UNDER GLASS PAINTING(CAMALTI RESİM)painting under glass was popular in Turkey in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At one time such paintings were to be found not only in houses, but in places of worship, coffeehouses, confectioners, butchers and barbers shops. When girls got married their trousseaus were not complete without a sous-verre painting. Yet today they have become a rarity, and the artists who made them have given up as their customers dwindled. Until 15 years ago it was still possible to find sous-verre paintings on sale in Istanbul, particularly in the Antiquarian Book Market. The artists worked in powder paint, water paint, gouache, oils, and in latter times even in acrylic. They worked on the back of the glass, adding the colours in layers, so that once one colour had been covered, retouching or alteration was impossible. The outline, details, signature and date were executed first, unlike an ordinary painting in which these come last. The artist then filled in the surfaces between the lines, and finally the background. Sous-verre painting was done on sheets of 2-3 mm thick glass, which had to be prepared so that the slippery glass would take the paint. Numerous different techniques were employed for this purpose, such as garlic in some European countries, and gum Arabic or other adhesives, diluted and applied with a brush were common. When the picture was completed it was backed with paper, cardboard, wood or paint to protect it. In Turkey painting under glass was mainly the preserve of untrained folk artists, who neglected to back their pictures, with the result that very few have survived. Different subjects were preferred for homes and work places.
Pictures of Sahmeran, a creature half-human and half-serpent who was a symbol of wisdom, were generally hung in houses, in the belief that they brought good fortune and health. The serpent has been a symbol of womanhood, and hence fertility and abundance, in many places around the world. Another picture is the Seven Sleepers (Eshab-i Kehf) motif, a calligraphic composition in the form of a galley, which was believed to bring prosperity. This was commonly hung in shops and offices. At one time coffeehouses were Istanbul's art galleries, and naturally the pictures hung on the walls reflected the political and religious inclinations of the time.