View and zoom into this image on our new collection website
James Tassie, 1735 - 1799. Sculptor and gem engraver About 1781


  • Scottish Art
Tassie and Allan had been art students together at the Foulis Academy in Glasgow in the early 1760s. For a short while in the late 1770s they shared a house in London. Tassie invented a new medium, vitreous glass paste, which he used for making small portrait medallions and for making reproductions of antique gems and cameos. His products were sought by collectors all over the world, with Catherine the Great his most important patron.

Glossary Open


A small relief carved into gemstone, glass, ceramic or shell with different coloured layers. It is carved so that the design is created in one colour against a background of another.

Foulis Academy

An 18th century academy of art and design founded by the Glasgow printers and booksellers Robert and Andrew Foulis, who had assembled a collection of European paintings for teaching purposes. The academy was based at the University of Glasgow's old college buildings in High Street.

Glass paste

Or pate de verre. Ground glass that is fired to give the appearance of semi-precious stones.

Medium/ media

The material from which an artwork is made, e.g. oil paint, bronze, paper. 'Medium' is also used for the liquid element of paint in which a colouring agent is carried. 'Mixed media' is used when an artist combines several different materials in an artwork.


The support given to artists by an individual or organisation, usually through buying or funding their work.

Cameo, Foulis Academy, Glass paste, Medium/ media, Patronage


  • Acc. No. PG 576
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 76.60 x 64.90 cm (framed: 94.80 x 82.50 x 7.00 cm)
  • Credit Bequeathed by William Tassie to the National Gallery of Scotland; transferred to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery 1898