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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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 8 of 14)
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middle of the century. He is chiefly noted for his grisailles, which
are somewhat hard in style and are monotonous when seen in
numbers. The flesh-tints have a pronounced salmon tint, and
shading with hatched black lines is carried to excess, producing
a too obvious resemblance to engraving. Productive as Pierre
Reymond was, much of the work that bears his name must have
been done by his apprentices, for like the Penicauds he had a large
atelier : Martin Didier\ an enameller who affects a strong contrast
of whites and profound blacks, belongs to Reymond's school.
Pierre Courtois, or Courteys^ who worked both in colour and
grisaille, is the artist of the medallions executed for the Chateau
de Madrid now in the Louvre : they are remarkable as among the
largest enamels made at Limoges.

One other artist of the best period may be mentioned here, the
first of another family which was long represented through the
later years of decadence — Couly Nouailher or Noylier^, whose best
work falls between 1539 and 1545. His grisailles are often poor in
execution and somewhat archaistic in style. He is fond of subjects
representing persons in contemporary costume, often accompanied
by inscriptions which degenerate into a patois ; and both the salt-
cellar (no. 66) and the panels with illustrations to the clauses of
the Lord's Prayer (see no. 6y) are ascribed to him. The attribu-
tion is confirmed by the signature C. N. with the date 1545 on a
casket of similar style in the Musee de I'Hotel Pince at Angers'* ;
but some panels in the style are so poor, that one would prefer to
believe them the work of apprentices in the master's workshop. It
would be interesting to learn the name of the enameller MP, to
whom the Adoration of the Magi (no. 64) and its two parallels
in Paris are ascribed ; but the identification has not yet been

^ Signature M. D.

^ Signature P. C. The Courtois family, like that of the Penicauds, Reymonds and
Nouailhers and Laudins, gave other members to the craft. Jean Courtois, who signs
I. C, exaggerates the rendering of muslin and parades his knowledge of anatomy. His
flesh-tints are even brighter than those of Pierre Reymond.

3 Signature C. N. Couly is a form of Nicolas, as Nardon of Leonard.

* L. Gonse, CAe/s d'a'uvres des Musics de France: sculpturesy dessifts, objets d^art,
p. 53. Paris, 1904.


To the period of decline belong many members of the families
of Limousin, Court, de Court, and Courtois, whose relationships
and identities arc difficult to disentangle. Jean and Fran(jois
Limousin belong to the family of Leonard'. The former, who has
a preference for green grounds and brown costumes enriched with
foils, flourished at the close of the century. His work is often of
no inconsiderable merit. His contemporary Jean Courtois, or
Courteys, deserves favourable notice as a colourist^

Jean de Court, and above all Suzanne de Court, illustrate this
period at its climax. They abandon the discreeter harmonies of
the earlier masters, cover the surface with bright greens and blues
enhanced to excess by an abundant use of foil, and sacrifice all to
a rich and variegated effect. Though the flesh-tints employed by
Suzanne de Court are of too dead a white, and her characteristic
faces ail inuseaii pointii are too abnormal to please, yet the general
effect of her work is highly decorative ; it may be well studied in
the fine examples in the Waddesdon Bequest in the British

The period of decadence, chiefly represented by works of the
seventeenth century, can show no artist of more than average merit,
while most are little more than journeymen, without any claim to
originality or power. There is neither grace nor life in their designs,
which are purely imitative, and even in the case of the better men,
seldom rise above the level of mediocrity. In this period the art
was chiefly in the hands of the Nouailhers and the Laudins, though
at the beginning of the century H. Poncet produced grisailles of
respectable quality. Painted enamelling was really dead at the
end of the seventeenth century ; and though Jean Laudin even
at that late hour attempted to galvanise it into life, his efforts
remained without durable results. This artist, however, deserves
mention, for though his drawing is without life, it is generally
correct, a merit which is almost excellence at a time when the
ateliers were turning out either devotional panels with sacred
subjects and figures of saints devoid of all artistic qualities, or little

^ Jean signs I. L. or I. + L.

- Examples of this artist's work in the Waddesdon Bequest in the Rritish Museum
show such affinities, especially in the turquoise colour and characteristic treatment of the
trees, to the McClean pax, no. 69.



plaques of trivial appearance intended for the decoration of purses
and other objects of secular use. Among the more popular pro-
ducts of the time were shallow lobed cups with two handles (no. 71),
the sides painted with floral designs, the central medallions with
cupids or other figure-subjects. The ground is often white, painted
with tulip-like flowers in orange-yellow, a style which is of interest
from its resemblance to contemporary Russian work. The simi-
larity is explained by the tradition that the art of painting in
enamel was introduced into Russia by a member of the Laudin

The colour scheme at this time is less rich and harmonious than
in the earlier periods ; the orange-reds and yellows which often
positively offend the eye are very extensively employed. The
enamellers appear to have used the brush in applying their colours
to a greater extent than their predecessors, who, as already re-
marked, relied almost entirely upon the spatula and the point.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the art was practised
in Germany as well as in France, but the work was usually upon a
small scale and of no particular merit. The introduction in Paris
about A.D. 1630 by the Toutin family of fine enamel painting on a
small scale upon a white ground, led to the production of the
enamelled miniatures to which Petitot gave so great a vogue in
the reign of Louis XIV^ In Germany small oval and circular
plaques with landscapes and figure subjects and floral designs on a
white ground were freely used to decorate furniture and objects of
domestic use in the latter part of the seventeenth century. As in
the case of translucent champleve enamels, Augsburg appears to
have been the principal centre; in this city the tradition of enamel-
ling was preserved for a long series of years, for as we have already
seen, it was noted for its translucent enamels on the precious metals
from the second half of the sixteenth century. The enamelling of
watch cases, especially in France and Holland, illustrates the same
fashion ; the way was thus prepared for the enamelled tabatieres
and bonbonnieres, to the decoration of which the art of Leonard
Limousin had sunk by the close of the eighteenth century. In our

^ H. H. Cunynghame, European Enamels, ch. viii. The enamelling of miniatures
s also discussed by Mr Alexander Fisher in the work quoted at the beginning of this

enamp:ls 69

own country, where the enamelled miniature portrait survived in
the meritorious works of Henry Bone, R.A., and the less excellent
panels of Craft, the enamelled trinkets of Paris were imitated with
success at Battersea, though the copies never attained the grace of
the better French models.

It is impossible in the present place to enter upon the wide
subject of oriental enamels. It has already been mentioned that
Chinese, and therefore Japanese, cloisonne^ enamelling is probably
to be ascribed to western inspiration ; a similar origin is inferred
in the case of the earlier Saracenic enamels (see p. 44). The
Persian painted enamels of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
are in like manner developments of the western process. It may
be assumed that India derived her knowledge of the enameller's
art from Persia, and therefore that the brilliant enamels produced
in many parts of Hindustan, but notably at Jaipur, are indirectly
at least of western descent.

Although ancient niello is not represented in the Collection, it
may be of interest to add a few words upon its use in the arts,
since it is employed in a somewhat similar manner to enamel.

Niello is not vitreous but metallic : its principal constituents
are silver, lead, sulphur and copper ; but the proportions of each
have varied at different periods\ so that substances of different
composition may all be classed under the generic name. In the
most ancient examples of its use, which date from the eighteenth
Egyptian dynasty-, copper appears to predominate over silver,
while in later times, for instance in the recipe given by Theophilus,
the contrary was sometimes the case. But whatever the composi-
tion, niello fuses at a much lower temperature than enamel, and is
therefore easier to employ. As if in compensation for this, it is
also softer, and is therefore more easily disintegrated.

' See the tables given by Dr Marc Rosenberg, Geschichte der Goldschmiedikunst
aiif technisilier Grundlage, Abtcihmg Niello, 1907, a work to which the student may
be referred for a comprehensive treatment of the subject. The word is derived from
iiigellum, on account of its blackness, the dark tint contrasting effectively with the colour
of the metal (gold, silver, bronze, &c.) in which it is inlaid.

- It is not finally decided whether the Egyptian substance is to be defined as niello,
but it is clearly metallic and not vitreous. The objects in which it occurs are the axe
and dagger of King Ahmose, and a gold hawk's head from the tomb of Queen Ah-hetep,
his mother (von Bissing, Eiu Thehauischcr Grabfuud. lyoo; Rosenberg, as above, p. 3).


Between the Egyptian metallic inlay and the next examples in
point of time, there is an interval of many centuries. The Greeks
appear to have used niello little, if at all, and it is not until Roman
times that it becomes common ^ Roman examples are abundant
both on silver and other metals ; and the niello designs upon
silver plate are often exceedingly effective. Byzantine art con-
tinued the Roman tradition : the silver dishes found in Russia
and in Cyprus- give evidence of considerable skill and taste ;
while gold finger-rings and other small objects receive the same
kind of ornament*.

Niello was much used in the West in the early Middle Ages,
especially by the Anglo-Saxons^ but the period of its greatest
popularity lies between the years i lOO and I200, when fine examples
like the portable altar at Paderborn, the Reliquary of St Victor
at Xanten, and the cross of St Trudpert were made^ It was
employed in the Mohammedan world in the eleventh century^,
and a silver amulet at Stockholm of that date shows characteristics
which must probably be attributed to oriental influences passing
northwards through Russia, a country where early mediaeval niello
is also found I Although at the beginning of the thirteenth century
the famous monastic goldsmith Frere Hugo of Oignies^ employed
niello to a considerable extent and it was popular with the
jewellers of the century following, it declined in favour in the
later Gothic period, to revive in Italy and Flanders during the
Renaissance. It would be profitless to linger over the well-known

^ A remarkable copper ewer and basin in the Museum at Budapest, which are of the
Ptolemaic period, 2nd century B.C., have figures outlined in gold upon a background of
a black material which certainly appears to be niello, although this has been disputed.

* For references see British Museum Catalogue of Early Christian and Byzantine
Antiquities, nos. 376 — 424; Archaeologia, Vols. LVII and i.X.

* Catalogue, as above, nos. 121 ff., 284, &c.

■* Ring of Ethelwulf and other objects in the Gold Ornament Room in the British

^ Rosenberg, as above, figs. 16 fif.

^ G. Migeon, Manuel d' art Musiilntan, II, 1907, p. \$o.

^ Collection Khaucnko (Kieff, 1902, Livraison v).

* A crozier i)y Frere Hugo is in the British Museum. Among the objects from his
hand preserved by the Soeurs de Notre Dame at Namur is a book-cover finely ornamented
with niello (Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 2nd period, xxii, 1880, p. 337). P. Kristeller,
Jahrbuch der koniglich preussischcn Kunstsammlungen, Vol. XV, pp. 94 ff. Later
Flemish work is represented by a fine nielloed cup in the British Museum.


discussions on tlie connection of the Italian nielloed paxes and
other objects with the discovery of the art of engraving upon
metal. It need only be said that although the art of the niello-
worker is no longer considered to possess the significance once
attributed to it in this regard', the name of Finiguerra has not
quite lost its old importance for the history of engraving-.

Paiuti)ig under glass
(Verre £glomis£)

The art of decorating glass by designs etched in gold or silver
foil is of considerable antiquity, the oldest known examples going
back at least to the first century of our era. In most of these
early specimens colour was either altogether omitted or applied
very sparingly : it did not begin to predominate before the later
Middle Ages, but in the pictures of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries it occupies the whole of the surface to be decorated.

The British Museum possesses two glass bowls found at Canosa
(Canusium) and ornamented with fine acanthus designs in gold
foill The lower or hemispherical parts of these bowls, which
alone are decorated, are double, the gold being applied to the
exterior of the vessel proper, which was finally covered by an outer
protective glass of the same form fitting closely over it like a cap*.
The foil was first fixed by means of a gum ; the decoration was
then traced upon it, and all the gold which lay beyond the design
was removed ; finally, the interior details were etched in with a
sharp point. The Canosa bowls, as Mr Dillon has well remarked*,

' Rosenberg, as above, pp. 23 ff.

^ Sir Sidney Colvin, A Florentine picture chronicle, &c., London, 1898, p. 30.

^ Archaeological Journal, LViii, 1901, pi. v, p. 248.

■• In these bowls it is difficult to find any definite traces of fusion : in each the two
parts are fitted together with admirable precision, the projecting edge of the inner vessel
having been carefully ground down at the line of junction.

' Glass, p. 45 (The Connoisseur's Library, Methuen, 1907). It is interesting to
notice that painting under glass seems to have been anticipated in very early times by
painting under crystal. Dr Arthur Evans found in the smaller palace at Knossos a rock
crystal plaque with traces of a building upon the back (The Times, August 27, 190S).
The date of the palace is not later than the i7ih century B.C.


reflect in character and feeling the art of an earHer period than the
first century : the design has all the grace of Hellenistic ornament,
and it is probable that they were actually made in Alexandria.
Canusium was a city which preserved the Greek language and
culture to a late period, and remained in close contact with the
Greek artistic and industrial centres. It was indeed through the
cities of Apulia, and through Cumae on the other side of the
peninsula, that the products of the glass-maker's art first penetrated
into Italy. A glass disc from Cyprus, also in the British Museum,
and of similar date, has a figure of Cupid in gold foil. It probably
once had a protecting glass and formed the lid of a cup or
unguent pot\

The same process was retained by the less skilful makers of
the well-known " gilded glasses " or foiidi d'oro discovered for the
most part in the Roman catacombs and dating from the period
between the third and sixth centuries-. These are the bottoms of
shallow bowls or cups, from which the sides have in almost every
case been broken away, leaving flat circular medallions with ragged
edges. Only the bottoms of the bowls appear to have been orna-
mented, the sides, if we may judge from the very rare examples
preserved intact, were left perfectly plain. The fojidi d' oro were
found imbedded in the mortar with which the slabs or tiles closing
the lociili or wall-tombs were sealed^ ; and it is supposed that at
the time of the interment they were fixed by the relatives and
friends of the deceased in the mortar, while it was still in a plastic
condition, that they might serv^e as a memorial, and at the same
time facilitate the identification of the tomb. The subjects are

^ Archaeological Journal, as above, p. 247 and plate.

" The fullest account of these glasses will be found in Dr Hermann Vopel's Die
altchristlichen Goldgldser, Freiliurg, &c., 1899 (in Picker's Archciologische Sttidien zum
Christlichen Altertlmm und iMittclalter), where references to the earlier literature are
given. An account in English, chiefly based upon this monograph, will be found in the
Archaeological Journal, 1901, pp. 225 ff. A large number of the glasses are reproduced
(in outline drawings) in R. Garrucci's Vetri ornati di figure in oro, Rome, 1858 and 1864,
as well as in the same author's Storia delP arte Cristiana, Vol. in. The fine series in
the British Museum are described in the Museum Catalogue of Early Christian and
Byzantine Antiquities, 1900, nos. 598 ft".

^ A few have been found with interments in other cities, especially in Cologne and
its neighbourhood. Other- lir^ e come to light at Ostia, Castel Gandolfo, &c., as well as
in Egypt.


mostly portraits of husbands and wives, alone or with llicir children,
and rcpresentaticjns of saints ; both classes arc commonly accom-
panied by inscriptions giving their names ; and acclamations such
as pie zeses are especially frequent. The figures stand out upon
the background of plain or coloured glass ; the features and folds
of drapery are traced with a point as in the earlier pagan examples.
The addition of colour is very exceptional ; as a rule it is only used
to suggest jewellery, or to render the clavi upon garments. But in
the very remarkable dish found at Cologne, now in the British
Museum \ colour was freely employed ; and this object, which some
have regarded as a paten, anticipates the processes which found
favour in later centuries.

These methods of decorating glass may have been abandoned
between the sixth and tenth centuries, but if so, the tradition at
any rate was kept alive, for Heraclius, the mediaeval writer on the
industrial arts, who lived in the tenth century, was familiar with all
its details, and describes experiments which he made himself'*.
Theophilus, another mediaeval writer on the arts, living about
A.D. iioo, describes the method of making the glass cubes of
which the gold background of Byzantine mosaics was composed^;
he asserts that the "Greeks" decorated glass cups with gold, and
the glass vessels from Constantinople in the Treasury of St Mark's
at Venice show that there is nothing improbable in the statement.
Jean de Garlande (fl. ii — 13th century) also mentioned glass
vessels with gold ornament ; and Cennino Cennini, the Paduan
artist, writing at the end of the fourteenth century, describes how

^ Catalogue of Early Christian and Byzantine Antiquities, no. 628 ; this object is so
damaged and decayed that it does not admit of successful reproduction by photography.
A figure is given in Nesbitt's Catalogue of the Slade Collection, p. 50. See also Bonner
Jahrhiicher, XLII, 1867, pi. v ; Garrucci, Storia, &c., pi. 169, fig. i.

^ Heraclius, De coloribus et artibus Romanorjim (trs. by Mrs Merrifield, 1849), i,
ch. V ; A. Ilg's edition is in R. Eitelberger von Edelberg's Quellenschriften fiir Kunstge-
schichte...des Mittelalters, Vol. iv, Vienna, 1873.

^ Diversarum artiuin Schedula, u, 15; R. Hendrie's edition, London, 1847; A. Ilg's
edition in Quellenschriften, as above, VH, 1874. Theophilus appears to have been a
German who had visited Sicily. The long-accepted tradition which identified him with
Rugerus or Rogkerus seems to rest upon insufficient evidence (Marc Rosenberg, Geschiehte
der Goldschmiedekunst : Ahteilung Niello). Theophilus describes the manufacture by
"the Greeks" of the gilded cubes of glass used as backgrounds in Byzantine mosaics.
Gold leaf was applied to one surface, and a film of glass blown over it as a protection.


to decorate with designs in gold panels for caskets and reliquaries^
Cennini makes no mention of a second protecting glass, which
seems to have been now generally abandoned.

There remain several interesting examples of glass etched with
a point upon gold leaf, and with added colour, belonging to a period
earlier than Cennini. It was evidently quite a usual thing to inlay
plaques of this kind in the panels of pulpits, altar frontals and other
pieces of church furniture, during the twelfth, thirteenth and four-
teenth centuries'-. A portable altar in the Victoria and Albert
Museum is an early instance; but the most remarkable example in
England is the old retable from the high altar of Westminster
Abbey^ now preserved in the Jerusalem Chamber. This retable is
enriched with a number of small blue and purple glass plaques, to
the back of which silver foil has been applied, while the front is
ornamented with animal and floral designs. These are believed to
have been painted on with a mixture of red ochre, wax, turpentine
and linseed oil, a composition which gives them a definite relief.
While the substance was still moist, gold foil was laid over it and
this was easily removed when dry, from those parts of the surface
not intended to be covered by the design ^ The external decora-
tion throws a shadow upon the silver foil of the reverse, and this
enhances the effect of the whole. Such work might almost be taken
for enamel by inexperienced eyes, and it was perhaps for this reason
that a clause in the statutes of the Paris enamellers in A.D 1309
forbade its use except for certain articles of church furniture''.
M. Andre, who has restored many early glass pictures, is of opinion
that in the majority of cases, where both gold and colour were
employed, the glass was first covered with foil applied by means
of gum. On such parts as were to have only gold, any required
pattern was traced with a point, while from those which were to be

1 II libra delV arte trattato della pittura. Italian edition, Florence, 1859. English
translation by Christina Herringham ; The book of the art of Cennino Cennini, London,

2 Mr Dillon {Glass, p. 141) mentions examples of this work in the Romanesque
churches of Apulia, notably on the pulpit at Bitonto.

=* Ibid.

'* Viollet le Due, Dictionnaire dii Mohilier franfais, p. 388. E. Dillon, Glass,
as above.

* La Collection Spitzer, Vol. II, p. 57.


painted the gold was entirely removed, and after the whole had
been cleaned, the high lights and flesh-tints were first painted in,
then the other colours in successive applications, with the addition
of fine silver foil here and there to produce a richer effect'. In
small plaques without figures the design was often reserved in the
gold foil while the whole ground was painted crimson, green or
black. The back may be protected by a varnish, but it is very
seldom that there is a second protecting glass.

The best fourteenth and fifteenth century examples appear to
come chiefly from the North of Italy, and it may be conjectured
that Venice and Milan were the principal centres of production.
The splendid example in the McClean Bequest (no. 76) is certainly of
Italian origin, and is probably of the fourteenth century. The fine
collection bequeathed by the Marquis Emmanuele d'Azeglio to the
Museo Civico at Turin contains early examples among numerous
specimens of later date ; others are in the British and Victoria and
Albert Museums-. Glass pictures continued popular through the
period of the Renaissance, colour gradually predominating over
gold. In the sixteenth century the process was applied to crystal
jewels, and to the central medallions of Venetian glass dishes^ But
larger panels with figure subjects were still produced, and were
popular north of the Alps : a panel in the Salting Collection is
assigned to Germany ; and the plaque in the present Bequest repre-
senting St Jerome (no. Tj) may also be of German origin. Plaques
of painted glass were inlaid in the elaborate cabinets which were
fashionable in Germany in the seventeenth century. The succeeding
century saw no diminution in the popularity of the art. The

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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 8 of 14)