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popular: the patronage of it by the Pope, and the practice of it by the
artists who worked for him, gave it the highest sanction, and hardly a
building of any architectural importance was erected in Italy during the
sixteenth century that did not bear evidence of the artistic craft of
the stuccatori.

There has just (Autumn, 1889) arrived at the South Kensington Museum a
model of the central hall of the Villa Madama in Rome, thus decorated by
Giulio Romano and Giovanni da Udine, which exemplifies the adaptability
of the process; and in this model Cav. Mariani has employed stucco-duro
for its execution, showing to how high a pitch of finish this material
is capable of being carried. Indeed, it was used by goldsmiths for the
models for their craft, as being less liable to injury than wax, yet
capable of receiving equally delicate treatment; and Benvenuto Cellini
modelled the celebrated "button," with "that magnificent big diamond" in
the middle, for the cope of Pope Clement, with all its intricate detail,
in this material. How minute this work of some six inches diameter was
may be inferred from Cellini's own description of it. Above the diamond,
in the centre of the piece, was shown God the Father seated, in the act
of giving the benediction; below were three children, who, with their
arms upraised, were supporting the jewel. One of them, in the middle,
was in full relief, the other two in half-relief. "All round I set a
crowd of cherubs in divers attitudes. A mantle undulated to the wind
around the figure of the Father, from the folds of which cherubs peeped
out; and there were many other ornaments besides, which," adds he, and
for once we may believe him, "made a very beautiful effect." At the same
time, figures larger than life, indeed colossal figures, were executed
in it, and in our own country the Italian artists brought over by our
Henry VIII. worked in that style for his vanished palace of Nonsuch.
Gradually, stucco-duro fell into disuse, and coarse pargetry and
modelled plaster ceilings became in later years its sole and degenerate
descendants.

Gesso is really a painter's art rather than a sculptor's, and consists
in impasto painting with a mixture of plaster of Paris or whiting in
glue (the composition with which the ground of his pictures is laid)
after roughly modelling the higher forms with tow or some fibrous
material incorporated with the gesso; but it is questionable if gesso is
the best vehicle for any but the lowest relief. By it the most subtle
and delicate variation of surface can be obtained, and the finest lines
pencilled, analogous, in fact, to the fine _pâte sur pâte_ work in
porcelain. Its chief use in early times was in the accessories of
painting, as the nimbi, attributes, and jewellery of the personage
represented, and it was almost entirely used as a ground-work for
gilding upon. Abundant illustration of this usage will be found in the
pictures by the early Italian masters in the National Gallery. The
retables of altars were largely decorated in this material, a notable
example being that still existing in Westminster Abbey.

Many of the gorgeous accessories to the panoply of war in mediæval
times, such as decorative shields and the lighter military
accoutrements, were thus ornamented in low relief, and on the
high-cruppered and high-peaked saddles it was abundantly displayed. In
the sixteenth-century work of Germany it seems to have received an
admixture of finely-pounded lithographic stone, or hone stone, by which
it became of such hardness as to be taken for sculpture in these
materials. Its chief use, however, was for the decoration of the
caskets and ornamental objects which make up the refinement of domestic
life, and the base representative of it which figures on our
picture-frames claims a noble ancestry.

Its tenacity, when well prepared, is exceedingly great, and I have used
it on glass, on polished marble, on porcelain, and such like
non-absorbent surfaces, from which it can scarcely be separated without
destruction of its base. Indeed, for miniature art, gesso possesses
innumerable advantages not presented by any other medium, but it is
hardly available for larger works.

Time and space will not permit my entering more fully into these two
forms of plastic art; but seeing that we are annually receiving such
large accessions to the numbers of our modellers, and as, of course, it
is not possible for all these to achieve success in, or find a means of
living by, the art of sculpture in marble, I have sought to indicate a
home-art means by which, at very moderate cost, they can bring their
labours in useful form before the world, and at the same time learn and
live.

G. T. ROBINSON.




OF CAST IRON


Cast iron is nearly our humblest material, and with associations less
than all artistic, for it has been almost hopelessly vulgarised in the
present century, so much so that Mr. Ruskin, with his fearless use of
paradox to shock one into thought, has laid it down that cast iron is an
artistic solecism, impossible for architectural service now, or at any
time. And yet, although we can never claim for iron the beauty of
bronze, it is in some degree a parallel material, and has been used with
appreciation in many ways up to the beginning of this century.

Iron was already known in Sussex at the coming of the Romans. Throughout
this county and Kent, in out-of-the-way farm-houses, iron fire-backs to
open hearths, fine specimens of the founder's art, are still in daily
use as they have been for three hundred years or more. Some have Gothic
diapers and meanders of vine with heraldic badges and initials, and are
evidently cast from models made in the fifteenth century, patterns that
remained in stock and were cast from again and again. Others, of the
following centuries, have coat-arms and supporters, salamanders in the
flames, figures, a triton or centaur, or even a scene, the Judgment of
Solomon, or Marriage of Alexander, or, more appropriately, mere
pattern-work, vases of flowers and the like. However crude they may be,
and some are absurdly inadequate as sculpture, the sense of treatment
and relief suitable to the material never fails to give them a fit
interest.

With these backs cast-iron fire-dogs are often found, of which some
Gothic examples also remain, simple in form with soft dull modelling;
later, these were often a mere obelisk on a base surmounted by a ball or
a bird, or rude terminal figures; sometimes a more delicate full figure,
the limbs well together, so that nothing projects from the general
post-like form; and within their limitations they are not without grace
and character.

In Frant church, near Tunbridge, are several cast-iron grave slabs about
six feet long by half that width, perfectly flat, one with a single
shield of arms and some letters, others with several; they are quite
successful, natural, and not in the least vulgar.

Iron railings are the most usual form of cast iron as an accessory to
architecture; the earlier examples of these in London are thoroughly fit
for their purpose and their material; sturdily simple forms of gently
swelling curves, or with slightly rounded reliefs. The original railing
at St. Paul's, of Lamberhurst iron, is the finest of these, a large
portion of which around the west front was removed in 1873. Another
example encloses the portico of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. The railing
of the central area of Berkeley Square is beautifully designed, and
there are instances here, as in Grosvenor Square, where cast iron is
used together with wrought, a difficult combination.

Balcony railings and staircase balustrades are quite general to houses
of the late eighteenth century. Refined and thoroughly good of their
kind, they never fail to please, and never, of course, imitate wrought
iron. The design is always direct, unpretentious and effortless, in a
manner that became at this time quite a tradition.

The verandahs also, of which there are so many in Piccadilly or Mayfair,
with posts reeded and of delicate profiles, are of the same kind,
confessedly cast iron, and never without the characterising dulness of
the forms, so that they have no jutting members to be broken off, to
expose a repulsive jagged fracture. The opposite of all these qualities
may be found in the "expensive"-looking railing on the Embankment
enclosing the gardens, whose tiny fretted and fretful forms invite an
experiment often successful.

It must be understood that cast iron should be merely a flat
lattice-like design, obviously cast _in panels_, or plain post and rail
construction with cast uprights and terminal knops tenoned into rails,
so that there is no doubt of straightforward unaffected fitting. The
British Museum screen may be taken to instance how ample ability will
not redeem false principles of design: the construction is not clear,
nor are the forms sufficiently simple, the result being only a high
order of commonplace grandeur.

Even the lamp-posts set up in the beginning of the century for oil
lights, a few of which have not yet been improved away from back
streets, show the same care for appropriate form. Some of the Pall Mall
Clubs, again, have well-designed candelabra of a more pretentious kind;
also London and Waterloo Bridges.

The fire-grates, both with hobs and close fronts, that came into use
about the middle of the last century, are decorated all over the field
with tiny flutings, beads, and leaf mouldings, sometimes even with
little figure medallions, and carry delicacy to its limit. The better
examples are entirely successful, both in form and in the ornamentation,
which, adapted to this new purpose, does no more than gracefully
acknowledge its debt to the past, just as the best ornament at all times
is neither original nor copied: it must recognise tradition, and add
something which shall be the tradition of the future. The method
followed is to keep the general form quite simple and the areas flat,
while the decoration, just an embroidery of the surface, is of one
substance and in the slightest possible relief. Other larger grates
there were with plain surfaces simply framed with mouldings.

Even the sculptor has not refused iron. Pliny says there were two
statues in Rhodes, one of iron and copper, and the other, a Hercules,
entirely of iron. In the palace at Prague there is a St. George horsed
and armed, the work of the fourteenth century. The qualities natural to
iron which it has to offer for sculpture may best be appreciated by
seeing the examples at the Museum of Geology, in Jermyn Street. On the
staircase there are two large dogs, two ornamental candelabra, and two
figures; the dogs, although not fine as sculpture, are well treated, in
mass and surface, for the metal. In the same museum there is a smaller
statue still better for surface and finish, a French work signed and
dated 1841, and, therefore, half an antique. But for ordinary
foundry-work without surface finish - probably the most appropriate,
certainly the most available, method - the little lions on the outer rail
at the British Museum are proof of how sufficient feeling for design
will dignify any material for any object; they are by the late Alfred
Stevens, and are thoroughly iron beasts, so slightly modelled that they
would be only blocked out for bronze. In the Geological Museum are also
specimens of Berlin and Ilsenburg manufacture; they serve to point the
moral that ingenuity is not art, nor tenuity refinement.

The question of rust is a difficult one, the oxide not being an added
beauty like the patina acquired by bronze, yet the decay of cast iron is
much less than is generally thought, especially on large smooth
surfaces, if the casting has been once treated by an oil bath or a
coating of hot tar: the celebrated iron pillar of Delhi, some twenty
feet high, has stood for fourteen centuries, and shows, it is said,
little evidence of decay. It would be interesting to see how cast
spheres of good iron would be affected in our climate, if occasionally
coated with a lacquer. In painting, the range of tints best approved is
black through gray to white: the simple negative gray gives a pleasant
unobtrusiveness to the well-designed iron-work of the Northern Station
in Paris, whereas our almost universal Indian red is a very bad
choice - a hot coarse colour, you must see it, and be irritated, and it
is surely the only colour that gets worse as it bleaches in the sun.
Gilding is suitable to a certain extent; but for internal work the
homely black-leading cannot be bettered.

To put together the results obtained in our examination of examples.

(1) The metal must be both good and carefully manipulated.

(2) The design must be thought out through the material and its
traditional methods.

(3) The pattern must have the ornament modelled, not carved, as is
almost universally the case now, carving in wood being entirely unfit
to give the soft suggestive relief required both by the nature of the
sand-mould into which it is impressed, and the crystalline structure of
the metal when cast.

(4) Flat surfaces like grate fronts may be decorated with some intricacy
if the relief is delicate. But the relief must be less than the basis of
attachment, so that the moulding may be easily practicable, and no
portions invite one to test how easily they might be detached.

(5) Objects in the round must have a simple and substantial bounding
form with but little ornament, and that only suggested. This applies
equally to figures. In them homogeneous structure is of the first
importance.

(6) When possible, the surface should be finished and left as a metal
casting. It may, however, be entirely gilt. If painted, the colour must
be neutral and gray.

Casting in iron has been so abased and abused that it is almost
difficult to believe that the metal has anything to offer to the arts.
At no other time and in no other country would a national staple
commodity have been so degraded. Yet in its strength under pressure, but
fragility to a blow, in certain qualities of texture and of required
manipulation, it invites a specially characterised treatment in the
design, and it offers one of the few materials naturally black available
in the colour arrangement of interiors.

W. R. LETHABY.




OF DYEING AS AN ART


Dyeing is a very ancient art; from the earliest times of the ancient
civilisations till within about forty years ago there had been no
essential change in it, and not much change of any kind. Up to the time
of the discovery of the process of Prussian-blue dyeing in about 1810
(it was known as a pigment thirty or forty years earlier), the only
changes in the art were the result of the introduction of the American
insect dye (cochineal), which gradually superseded the European one
(kermes), and the American wood-dyes now known as logwood and
Brazil-wood: the latter differs little from the Asiatic and African Red
Saunders, and other red dye-woods; the former has cheapened and worsened
black-dyeing, in so far as it has taken the place of the indigo-vat as a
basis. The American quercitron bark gives us also a useful additional
yellow dye.

These changes, and one or two others, however, did little towards
revolutionising the art; that revolution was left for our own days, and
resulted from the discovery of what are known as the Aniline dyes,
deduced by a long process from the plants of the coal-measures. Of these
dyes it must be enough to say that their discovery, while conferring the
greatest honour on the abstract science of chemistry, and while doing
great service to capitalists in their hunt after profits, has terribly
injured the art of dyeing, and for the general public has nearly
destroyed it as an art. Henceforward there is an absolute divorce
between the _commercial process_ and the _art_ of dyeing. Anyone wanting
to produce dyed textiles with any artistic quality in them must entirely
forgo the modern and commercial methods in favour of those which are at
least as old as Pliny, who speaks of them as being old in his time.

Now, in order to dye textiles in patterns or otherwise, we need four
colours to start with - to wit, blue, red, yellow, and brown; green,
purple, black, and all intermediate shades can be made from a mixture of
these colours.

Blue is given us by indigo and woad, which do not differ in colour in
the least, their chemical product being the same. Woad may be called
northern indigo; and indigo tropical or sub-tropical woad.

Note that until the introduction of Prussian blue about 1810 there was
_no_ other blue dye except this indigotine that could be called a dye;
the other blue dyes were mere stains which would not bear the sun for
more than a few days.

Red is yielded by the insect dyes kermes, lac-dye, and cochineal, and by
the vegetable dye madder. Of these, kermes is the king; brighter than
madder and at once more permanent and more beautiful than cochineal: the
latter on an aluminous basis gives a rather cold crimson, and on a tin
basis a rather hot scarlet (_e.g._ the dress-coat of a line officer).
Madder yields on wool a deep-toned blood-red, somewhat bricky and
tending to scarlet. On cotton and linen, all imaginable shades of red
according to the process. It is not of much use in dyeing silk, which it
is apt to "blind"; _i.e._ it takes off the gloss. Lac-dye gives a hot
and not pleasant scarlet, as may be noted in a private militiaman's
coat. The French liners' trousers, by the way, are, or were, dyed with
madder, so that their countrymen sometimes call them the
"Madder-wearers"; but their cloth is somewhat too cheaply dyed to do
credit to the drysaltery.

Besides these permanent red dyes there are others produced from woods,
called in the Middle Ages by the general name of "Brazil"; whence the
name of the American country, because the conquerors found so much
dyeing-wood growing there. Some of these wood-dyes are very beautiful in
colour; but unluckily they are none of them permanent, as you may see by
examining the beautiful stuffs of the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries at the South Kensington Museum, in which you will scarcely
find any red, but plenty of fawn-colour, which is in fact the wood-red
of 500 years ago thus faded. If you turn from them to the Gothic
tapestries, and note the reds in them, you will have the measure of the
relative permanence of kermes and "Brazil," the tapestry reds being all
dyed with kermes, and still retaining the greater part of their colour.
The mediæval dyers must be partly excused, however, because "Brazil" is
especially a silk dye, kermes sharing somewhat in the ill qualities of
madder for silk; though I have dyed silk in kermes and got very
beautiful and powerful colours by means of it.

Yellow dyes are chiefly given us by weld (sometimes called wild
mignonette), quercitron bark (above mentioned), and old fustic, an
American dye-wood. Of these weld is much the prettiest, and is the
yellow silk dye _par excellence_, though it dyes wool well enough. But
yellow dyes are the commonest to be met with in nature, and our fields
and hedgerows bear plenty of greening-weeds, as our forefathers called
them, since they used them chiefly for greening blue woollen cloth; for,
as you may well believe, they, being good colourists, had no great taste
for yellow woollen stuff. Dyers'-broom, saw-wort, the twigs of the
poplar, the osier, and the birch, heather, broom, flowers and twigs,
will all of them give yellows of more or less permanence. Of these I
have tried poplar and osier twigs, which both gave a strong yellow, but
the former not a very permanent one.

Speaking generally, yellow dyes are the least permanent of all, as once
more you may see by looking at an old tapestry, in which the greens have
always faded more than the reds or blues; the best yellow dyes, however,
lose only their brighter shade, the "lemon" colour, and leave a residuum
of brownish yellow, which still makes a kind of a green over the blue.

Brown is best got from the roots of the walnut tree, or in their default
from the green husks of the nuts. This material is especially best for
"saddening," as the old dyers used to call it. The best and most
enduring blacks also were done with this simple dye-stuff, the goods
being first dyed in the indigo or woad-vat till they were a very dark
blue and then browned into black by means of the walnut-root. Catechu,
the inspissated juice of a plant or plants, which comes to us from
India, also gives rich and useful permanent browns of various shades.

Green is obtained by dyeing a blue of the required shade in the
indigo-vat, and then greening it with a good yellow dye, adding what
else may be necessary (as, _e.g._, madder) to modify the colour
according to taste.

Purple is got by blueing in the indigo-vat, and afterwards by a bath of
cochineal, or kermes, or madder; all intermediate shades of claret and
murrey and russet can be got by these drugs helped out by "saddening."

Black, as aforesaid, is best made by dyeing dark blue wool with brown;
and walnut is better than iron for the brown part, because the
iron-brown is apt to rot the fibre; as once more you will see in some
pieces of old tapestry or old Persian carpets, where the black is quite
perished, or at least in the case of the carpet gone down to the knots.
All intermediate shades can, as aforesaid, be got by the blending of
these prime colours, or by using weak baths of them. For instance, all
shades of flesh colour can be got by means of weak baths of madder and
walnut "saddening"; madder or cochineal mixed with weld gives us orange,
and with saddening all imaginable shades between yellow and red,
including the ambers, maize-colour, etc. The crimsons in Gothic
tapestries must have been got by dyeing kermes over pale shades of blue,
since the crimson red-dye, cochineal, had not yet come to Europe.

A word or two (entirely unscientific) about the processes of this
old-fashioned or artistic dyeing.

In the first place, all _dyes_ must be soluble colours, differing in
this respect from _pigments_; most of which are insoluble, and are only
very finely divided, as, _e.g._, ultramarine, umber, terre-verte.

Next, dyes may be divided into those which need a mordant and those
which do not; or, as the old chemist Bancroft very conveniently
expresses it, into _adjective_ and _substantive_ dyes.

Indigo is the great substantive dye: the indigo has to be de-oxidised
and thereby made soluble, in which state it loses its blue colour in
proportion as the solution is complete; the goods are plunged into this
solution and worked in it "between two waters," as the phrase goes, and
when exposed to the air the indigo they have got on them is swiftly
oxidised, and once more becomes insoluble. This process is repeated till
the required shade is got. All shades of blue can be got by this means,
from the pale "watchet," as our forefathers called it, up to the blue
which the eighteenth-century French dyers called "Bleu d'enfer." Navy
Blue is the politer name for it to-day in England. I must add that,
though this seems an easy process, the setting of the blue-vat is a
ticklish job, and requires, I should say, more experience than any other
dyeing process.

The brown dyes, walnut and catechu, need no mordant, and are substantive
dyes; some of the yellows also can be dyed without mordant, but are
much improved by it. The red dyes, kermes and madder, and the yellow
dye weld, are especially mordant or adjective dyes: they are all dyed on
an aluminous basis. To put the matter plainly, the goods are worked in a
solution of alum (usually with a little acid added), and after an
interval of a day or two (ageing) are dyed in a bath of the dissolved
dye-stuff.

A lake is thus formed on the fibre which is in most cases very durable.
The effect of this "mordanting" of the fibre is clearest seen in the
maddering of printed cotton goods, which are first printed with
aluminous mordants of various degrees of strength (or with iron if black
is needed, or a mixture of iron with alumina for purple), and then dyed
wholesale in the madder-beck: the result being that the parts which have
been mordanted come out various shades of red, etc., according to the
strength or composition of the mordant, while the unmordanted parts
remain a dirty pink, which has to be "cleared" into white by soaping and
exposure to the sun and air; which process both brightens and fixes the
dyed parts.

Pliny saw this going on in Egypt, and it puzzled him very much, that a
cloth dyed in one colour should come out coloured diversely.


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