This could be the glass pane for example? But I'm looking specifically for the time period when glass was first used in art frames to protect the piece.

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    What has your initial research revealed? What have you checked so far? (please edit into the question) – MCW Jun 13 '18 at 20:56
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    Oil paintings are seldom put behind glass, as the varnish protects the painting. See this link. So you should be looking at water colors or pencil sketches. I suspect that it is very recent, probably mid-1800s. – Peter Diehr Jun 14 '18 at 0:21

The use of glass in glazing to protect paintings would appear to date back to the mid 18th century:

...such was the interest in art from the mid eighteenth century, as expressed through attendance at exhibitions and academies, that the display of vulnerable old master and contemporary drawings, prints, pastels and watercolours became popular, by removing these works from portfolios, mounting and framing and glazing them.

Source: Stephen Hackney, The Evolution of a Conservation Framing Policy at Tate

This became necessary for display paintings due to the increase in air pollution:

Gradual industrialisation from the sixteenth century, accelerating during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, created air pollution throughout all urban areas...Most buildings were well ventilated by modern standards...and exterior pollution readily found its way in. Clothes, furnishings, fabrics, wallpapers and any absorbent decorative material would need regular dusting and washing.

Source: Hackney


Several techniques of art protection with glass predate the use of panes mounted in front of canvas.

The Greeks protected both sides of delicate gold leaf designs with glass:

sample of gold glass

Later, Orthodox Christians in Romania painted durable Christian icons on the reverse of glass panes, which can be hung in frames, protecting the artistic design:

sample glass icon

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    This is a great answer, but I had to mark the answer by lars as the correct answer due to your answer not having any dates or time periods associated with it. It would be great if you added some though just to help those that may stumble upon the question. – Dylan Little Jul 12 '18 at 2:34
  • The answer is very interesting, but I wouldn't say that painting on the reverse of a glass is protecting the work of art with glass. It's just painting on a glass. – Pere Jan 9 '19 at 14:58

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