Noonmark Antiques

What is Smalt?


Smalt is crushed cobalt blue glass used for decorating purposes, usually to highlight or accent a piece. The color is not unlike blueberries in a bowl of oatmeal and milk, quite a lovely periwinkle color. What is unusual is to encounter an entire room covered with smalt. The Warner House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire contains such a room.

The house, originally built by Archibald Macpheadris between 1716-1718 has many delightful and intriguing design elements. When Jonathan Warner married Macpheadris's daughter and the couple moved in, they made some changes and artful additions.The smalt covered parlor bedchamber proved to be one of those changes, probably made between 1760-1814. The Warners most likely entertained guests in the parlor bedchamber which was a completely acceptble custom during the 1700's. Apparently, they aimed to impress. Covering a panelled room with high ceilings with smalt was no easy task. The panels first had to be painted with a mauve colored paint and then, the crushed glass applied. The result was a lustrous shimmery glow in the sunlight and breathtaking sight by firelight and candlelight.

As far as it is known, this is the only smalt covered room in existance today, although there is evidence that other homes during this time period had similar wall treatments.

I highly recommend a visit to the Warner House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The entire house is a treasure and contains important pieces of furniture not to be missed. Photography is permitted.

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