Fitzwilliam Museum. McClean Bequest.

Catalogue of the mediaeval ivories, enamels, jewellery, gems and miscellaneous objects bequeathed to the museum by Frank McClean online

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These preliminary remarks upon the earhest history of enamel
are not without their bearing upon the most ancient of the enamels
in the McClean collection. Nos. 44 — 46 are small bronze vessels or
utensils enamelled by the champleve process, the colours employed
being red, orange, green and blue^ Objects of this kind are com-
paratively rare, and here it is again to be remarked that they are
chiefly associated not with Italy but with the transalpine provinces:
they thus appear to confirm the belief that the earliest European
enamels did not enter the continent from the south, by the
Mediterranean route. The style of the ornament upon some
examples itself adds evidence in the same direction, for it shows
the influence of a taste which is not purely classical, though the
particular motives, among which " ivy " scrolls and serrated bands
are conspicuous, are not themselves characteristic of Celtic art.
It may be useful to cite the principal discoveries of the provincial
Roman enamels, premising that smaller objects (fibulae &c.)
enamelled by the champleve process are found in great numbers.

Remarkable enamelled vessels of this type have been found in
our own country; the vase excavated in 1832 at Bartlow- is of
the greatest interest, while the plaque in the British Museum-',
ornamented with a columned niche containing a continuous design,
has been held, from the unfinished condition of its enamel, to afford
evidence of local manufacture. In the same Museum are a cock
with enamelled feathers ; two enamelled bowls from Harwood,
Northumberland, and Standon, Herts ; and some curious little
stands from Farley Heath in Surrey. The inscribed cup found at
Rudge Coppice near Marlborough in 1725 is at Alnwick Castled

' These are the colours generally found upon enamelled objects of this class.

- Tohn Gage, Roman sepulchral remains, pi. v, 1835, and Archaeologia, XXVI, pi. 35
and p. 300; Labarte, Histoirc des arts indicstriels, ist ed., Album, Vol. H ; Recherches
stir la peinUire en htiail, pi. B, no. 6, and Handbook of the Middle Ages (translated by
Mrs Palliser), p. 126; A. Deville, Histoire de Pari de la verrerie, pi. cviii, Paris, 1873
&c. ; Archaeological loitrnal, XII, 418.

3 Found in the Thames. C. Roach Smith, Catalogue of the Museum of London
Antiquities, 1854, p. 84; Rupin, Va'uvre de Limoges, p. 28; Journ. Brit. Arch.
Associatiofi, III, 284; A. Riegl, Spcitromische Kunstindustrie &.C., p. 191.

•* Horsley's Wiltshire, p. 329; Sir R. C. Hoare, Ancient Wiltshire, II, 122; Cough's
Camden, i, pi. v (ed. 1806) ; Catalogue of the antiquities is'c. exhibited in the Museum of
the Archaeological Institute at Edinburgh in July 1856, pi. at p. 58, London, 1859;
Archaeological Journal, xiv, 282 ; E. Hubner, Inscriptiones Brit, latinae, p. 233, no. 1291.


Passin^r to the continent we find the Roman provincial territory
included in the modern Belt^iuin exceptionally rich in work of this
kind ; and the discovery of an enameller's furnace at the villa
of Anthea near Dinant supports the theory that the district was
a centre of production for enamels in the second and third
centuries\ A bowl with an ivy-pattern, found at Maltbock-, is of
fine workmanship ; and another bowl, discovered in a Roman
tomb at La Plante, Namur, in 1905 ■', is richly ornamented with
scroll designs in and about the pentagonal compartments round its
sides. This bowl dates from the second century.

From France come several specimens. A vase from La
Guierche, near Limoges, had with it Roman coins of A.D. 256 — 270*,
and with a somewhat similar vase from Ambleteuse, the enamel of
which is lost, were found coins of the Emperor Tacitus (A.D. 276)';
a baluster-shaped vase in the Louvre comes from Famars in the
Departement du Nord^

Germany and Austria-Hungary have also notable examples.
A patera from Pyrmont in the Arolsen Museum was found with
Roman coins, the latest of which date from the time of Caracalla'' :
it has on the handle and outer sides an elegant ivy-design in blue,
green and orange, with pentagonal compartments like those of the
Namur bowl. At Worms there is a cock like the one in the
British Museum I A cup with enamelled chequers from Binger-
bruck is now in the Louvre", and a baluster vase comes from
Gladbach". A large gourd- shaped vessel from Pinguente in
Istria, perhaps the finest specimen of all, is in the Museum at

^ A. Bequet in Aniiales de la Societe arch^ologique de Namur, xxiv, p. 237.

- M^moires de la Society royale des Antiquaires du Nord, 1868, p. 151 (coloured

•* A. Bequet, Annales, as above, XX vi, 1906.

* E. Rupin, Uauvre de Limoges, p. 21 ; E. Molinier, Orfevrerie, p. 31, and
V^maillerie &c., p. 24.

' Rupin, as above, p. 22.

" This specimen is very similar in stylo to that from Gladbacli mentioned below.

"^ Bonner /a/irbikher. Heft XXXVH, p. 52, 1865; Lindenschrait, Alterthiimer unserer
heidnischen Vorzeit, UI, pi. iv, no. 7.

8 Riegl, Spatriimisthc A'unslindus/rie &c., pi. v, fig. i, and pp. 194 — 195 ; fournal of
the British Archaeological Association, XLI, p. 97.

" Lindenschmit, as above, pi. iv, no. 4.

i« Ibid., no. 7.


Vienna* ; here the ornament, in the usual colours, is of a very graceful
character, differing from the rather stiff geometrical arrangement
upon most of these objects. Other champleve enamels of the class
are in the Museums of Speyer, Oldenburg and Cologne^ Italy
has not been equally prolific. A cup (?) from Benevento, formerly
in the Castellani collection, has analogies with the Bartlow situla-*.
It may be added that the " mosaic enamels," with which Roman
brooches are so frequently ornamented in the second and third
centuries, were contemporary with the champleve work : the orna-
ment appears to be composed of variegated pieces of glass arranged
side by side and fused together, and they are not enamels in the
full sense of the word^ Large numbers are to be seen in the
Museum at Namur, and it is probable that the district was a
principal centre of their manufacture. Roman Britain seems to
have rediscovered the art of enamelling in compartments of wire,
which, as will be noticed later, has a certain affinity with cell-
enamelling. A gold bracelet in the British Museum, found at
Rhayader in Radnorshire and assigned to the second century A.D.,
is decorated in this way I Methods of enamelling practised in the
Roman provinces evidently persisted in Ireland after the Saxon
invasion of England. Mr Franks drew attention to this fact
many years ago in relation to the curious enamelled bronze frag-
ment then at St Columba's College near Dublin and now in the
Collection of the Royal Irish Academy**. Since that time enamels
of the same kind in Norway have been published by Undsef and
others, while Mr Joseph Doran has recently noted their imitation

^ Jahrbuch der kiinsthistorischen Samnilungen des allei-Iwchsten Kaiser haiises, i,
p. 4r ; Gazette archdologicjue, 1884, pis. 18, 19 ; Kiegl, Spdtrdmische h'unstiiidiistrie &c.,
pi. vi ; A. Venluri, Storia delt arte italiana, n, fig. 67, p. 81.

^ Riegl, as above, p. 189; Kondakoff, Geschichte und Detikmdler des byzantinischeii
Etnails, pp. 21 ff.

■^ Rupin, Uceuvre de Limoges, p. 26.

■* Molinier, Orfevrerie, p. 30.

^ The Reliquary and I lltist rated Archaeologist, V, 1899, p. 259.

® Examples of ornamental art in Glass and Enamel &c., edited by J. B. Waring,
pi. vi, fig. 4 and p. 15. The enamel of this object recalls that of the Roman niillefiore
enamelled brooches.

^ M^inoires de la Soci^t^ royale des Antiquaires dti Nord, Copenhagen, 1890, pp. 33 ff.
and pis. i and ii.


in Ihc illuminations of early Irish MSS', especially the Books of
Durrow and Kells. Certain enamelled discs at the base of handles
on bronze bowls, bearing flamboyant and spiral Celtic designs,
have been conjecturally assigned by Mr J, Romilly Allen to the
transitional period between Celtic and Saxon paganism and Celtic
and Saxon Christianity, before A.D. 650. It is remarkable that all
these bowls have been found in England. Here too the resem-
blance between the designs on some of the discs and ornaments
in the Book of Durrow point to an imitation of enamels on the
part of the illuminators-.

The earliest cloisonne or " cell " enamels at present known are
those discovered with objects of Roman date in Nubia^, and now
at Munich and Berlin. Between these and the nearest examples
in point of time, there is a considerable interval, for although
literary allusions allow us to conjecture that such enamelling was
practised in the reign of Constantine, we have no surviving
examples certainly of that date ; while it is not until the tenth
century that this method of ornamenting gold attained perfection.
Isolated objects, such as the reliquary at Poitiers supposed to
have been presented to St Radegund by Justin II and Sophia^
the wonderful reliquary-cross recently brought to light on the
opening of the relic chest in the chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum
at the Lateran^ the pair of earrings" and the remarkable brooch
apparently made in Italy" about the year A.D. 600 in the British

1 Burlington Magazine, xiil, 1908, no. 63 (June), pp. 138 ff. Mr J. Romilly Allen
had already drawn attention to the resemblance between illuminated medallions with
trumpet-pattern and a well known class of enamelled discs which were fitted to the sides
of bronze bowls to support the handles.

- T/ie Reliquary and Illustrated Archaeologist, VI, 1900, pp. 242 ff. ; Archaeologia, i,vi.

^ In the upper part of a pyramid at Merawi or Nepata (Meroe), not far from the
4th cataract. G. Ferlini, Cenno sttgli scavi operati nella Nubia, Bologna, 1837 ;
A. W. Franks in J. B. Waring's Examples of ornamental art in Glass and Enamel,
Vitreous art, p. 13. The most important part of the treasure, including four very broad
armlets, is in tlic Anliquarium on the ground floor of the new Pinakothek at Munich.
They are briefly described in Furtwiingler's Guide to the Antiquarium, pp. 1 1 and 12.

■* X. Barbicr de Montault, Le trc'sor de Sainte-Croix de Poitiers, pi. i ; Molinier,
VOrfevrerie, p. 40.

•'' P. Lauer in Monuments Plot, xv, 1906, pi. vi ; Edinburgh Review, 1907, plate
opposite p. 471 ; H. Grisar, Civilta Cattolica, 1906.

^ British Museum Catalogue of Early Christian and Byzantine Antiquities, no. 267.

^ Proc.Soc. Antiq. Land., 2nd series, .\x, p. 64.


Museum, and a remarkable little medallion in the Ashmolean
Museum at Oxford discovered by Dr Arthur Evans at Risano in
Dalmatia\ are among the rare early specimens which have come
down to us. But though it would seem that throughout the earlier
centuries of the Christian era enamel had been largely driven from
the field by the popular inlaid jewellery, the appearance of very
early indigenous examples in the west of Europe implies either
that models of sixth- century date were imported from the East, or
that inlaid jewels suggested the independent discovery of cloisonn6
enamel to artificers among whom the old champleve process may
possibly have survived continuously from Roman times. It has
seemed to many that such rude cloisonne enamel as that found
upon the eighth-century reliquary from Herford in Westphalia,
now in the Berlin Museum-, or the reliquary of St Maurice
d'Agaune^ of about the year 800, or the ninth-century reliquary in
the treasury of Conquest or again, the curious casket in the archi-
episcopal Museum at Utrecht^, might well be independent of
Byzantine inspiration. The early date of these objects is certainly
remarkable, if it is remembered that the great influx of Byzantine
enamel into Western Europe followed the renaissance of the art in
the Eastern Empire, and that this revival was not general until the
tenth century. But as in the case of illuminated manuscripts,
textiles, and ivory carvings, we may have here to presuppose
lost originals of the earlier Byzantine period which culminated
in the sixth century, though it is an anomalous position that the
models of this period, if models there were, have almost all dis-
appeared, while several of the Western imitations have survived.
The question is almost insoluble on present evidence. All that we
can say is that the proved influence of the East in the case of

^ Archaeologia, xlviii, pp. 49 ft". : fig. on p. 50.

^ O. von Falke and H. Frauberger, Deutsche Schmelzarbeiten des Miltelalters, pi. i,
Frankfurt, 1904 ; Molinier, Orfivrerie, pp. 24 — 26, 74 — 75 ; C. de Linas, Entaillerie,
nietallurgie, toreutique : les Expositions retrospectives Sec, p. 107.

•* E. Aubert, Le tn'sof de Saint-Maurice d^Agaune 1 1 ; A. V^enturi, Storia dell' arte
italiaiia, n, fig. 76.

E. Rupin, Uceuvre de Limoges, pis. ii and iv.

^ Discussed by C. de Linas in an article originally published in the Kevtie de FArt
Chretien and reprinted Paris- Arras, 1879.


Other minor arts justifies us in assuming its probable existence in
the case of cell-enamels also'.

The great period of Byzantine cell-enamelling begins at
Constantinople in the tenth century when gold plaques or
medallions were decorated with figures of sacred persons, saints
and princes, or with purely ornamental motives, for the enrichment
of altars, book-covers, chalices and other objects. The best work
was done in the first half of the eleventh century, after which there
was a gradual decline, until the sack of Constantinople in 1204
inflicted a fatal blow upon the industry. But in the three centuries
during which it flourished, its production was exceedingly large,
and examples of the work, unfortunately rare in England-, are
numerous upon the continent. The most conspicuous pieces are
those in the Reiche Capelle at Munich, in the treasury of St Mark's,
and in the Marcian Library at Venice. But there are numerous
other examples in other countries, notably in Germany, Austria
and the Russian Empire, most of which are enumerated in Professor
Kondakofif's monumental work='.

Cloisonne enamelling was introduced into mediaeval Russia

' The earliest cloisonne enamels of Europe, which include those on the iron crown
at Monza and the paliotto of Sant' Ambrogio at Milan, are discussed by F. Bock,
Byzantinische Zellenschmelze &c., Aachen, 1896; Kondakoff, Geschichte und Denkmiiler
des byzantinische n Emails ; Labarte, Histoire des arts industriels and Kecherches sur la
peinture en crnail; Molinier, Or/h'/rrie, and Exposition retrospective ; ihe works of
C. de Linas already cited ; Falke and Frauberger, Deutsche Schmelzarbeiten ;
W. A. Neumann, Der Keliqiiienschatz des Haiises Braunschweig-Liineburg ; in which
works references to other publications will be found. The lamb upon the large ivory
book-cover in the Cathedral of Milan is now considered to be orfevrerie cloisonnee and
not enamel. For the iron crown, see B. de Monlault, Rez'. de Part Chretien, 1900,

PP- 377 ff-

^ At the Victoria and Albert Museum is the Beresford Hope cross {Archaeological
Journal, VHI, p. 51 ; Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, 1857, Vitreous Art, pi. vi,
fig. I ; F. Bock, p. 350 ; Kondakoff, as above, p. 176. It is a primitive example, placed
by some as early as the 8th century. In the British Museum are two medallions in
copper with busts of two saints (see below, p. 47, n. 3), rare examples of the type in which
the enamel covers both sides, and two diminutive gold medallions. An interesting gold
medallion in the same collection, with a bust of Our Lord, is not of pure Byzantine
workmanship and may have been made in Italy.

•' This book, an c'dition de luxe, is published both in French and German. It is
based upon the enamels of the Swenigorodskoi Collection, which also form the text of
F. Bock's Die hyzantinischen 'Zellenschmelze... der Sammlung Swenigorodskoi, Aix-la-
Chapelle, 1896.


with Christianity, and examples of the tenth and eleventh centuries
are described by Kondakoff. Though the art was probably de-
stroyed by the Mongol invasions, the old tradition has been
restored in modern times and ikons made in our own day
afford sumptuous examples of the style, A most remark-
able copper basin enamelled by the cloisonne process in the
Ferdinandeum at Innsbruck, and bearing an Arabic inscription
with the name of an Urtukide prince reigning in the first half of
the twelfth century, shows the extension of the Byzantine style to
the Saracenic area^ To the cloisonne enamels of the Eastern
Empire must also be affiliated the examples made in Sicily^ and
in Central Europe, especially on the Rhine-'. In the latter region
they begin to appear in the time of Otto III and Archbishop Egbert
of Treves, and examples of historical importance are still at Treves
itself, at Essen and in other German cities. They were made in
considerable quantities until the close of the twelfth century, when
the triumph of the champleve process was assured. Examples of
the period now in England are a circular brooch in the British
Museum*, and the magnificent book-cover known as the Sion book-
cover, in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington ^
Cloisonne enamelling was early adopted by Saracenic craftsmen,
who first became acquainted with it through their contact with
Byzantine artists. The copper dish at Innsbruck has been men-
tioned above, but the process was also a favourite with the Moorish
goldsmiths in Spain, and the hilts of the swords of Boabdil are

1 G. Migeon, Gazette des Beaux- Arts, 3rd period, xxxv, p. 206, and plate ; O. von
Falke, Monatshefte fiir A'unstivissenschaft, 1909, pp. 234 ff. ; Van Berchem and
Strzygowski, Amida, pp. 120, 348.

2 Examples on the imperial regalia at Vienna are reproduced in F. Bock's Kleinodien
des heiligen romischen Reichs, pis. viii, xxx, xlv, &c.

3 For the cloisonne crosses at Essen see G. Humann, Die Kuiistwerke der Miinster-
kirche von Essen, Dusseldorf, 1904 ; P. Clemen, Ktmstdenkmdler der Rheinprovinz, li,
p. 42. Other remarkable German cell-enamels of the loth to i ith centuries are the case
for the Holy Nail at Trier, and the cover of the Codex Aureus in the Grand Ducal
Museum atGotha (von Falke and P^rauberger, Deutsche Schmelzarbeiten &c., pis. iiand iv;
Palustre and Barbier de Montault, Trt'sor de Treves, pi. ii).

* Proc. Soc. Ant'iq. London, 2nd ser., xx, plate opposite p. 65, fig. 2.

6 La Collection Spitzer, Vol. I, Vorfivrerie, pi. i ; E. Molinier, Vorfevrerie, p. 85 ;
A. Darcel in Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1865, 437, sir; F. de Lasteyrie, Hist, de
Vorfivrerie, pp. 88 — 89.


examples of their later styled The method survived sporadically
in other parts of Europe loiif^ after it had been f^cnerally superseded.
There are curious examples of horse-trappings associated with
Venice which are apparently allied to the Moorish work*, while the
goldsmiths of the Renaissance sometimes resorted to cell-work
upon their jewels. The little panels upon the gold shield of
Charles IX ^, now in the Galerie d'Apollon in the Louvre, are
among the most interesting examples.

The enamel in which the design is enclosed, not by strips of
metal set on edge but by twisted wire bent into the requisite
forms, is to be regarded as a variety of cloisonne enamels The
principal area in which it occurs is Hungary, where it was
practised from the early part of the fifteenth century down to about
A.D. 1 540. But it seems clear that the process originated in the latter
part of the fourteenth century in Italy, perhaps in or near Venice,
and that Hungary was only a stage on its passage northward, for
fine examples are found in Silesia^ where the work appears to

' G. Migeon, Alanuel de Pari Alusulman, 11, figs. 196 — iy8, })p. 240 — 242. The
swords belong to the Marquises of Viane and Canipotejar and to the Museum of Cassel.
For late survivals of cloisonne enamel in Spanish religious art see O. von Falke, in
A. Michel, Histoire de Part depttis les premiers temps chrdiens. Vol. ill, p. 896. The
remarkable enamelled ewer in the treasury of St Maurice d'Agaune, with subjects of
a purely Persian character, is by some regarded as of the Sassanian period. Others
consider it as of later date but reproducing an earlier model like the small plaques
with animals of oriental character in the Pala d' Oro at Venice. It is very probable
that the Sassanian Persians produced cloisonne enamels, but the material at present
available does not suffice to prove it. The ewer at Saint-Maurice is figured bv E. Aubert,
Le trhor de Saint- Maurice d'Agaune, pis. xix — xxi ; M. Dieulafoy, L'art antique de la
Perse, v, pp. 158 — 159. See also Kondakoff, Geschichte und Denkmliler des byzantinischen
Emails, p. 226 ; and A. Odobesco, Le trhor de Fc'trossa, 11, p. 26.

"^ Proc. Soc. Antiq. London, xxi, p. 376.

^ Barbet de Jouy, Notice du Musie des Souverains, no. 69; A. Darcel, Notice dcs
Amanx &^c., 1891, pp. 422, 582.

* J. Hampel, Das mittelalterliche Drahtemail, Budapest, 1888 ; E. de Radisics,
Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 3rd period, xxiv, p. 276 ; Pulszky, Radisics and Molinier,
Chefs d'amjres d'orfivrerie a P exposition de Budapest, 1884; E. Szalay, Die historischen
Denkmahr Ungarn's in der 1896"'. Millennium'' s Landesausstellung, 11, pp. 228 ff. ;
Gazette archcologiqite, Paris, 1884, P- 35 1- The earliest Hungarian example is the sword
of Frederick Duke of Saxony, made at Ofen in A.D. 1425, and now in the Historical
Museum at Dresden. For earlier Italian work see O. von Falke in A. Michel, Histoire
de Part, in, p. 894.

' Crown on the bust of St Dorothy in the Museum of Silesian Antiquities at Breslau ;
chalice in the Cathedral of Frauenburg {Zeitschriftfiir Christlichc Kunst, vii, 1894, p. ijy).


have been made. Tlic designs adopted for this wire enamel are
usually floral, and the colours arc blue, green, yellow and white.
The most conspicuous objects decorated in this manner are
chalices, of which a number are to be seen in the Museums of
Budapest. The process recalls, though on a larger scale, one
which had been employed by the early Greek goldsmiths, and
b}' Romano-British enamellers in the second century (see above,
p. 40). Enamelling in openwork {email de plique a jour)
has also in some of its developments a relationship to the
cloisonne process, and may therefore be mentioned here'. A fine
beaker in this style is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here
the enamel is intended to be held to the light and produces its
effect in the same manner as a stained glass window. But in
Transylvania designs in openwork enamel were laid upon a back-
ground of gilt metal as a decoration for trappings and objects of
personal adornment. The method came into use in the middle of
the sixteenth century and continued for about two hundred and
fifty years-.

In the sixteenth century other enamels were made in France
which have resemblance to cell-work, and may therefore be
mentioned here. An ornamental motive — in the style of Etienne
de Laulne or some other inaitre ornernaniste — was cut in a glass
paste ; the cavities were then lined with thin gold, and filled with
enamel of various colours. After firing and polishing, the edges
of the gold linings remain conspicuous, and serve to accentuate the
contours of the design, giving the whole the appearance of cell-
enamel : a foil, usually of some deep colour such as a rich blue,
was applied to the back, to give a satisfactory ground. Enamels
of this kind were commonly round or oval, and were sometimes
set in the backs of watch cases, A watch thus ornamented is in
the British Museum, where there are two other examples of this
kind of work^ The method has some analogy to one employed in
Ireland at a far earlier period. The Ardagh chalice^ has upon it

1 For the process see L. Day, Enamelling. Enamel of this kind has been practised
with much success in modern times, especially at Copenhagen.

"^ Numerous examples are in the National Museum at Budapest.

■' Guide to the Mediaeval Koo'ii, fig. 15.

-• Transattions of the Royal Irish Academy, XX iv, pt. ii ; Archaeological Journal,
xx\'l, p. 290 ; M. Stokes, Early Christian Art in Ireland, fig. 37, p. 83 (Handbook of


discs of enamel in which are intaglio designs filled with enamel of
a different colour, though in this case there are no gold linings to
the cavities.

Cloisonnd enamelling is a process best adapted to the precious
metals, more especially to gold : it is therefore very costly, and
when enamellers desired to ornament considerable surfaces with
colour they had to adopt another method. It is doubtful whether
the tradition of the champleve work of Roman times had persisted

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Online LibraryFitzwilliam Museum. McClean BequestCatalogue of the mediaeval ivories, enamels, jewellery, gems and miscellaneous objects bequeathed to the museum by Frank McClean → online text (page 5 of 14)