e·nam·el·work (ĭ-nămʹəl-wûrk') n.
1. Decorative work done in enamel.
2. Enamelware.

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Metal objects decorated with an opaque glaze fused to the surface by intense heat.

The resulting surface is hard and durable and can be brilliantly colourful. Objects most suitable for enamelwork are delicate, small (e.g., jewelry, snuffboxes, scent bottles, watches), and made of copper, brass, bronze, or gold. The best-known processes are cloisonné and champlevé. Enamelwork was produced as early as the 13th century BC, reached its peak in the Byzantine Empire, and flourished throughout medieval and Renaissance Europe. In the early 20th century Carl Fabergé produced highly prized objects made of gold, enamel, and jewels. See also Limoges painted enamel.

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      technique of decoration whereby metal (metalwork) objects or surfaces are given a vitreous glaze that is fused onto the surface by intense heat to create a brilliantly coloured decorative effect. It is an art form noted for its brilliant, glossy surface, which is hard and long-lasting.

      Enamels have long been used to decorate the surface of metal objects, perhaps originally as a substitute for the more costly process of inlaying with precious or semiprecious stones but later as a decorative medium in their own right. Whereas paint on metal has a short life and, even when new, is overshadowed by the brilliance of the polished metal, enamelling gives the surface of metal a durable, coloured, decorative finish. With the painted enamels of the Renaissance and the portrait miniatures of the 17th century, the technique reached its most ambitious and artistic form, in which the craftsman attempted to create a version of an oil painting, using a metal sheet instead of a canvas and enamels instead of oil paints. This medium undoubtedly has its limitations—few painted-enamel plaques of the Renaissance, for example, are much more than one foot square—but while oil paints on canvas eventually fade and darken, the colours of enamels are permanent. Relatively few creative artists of distinction have chosen to work in this medium, however, and it has tended to be purely decorative.

      Few types of metal objects have not, at some period, been enriched with enamelled decoration. Throughout history, jewelry has been made more colourful by the application of enamels. Similarly, arms and armour, horse trappings, and even domestic items, such as mirrors and hanging bowls, were embellished with enamel decoration. Throughout the Middle Ages, both secular and ecclesiastical objects, such as chalices, cups, reliquaries, caskets, crosiers (a staff carried by bishops and abbots as a symbol of office), and spoons, were elaborately enamelled. With the advent of painted enamels in the Renaissance, tableware was completely covered with enamel, and painted-enamel panels were used to decorate the ceilings and walls of rooms in the châteaus of France. Following upon the invention of the domestic table clock and of the watch in the 16th century, enamelling became one of the most popular forms of decoration for the dials and cases; by the 18th century, items of the drawing room, such as snuffboxes, etuis (cases for small articles like scissors and needles), tea caddies, candlesticks, scent bottles, and thimbles, were frequently made of enamel.

      Among the objects decorated with enamels in East Asia are vases, incense vessels, teapots, suits of armour, and sliding doors.

Materials and techniques
      Enamel is a comparatively soft glass, a compound of flint or sand, red lead, and soda or potash. These materials are melted together, producing an almost clear glass, with a slightly bluish or greenish tinge; this substance is known as flux or frit—or, in France, fondant. The degree of hardness of the flux depends on the proportions of the components in the mix. Enamels are termed hard when the temperature required to fuse them is very high; the harder the enamel is, the better it will withstand atmospheric agencies, which in soft enamels first produce a decomposition of the surface and ultimately cause the breakup of the whole enamel. Soft enamels require less heat to fire them and consequently are more convenient to use, but they do not wear so well, especially if subjected to friction.

      Clear flux is the base from which coloured enamels are made, the colouring agent being a metallic oxide, which is introduced into the flux when the latter is in a molten state. The brilliance of an enamel depends on the perfect combination of its components and on maintaining an equal temperature throughout its fusion in the crucible. The colour of many enamels is achieved by a change in the proportion of the components of the flux rather than by a change in quantity of the oxide. For example, turquoise-blue enamel can be obtained from the black oxide of copper by using a comparatively high proportion of carbonate of soda; in the same way, a yellowish-green enamel can be obtained from the same black oxide by increasing the proportionate amount of red lead.

      Clear flux is also used to make opaque enamels; the addition of calx, a mixture of tin and lead calcined, renders translucent enamels opaque. White enamel is produced by adding stannic and arsenious acids to the flux, the quantity of the acid affecting the density, or opacity, of the enamel.

      The heated enamel, after being thoroughly stirred, is usually poured out onto a slab and allowed to solidify into cakes of approximately four to five inches (10 to 13 centimetres) in diameter. For use, each cake must be pulverized into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar; the powder then has to be subjected to a series of washings in distilled water until all the floury particles are removed. The metal, on which the powdered enamel is to be spread, is cleansed by immersion in acid and water. All trace of the acid is then removed by washing and by drying in warm oak sawdust. After the wet powder has been spread on the metal, it is allowed to dry in front of the furnace before it is carefully introduced into the muffle of the furnace (a compartment protected from the flame), where it is heated to the point at which it fuses and adheres to its metal base. The firing of enamel takes only a few minutes, and the object is then withdrawn and allowed to cool.

      The various techniques practiced by craftsmen in the past differ mainly in the methods employed in preparing the metal to receive the powdered enamel.

      In the cloisonné technique, thin strips of metal are bent and curved to follow the outline of a decorative pattern; they are then attached, usually soldered, to the surface of the metal object, forming miniature walls that meet and create little cells between them. Into these cells, the powdered enamel is laid and fused. After it has cooled, the surface can be polished to remove imperfections and to add to the brilliance. The cloisonné technique is particularly suited to objects made of gold, such as jewelry.

      This process is the opposite of the cloisonné technique: instead of building up on the surface of the metal object, the surface is gouged away, creating troughs and channels separated by thin ridges of metal that form the outline of the design. The troughs are filled with powdered enamel and fused. The champlevé technique requires a thick metal base and therefore is used on copper and other base metals.

      This technique is a sophisticated extension of the champlevé method, for again the metal surface has to be cut away and filled with enamel, but here there are two major differences. First, within the area that has been cut away to receive the enamel, a design or figural composition is chased (chiselled), or sometimes engraved, in low relief. Because the highest point of the relief is below the general surface of the surrounding metal, the enamel, which is level on its outer surface, lies in varying thicknesses over the modelled surfaces of the low relief. Second, because the coloured enamels used in this technique are translucent, the composition of the low relief shows through; and, since the metal used is normally gold or silver, the light is reflected back through the translucent enamelling, adding a brilliant tonal quality to the enamel, just as sunlight enhances the beauty of a stained-glass window. The effect of the reflected light varies according to the thickness of the enamel lying over the undulating surfaces of the low relief; consequently, an impression of plasticity and of three-dimensional modelling is created by the subtle variations in tonal strengths of the enamel colours, which range from bright highlights to the rich tones of the deep recesses.

      The plique-à-jour technique is designed to produce an effect of a stained-glass window in miniature through the use of translucent enamels. The technique is exactly the same as cloisonné enamelling except that the strips of metal forming the cells are only temporarily attached—not soldered—to a metal base to which the enamel will not stick. After the enamel is fused and sufficiently annealed, the metal sheet, usually aluminum-bronze, is removed with a few light taps, leaving a network of metal strips filled with enamel “windows.” The enamels can be carefully polished to enhance their appearance.

Encrusted enamelling (émail en ronde bosse)
      Encrusted enamelling is the term used to describe the technique of enamelling the irregular surfaces of objects or figures in the round or in very high relief. Both opaque and translucent enamels are applied to these small-scale sculptural objects, which are usually made of gold. The great technical problem is to devise methods of supporting and protecting these objects during the firing. Frequently, plaster of paris is used to envelop parts of the object, leaving exposed only those parts on which enamel is to be applied and fused.

Painted enamels
      This technique differs fundamentally from the preceding five in that the various coloured enamels are not separated from each other by metal strips or ridges. Although these enamels are still applied in their wet, powdered state, the adjacent patch of coloured enamel is first allowed to dry to avoid one running into the other and so blurring the outline between them.

      The metal generally used in this technique is copper. It is cut with shears into a plate of the size required and slightly domed with a burnisher or hammer, after which it is cleaned with acid and water. The enamel is laid equally over the whole surface both back and front, and then the object is fired. The first coat of enamel being fixed, the design is delineated by drawing with a needle through a layer of wet white enamel or any other that is opaque and most advantageous for subsequent coloration.

      In the case of grisaille enamels, the white is mixed with water, turpentine, spike oil of lavender, or essential oil of petroleum and painted over a dark-enamel ground. Light areas of the design are painted thickly; gray areas, thinly to allow the dark ground to tone the white pigment. The technique creates a strong contrast between light and shade, creating an impression of low relief. The scenes in grisaille are sometimes rendered more subtly by hatching, executed with a pointed tool or needle to reveal the dark enamel beneath.

      In coloured painted enamels, enamel colours are spread over the grisaille treatment; when fired, parts of the surface are heightened by touches of gold, usually painted in thin lines, like hatchings. Other parts can be made more brilliant by the use of foil, over which the transparent enamels are placed and then fired.


Ancient Western
      The origins of the art of enamelling are uncertain. While there is archaeological evidence that glass was being made from the 3rd millennium BC in western Asia and from the 15th century BC glass vessels were undoubtedly being made in Egypt, there is no proof that enamelling on metal was practiced in either Asia Minor or Egypt until after the time of Alexander the Great (died 323 BC).

      Perhaps the origins of the art are to be found on Mycenaean metalwork of the 13th to 11th centuries BC. Six gold rings, excavated from a Mycenaean tomb of the 13th century BC at Kouklia (near Old Paphos), in Cyprus, are decorated with a cloisonné technique that suggests an intermediary stage between inlay and true enamelling. Scientific examination has shown that the different coloured enamels were not in the form of powder when they were inserted into the cloisons before being fired and fused together; rather they were in the form of fragments of coloured glass. Unfortunately, no report exists of any scientific examination of a more accomplished example of Mycenaean enamelling—the decoration on the gold sceptre found in a royal tomb at Kourion Kaloriziki, in Cyprus—but it is generally believed that this is true enamelling and datable to the 11th century BC.

      If true enamelling existed in Mycenaean work, it would be reasonable to expect the technique to have been inherited by the Greeks and transmitted by them to the rest of Europe, perhaps by way of the colonies on the north shore of the Black Sea and in the south of Italy. Unfortunately, however, there is a long gap between the Mycenaean enamels and the Greek gold jewelry of the 6th–3rd centuries BC, which is sparingly enamelled, often having no more than touches of blue and white enamel enclosed by thin gold wire openwork (filigree).

      Until recently the most ancient examples of enamelling outside Mycenaean art were said to be on ornaments discovered in a cemetery in the Kuban, close to the Caucasus, variously dated between the 9th and 7th centuries BC; but the most important of these Kuban enamels, the famous Maikop belt buckle (the Hermitage, Leningrad) depicting a griffin attacking a horse, is now regarded by Russian experts as a forgery. Consequently, the earliest enamelling from south Russia may date from the 3rd or 2nd century BC.

      A slightly earlier date is given to a number of excavated bronze objects of western European origin, which are said to bear the remains of cloisonné enamel decoration. Until this early Celtic (Celt) material has been scientifically examined and proved to be true enamel as distinct from inlaid coral, cut stone (chiefly lapis), or coloured glass applied cold, theories about it remain open to question. At the present time it is a matter of conjecture what link, if any, may have existed between the enamellers in south Russia and those Celtic craftsmen who by the 3rd century BC, if not earlier, were using red enamel in place of coral inlay.

      During the Roman period, enamelling—both cloisonné and champlevé on bronze—was carried on almost entirely in those old Celtic areas that had become the northern provinces of the Roman Empire. It may well be to these provincial works that a passage from the works of Philostratus (Philostratus the Lemnian), 2nd century AD, refers. The author, describing a boar hunt at which the riders appear with horse trappings ornamented in bright colours, writes:

It is said that the barbarians in the ocean [i.e., the Celtic tribes] pour these colours into bronze moulds, that the colours become as hard as stone, preserving the designs.

      This is a fair description of the process of champlevé enamel and suggests that the technique, in use in the British Isles, was not practiced at the time in Greece or Italy. Enamelled horse trappings such as Philostratus describes have been found in many places in the British Isles. This type of Celtic enamelling of the Roman period lived on in northwest Europe, particularly in Ireland, until as late as the 12th century. Some of its more striking effects seem to be derived from Roman glassmaking practices, particularly its use of millefiori glass, a mosaic of very thin glass rods of different colours and shapes fused together and then cut into thin sections, which the Celtic craftsmen fused into a ground of coloured enamel.

      The most dramatic development in the history of enamelling took place in the Byzantine Empire between the 6th and 12th centuries, a period during which only the cloisonné technique—almost exclusively executed on gold—was in use. At their zenith in the 10th–11th centuries, Byzantine enamellers created delicate, highly expressive miniature scenes in a great range of colours that shine like jewels. The masterpiece of this period is the altar screen “Pala d'Oro” in St. Mark's, Venice, believed to have been brought from Constantinople to Venice about 1105. The quality of Byzantine enamelling began to decline in the late 12th century.

      There is no direct evidence that enamelling on metal was practiced at any Islāmic centre in western Asia. Scholars who argue that the technique of Byzantine gold-cloisonné enamelling originated in Syria before the 7th century AD can point to just one object on inconclusive stylistic considerations, associated with Umayyad Syria. Only one other enamelled object has survived with strong Islāmic connections: a dish with an Arabic inscription referring to an Artuqid Prince, who reigned AD 1114–44. The enamel technique is cloisonné, but with bronze wires soldered onto a copper base. As no other examples have been found and as the inscription in Arabic indicates an imperfect knowledge of the language, it may be the work of a Byzantine craftsman working in the Artuqid kingdom.

Western European
      As early as the 7th century, according to some scholars, Byzantine work was being copied by Lombard craftsmen in northern Italy; later it was imitated in Sicily and other parts of Italy—even perhaps in England, where the famous Alfred Jewel, made to the order of the English king Alfred the Great in the 9th century AD, shows strong Byzantine influence. In the Ottonian period (AD 936–1002), gold-cloisonné enamelling seems to have flourished in eastern France, and in the Rhineland, particularly among the goldsmiths working at Essen and in the workshops of Archbishop Egbert (AD 937–993) at Trier.

      In western Europe cloisonné enamelling was abandoned in the 12th century, in favour of the champlevé technique executed on a base metal such as copper or bronze. This revival may have taken place first in Spain, in the valleys of the Rhine and the Meuse, or in France at Limoges; but, by the middle of the century, expert craftsmen in these centres—and in England—had established it as one of the foremost mediums for artistic expression in the Romanesque style. In the Mosan school, the famous 12th-century enamellers Godefroid de Claire at Liège and Nicholas of Verdun created champlevé enamelwork of unprecedented merit. The best work from Limoges was executed at the turn of the 12th–13th century; thereafter, the output was commercialized and standards fell steadily throughout the 13th and 14th centuries.

      In the late 13th century, gold and silver objects were again decorated with enamel but in a new technique, basse-taille enamelling.The earliest surviving dated example was made in Italy in 1290. Throughout the following century, Italian goldsmiths, particularly from Siena and Florence, produced pictorial masterpieces in this medium. The technique was especially favoured in Spain and France. No more accomplished example has survived than the “Royal Gold Cup” (British Museum), commissioned by the brother of the French king Charles V about 1380. The sides and the cover have scenes depicting the life and martyrdom of St. Agnes in the most glowing rich colours and elegant draftsmanship of the period. The great era of basse-taille enamelling ended with the Renaissance, though it remained popular in Spain and southern Germany, chiefly in Augsburg, to the middle of the 17th century.

15th century to the present: European
      Under the patronage of the courts of France and Burgundy in the late 14th and first half of the 15th centuries, goldsmiths devised new and more audacious methods of enamelling. Using translucent coloured enamels, they created the effect of stained-glass windows in miniature by the technique known as plique-à-jour. One of the loveliest pieces is the silver-gilt Merode beaker of Flemish or Burgundian origin, probably c. 1430–40, decorated with two bands of enamels set in tiny windows with Gothic tracery (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). Employing another technique, encrusted enamelling, they created both large-scale, three-dimensional compositions and miniature work to be worn as jewelry. Among the finest and earliest surviving examples is the Reliquary of the Holy Thorn (in the Waddesdon bequest in the British Museum): the Holy Thorn, set in a gem, is surrounded by the Last Judgment scene, in which all the figures (20) are enamelled, many of them being executed wholly in the round. The taste for this type of enamelled goldsmith work spread to all the courts of Europe; and, although the style changed several times, first from Gothic to Renaissance and then to Baroque, the essential extravagant toy-like quality remained. Of all the Renaissance goldsmiths who helped to create an international style, however, only Benvenuto Cellini wrote (c. 1560) a technical treatise on the subject.

      Although the technique of painted enamels was probably first evolved by Flemish craftsmen about 1425–50 for the Burgundian court and perhaps developed by Venetian and north Italian enamellers between 1450 and 1500, the supremacy of the Limoges (Limoges painted enamel) workshops was established by the beginning of the 16th century. For the next 100 years, French Mannerist art found talented expression in this medium, and, enjoying court patronage, the best Limoges enamellers strove to compete with other artists in decorating the rooms of royal palaces. Painting in grisaille was finally introduced at Limoges by about 1530–40.

      A new dimension was given to painted enamelwork about 1620–30 by a French goldsmith, Jean I Toutin of Chateaudun, and some rival craftsmen in Blois. Their achievement was to invent a highly skillful method for fine miniature painting in enamel colours on a white-enamel ground. Since the technique was admirably suited to the current enthusiasm for portrait miniatures, artists of distinction, such as Jean Petitot, were employed by Charles I of England and the French kings to work in this medium.

      With equal artistic skill, other French enamellers decorated items of jewelry, especially watchcases; and, by the second half of the 17th century, this craft had become centred on Geneva, where it continued to flourish into the 19th century. In England, particularly in the Midlands, the Continental style of painted enamelled “toys” was copied and produced on a large scale, but the technique of transfer printing on enamel was invented in England and brought to perfection at the Battersea (Battersea enamelware) (London) factory during 1753–56. The design was applied to the white-enamel ground by transferring to paper, and then to the surface to be decorated, an impression from an engraved metal plate that had been brushed with enamel colours. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, enamellers used the technique of fine miniature painting in enamels in Germany, Holland, England, and Russia in order to produce the “toys” of the fashionable world of society.

      The technique called en résille sur verre flourished for only about 40 years (c. 1600–40), and few examples have survived. Yet it required an exceptional degree of skill. The technique consists of cutting the design in a medallion of glass, usually coloured, lining the incisions with gold and filling them with variously coloured enamels. The exponents of this kind of enamelling were mainly French.

      Although surviving examples are rare, there is a distinctive group of brass objects, mainly candlesticks and andirons, which have green, blue, or white opaque enamelling. These objects were made in 17th-century England (perhaps in Sussex).

      Most of the early enamelling techniques have continued to be used by goldsmiths in modern times—from the Parisian makers of gold snuffboxes in the 18th century to Carl Fabergé at the beginning of the 20th. Art Nouveau jewellers, such as René Lalique, and modern artists, such as Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, and Gerda Flockinger, have kept alive the craft of enamelling and added to the multiplicity of its ingenious effects.

Hugh Tait

      Enamels do not appear to have reached China until long after they were found throughout Europe. All authorities are agreed as to the Western origin of the art, which in all probability was introduced into China by traders or by travelling craftsmen. Although by the 5th century AD the Chinese were informed as to the production of glass—an essential material for the making of enamels—and were already highly skilled in the working of bronzes and other metals, there is no evidence that the art of enamelling was practiced before the T'ang dynasty (Tang dynasty) (618–907). There is in the Shōsō-in (principal storehouse) at Nara, in Japan, a silver mirror, the back of which is decorated in cloisonné. It is generally agreed that the mirror is of Chinese origin, dating from the T'ang dynasty, as is certainly the case with many other objects in the collection. At present, this is the only known Chinese enamelled ware made before the 14th century; but it can be safely assumed from this piece that the art of cloisonné was developed to a respectable height in the T'ang dynasty. It appears that cloisonné work was well established in China at the end of the 14th century and that Byzantine work of similar character was also so well known as to invite comparison with the native product. The former may well have served as an example for Chinese craftsmen. As one scholar points out:

The workmanship presents occasionally . . . striking resemblances with certain enamels of the Byzantine school; the mixture of different enamels inside the wall of the same cell, the employment of gold incrustations in the treatment of the fingers and the hands, etc.

      Active trade and cultural intercourse between the Near East and China during the Yüan (Mongol) dynasty must have been the reason for this revival of enamelwork, which then flourished through the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties (1368–1644 and 1644–1911/12, respectively).

      Chinese enamels fall into three categories—cloisonné, champlevé, and painted. In none does the technique vary appreciably from that employed in Western countries.

      The earliest example of cloisonné enamel that can be authentically associated with east Asia is the silver mirror in the Shōsō-in mentioned above. Its cloisonné back is decorated in a design of a six-petalled blossom in three layers, the tips of the outer rows of petals forming 12 points of the mirror. The piece is regarded as a T'ang dynasty work. Apart from this, the sequence of known Chinese enamels begins in the Yüan period, and the earliest recorded marks belong to the reign of the last emperor of that dynasty (1333–68). The great period of production is certainly that of the Ming dynasty, which followed.

      The mark most commonly found within this period is that of the Ching-t'ai (Jingtai) reign (1449–57). The Ming enamels, bold in design with fine depth and purity of colour, were never surpassed in later epochs. The two shades of blue, a dark-lapis-lazuli tone and a pale sky blue with a very slight tinge of green, are particularly excellent. The red is of dark-coral tint, and the yellow full-bodied and pure. Greens derived from copper are sparingly used. Black and white are the least successful, the former shallow and dull, the latter clouded and muddy. As fine as the Ming enamels are, however, there is an imperfection of technique, close examination revealing minute pitting in the enamels, which was caused by inadequate packing of the material, and some lack of polish in the surface. These technical defects, however, do not appreciably detract from the great artistic value of the Ming enamels.

      A great revival of art industries took place under the patronage of the emperor K'ang-hsi (Kangxi) (1661–1722), who, in 1680, established a series of imperial factories. He commissioned sets of incense vessels of cloisonné enamel for presentation to the numerous Buddhist temples founded under his auspices in the neighbourhood of Peking, as well as other objects for the honorific gifts that were characteristic of his enlightened reign. The enamels produced during his time are marked by an improvement in technical quality as compared with those of the Ming period; to a considerable extent they also retained the finer qualities of the Ming wares. In many cases the forms of ancient bronze vessels were revived and enriched with enamels.

      The style of this reign persisted during that of K'anghsi's successor, Yung-cheng (1722–35), while the long rule of Ch'ien-lung (1735–96) was marked, in enamel as in the case of many other industrial arts, by a further perfection of technique but by a loss of much of the vigour of design and breadth of execution that distinguished the products of earlier periods. Modern enamels, although they are primarily imitations of older work, are more hurriedly made and therefore not so well finished as the older work.

      Some of the most ancient enamel examples extant belong to this class, and examples employing both champlevé and cloisonné are not uncommon.

      Although the opaque enamels were more common, Chinese artisans occasionally used translucent enamels on a silver or gold base. The cloisonné back of the silver mirror in the Shōsō-in, for example, is decorated with transparent enamels, but important pieces such as this are rare. This technique more often appears in Chinese jewelry.

Painted enamels
      The painted enamels of China, generally known, from the principal seat (Canton) of their manufacture, as Canton enamels (Canton enamel), are practically identical in technique with the Limoges and other painted enamels of Europe. Specimens of the latter are known to have been taken to China by the missionaries of the late 17th and 18th centuries; they not only exercised direct influence on the Chinese ware but also, in some cases, were copied. Representations of European subjects, copies of engravings and armorial decorations, are also found. Painted enamels are termed by the Chinese yang-tz'u (“foreign porcelain”), the palette of colours used being the same as with enamelled porcelain, whose decoration under foreign influence is called yang-ts'ai (“foreign colours”). A ground of opaque enamel, generally white, is laid on the copper, and on this the colours are superimposed and fired. The best period of this art was the 18th century. Although imitations have continued to be made, nothing of real quality in this style was produced after the termination of the reign of Ch'ien-lung in 1796. The method has always been looked upon by the Chinese as alien in taste; in fact, a great part of the Canton enamels were made for export, not only on European commission but also for clients in India, Persia, and several other Asian countries.

      The art of enamelling in Japan may date back to the 7th century. One enamelled metal piece, discovered in a tomb near Nara, probably from the 7th century, seems to be of Japanese origin. The civic Taihō code, compiled in the 8th century, provides one official to be in charge of founding metals and “painted glass decoration.” Subsequently, however, this art seems almost to die out until the 17th century. When Dōnin Hirata I (1591–1646) made enamelled wares, having learned the technique from Koreans, his art was highly appreciated by Tokugawa Ieyasu, then the shogun of Japan, under whose patronage Hirata worked in Kyōto. There is a suit of armour with enamelled metal fittings ascribed to him, as well as enamelled metal fittings decorating sliding doors and lintels in the Katsura Palace, Kyōto. His family continued the trade until the late 19th century, making use, on a small scale, of both the cloisonné and champlevé methods. There was no further development of importance until Kaji Tsunekichi (1803–83) and his pupils established in Nagoya a successful manufacture of cloisonné, which obtained a considerable vogue, especially among foreigners.

      While Kaji used brass cloisons and opaque enamel colours only, his successors used silver cloisons and succeeded in making both transparent and translucent enamels. They further modified the cloisonné process with remarkable ingenuity and produced work of great interest. First, they reproduced in minutely detailed cloisonné work realistic pictures, of trees and flowers, for example. This effort led them in the 1880s to produce lineless cloisonné enamels, which have all the beauty and brilliance of true cloisonné, with thick layers of enamel colours, but which, showing no trace of cloisons, permit a gradation of colours as in the less clear and brilliant painted enamels. The effect was achieved by taking off the cloisons before each firing, the process being repeated at least three times. The artists working for the factory of Namikawa Sōsuke of Tokyo in the late 19th century were most successful in this technique. Another Namikawa of Kyōto worked in true cloisonné. The factory of Jubei Ando of Nagoya has produced more variations. These developments have carried the art of enamel very far from the old traditions; while the skill and ingenuity of technique they evince may be appreciated, there is a danger of losing the artistry peculiar to the art of enamelling.


Additional Reading

Materials and techniques
Kenneth Francis Bates, Enameling: Principles and Practice (1951); Herbert Maryon, Metalwork and Enamelling, 4th ed. (1959), contains a useful bibliography; Margaret Seeler, The Art of Enameling (1969).

Periods and centres of production
Klaus Wessel, Byzantine Enamels from the 5th to the 13th Century (1968); Luigi Malle, Cloisonnés bizantini (1970); Shalva Amiranashvili, Medieval Georgian Enamels of Russia (1964); Mary Chamot, English Mediaeval Enamels (1930); W.L. Hildburgh, Medieval Spanish Enamels and Their Relation to the Origin and the Development of Copper Champlevé Enamels of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (1936); Marie-Madeleine Gautnier, Ernaux limousins champlevés des XIIe, XIIIe, and XIVe siècles (1950); J.J. Marquet de Vasselot, Les Crosses limousines du XIIIe siècle (1941); Paul Thoby, Les Croix limousines de la fin du XIIe siècle au debut du XIVe siècle (1953); Katia Guth-Dreyfus, Transluzides Email in der ersten Hälfte des 14 Jahrhunderts am Ober-, Mittel-, und Niederrhein (1954); Philippe Verdier, Catalogue of the Painted Enamels of the Renaissance in the Walters Art Gallery (1967), with an excellent bibliography; Henri Clouzot, Dictionnaire des miniaturistes sur émail (1924) and La Miniature sur émail en France (1928); Pierre F. Schneeberger, Les Peintres sur émail genevois au XVIIe et au XVIIIe siècle (1958); Charles Beard, “Bavarian Enamels of the Seventeenth Century,” Connoisseur, 97:267–271 (1936); Edward Dillon, “English Enamels on Brass of the Seventeenth Century,” Burlington Magazine, 16:261 (1910); Egan Mew, Battersea Enamels (1926), out of date in some respects; Sandor Mihalik, Emailkunst im alten Ungarn (1961; Eng. trans., Old Hungarian Enamels, 1961); Harry Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels (1962), with a full bibliography; Lawrence A. Coben and Dorothy C. Ferster, Japanese Cloisonne: History, Technique, and Appreciation (1982), is meant for collectors and scholars.

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Universalium. 2010.

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