-452 - missing top cover. Different scenes than those described in R-452.
R-452 - complete with top cover. Interior marked "I.X."
Not a candle lamp, but an extraordinary lithophane none the less.
Some manufacturer's marks on lithophanes:
- The mark "Ad'T" on lithophanes from Rubles, near Melun in France. Probably the mark of Baron A. de Tremblay.
- P.P.M. Prensaich Porzellan Manufactur in Plaue.
- B.P.M. Berlin Porzellan Manufactur.
- K.P.M. Koniglichen Preussische Manufactur.
- Mod Dep P.R. Modèle Déposé, indicating these images have legal French Trademark protection.
About 25 factories in Belgium, France, Denmark, Portugal, England, Italy, and Czechoslovakia produced lithophanes. Some well-known companies involved in lithophane production were the Wedgwood and Worchester Potteries in England, Phoenix Pottery in Pennsylvania, Beleek in Ireland, and Limoge in France.