More than 200 years ago, the glass master of fortress Alexander Vershinin created unique two-layered glasses, between the walls of which there were whole pictures, more precisely, small scale models of landscapes made of pebbles, moss, straw, coloured strings and paper. Nobody has yet succeeded in understanding the secret of their manufacture and reproducing similar products.
Nikolsky glass factory in the Penza region was founded in 1764 by the landowner Bakhmetiev on the decree of Catherine II – “to make crystal and glass dishes to the most good masters …”. Examples stated to be imported from European countries, to be studied by local Bakhmetyevsk masters. The same masters were able not only to repeat the European models, but also introduced their unique style into the production of glass products.
To decorate their products, the masters used matte engraving, diamond face processing, painting in gold, silver, paints. Applied and ancient decoration technique – filigree (Venetian thread).
Many talented glaziers grew up in this plant, but Alexander Vershinin was the most outstanding of them all. Many of the works of this master are unique. He was not only as a virtuoso glazier, but also as a chemist, and as an artist.
Vershinin made the services for the royal family, glasses decorated with the theme of the war of 1812, glasses and decanters with grand dukes of arms …
For one of the services, made by Vershinin for the royal table, for 70 people, the Emperor-Tsar “awarded the gold watch to Master Vershinin, expressing his pleasure that in Russia the finishing of crystal was brought to such perfection.”
But most of all this master became famous for his unique glasses, which now are called “Verhninsky”.
We do not know how many of these masterpieces have survived; some of them are in personal collections and only occasionally appear at auctions, while several pieces are kept in museums.
On the walls of this glass a whole landscape is depicted – in the park of the Bakhmetiev manor the gentlemen are walking with the ladies, children are playing nearby, ducks and geese are swimming in the pond, birds full of idylls are sitting on the branches of the trees … It seems to be nothing special, but surprising is that this whole the composition is not painted, but made of straw, thin twigs, moss, paper and is inside the glass. How could this be done and not burn the layout, when the glasses are made at a very high temperature?
Unfortunately, you cannot admire this glass any more. In August 1996, this masterpiece was stolen from the museum and is still not found.
A few more similar glasses with different subjects, depicted on them, are kept in other museum collections.
For a long time, the technology of manufacturing these glasses remained a complete mystery, but later, when studying one such glass with a small chipped edge, it was found that it had double walls, and the composition was placed not in the glass, but between the walls.
And, nevertheless, there are a number of puzzles leaving experts in admiration and perplexity: As the master attached his models to the glass – the glasses are completely transparent, and there are no traces of glue on them. How did he manage to insert one glass in another, so that the picture did not move away – there is practically no gap between the glasses. And, finally, how did he seal the walls of the glasses from above, while leaving the entire composition intact?
In recent years, purely theoretical options have been proposed, how could this be done. You can use ice as glue. First, the picture is applied to a wet surface, which is then frozen. Later, when the glasses are inserted into each other, the ice melts. In order to insert one glass into another, the outer beaker is heated and the inner is cooled. The gap between them increases, and the glasses are carefully inserted one into the other, using as a guide, for example, straws.
And to weld the edges of the glass, you can coat them with phosphorus and burn them like fireworks. A large amount of heat will be generated, which will be sufficient for local welding. And it is possible that the edges are not welded, but simply filled with special mastic. But even if this is so, it is still a very laborious and laborious work, which only a virtuoso can do. But so far no one has tried it.
There is evidence that one Moscow family owns one completely unique – not even a two-layered, but a three-layered glass. Of course, its price is fabulous. That is why information about this glass is extremely scarce and not disclosed. But, maybe, this unique glass still some day will be on show at the museum, and the great Russian master Alexander Vershinin will still surprise us.