Inventory no.: 1148

Reverse Painted Glass Mirror, Chinese, China


Rare Reverse Painting on Mirrored Glass of Jesus on the Cross


circa 1760

size: 19cm x 25cm or with frame: 26cm x 33cm

This small reverse painting on mirrored glass shows Jesus on the Cross. The mirrored background enhances the ‘halo’ effect around Christ.

The body of the image is finely and naturalistically rendered with close attention paid to the anatomical features such as the rib cage, the arms, and the abdomen. The head leans slightly to the figure’s right. The eyes are closed. Christ’s head is enveloped by a halo. The right foot is crucified over the left. The image’s fingers are tight and knarled from agony. A loin cloth is folded and tied to the figure’s left.

The nails driven through the ivory Christ’s palms and feet are clearly painted and He wears a crown of thorns.

The Cross is surmounted by a white ribbon on which the letters ‘INRI’ are painted. In Latin these stand for

‘Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum’ or ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews (Judeans)’.

The glass is in an old wood, plaster and gilded frame which may be original. It like the painting shows some age-related loss.

Probably the image was copied from a European engraving. Chinese reverse glass paintings of Christian themes are very rare; depictions of Jesus are particularly rare. The majority of reverse glass paintings are of secular themes and were destined for the largely protestant English and American markets. This image was most likely made for a local or visiting Jesuit or Portuguese.

The artist and Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione who lived and worked in the Chinese court between 1715 and 1760 taught the Chinese to paint with oils on glass. Between 1760 and 1770, painted mirrors from Chinese became very popular in Europe.


Piotrovsky, M. et al, Silver: Wonders from the East – Filigree of the Tsars, Lund Humphries/Hermitage Amsterdam, 2006.

Inventory no.: 1148