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Enamels (Smithsonian Illustrated Library of Antiques)
Enamels - Smithsonian Illustrated Library of Antiques Author:Susan Benjamin The history of enamels is both long and fascinating. Although the origins of the craft remain a mystery, examples of enameling have been found dating back three thousand years to Mycenaean Greece, and it is apparent that enameling methods have changed but little over the centuries. — In an introductory chapter on techniques, Susan Benjamin discu... more »sses the range of enameling processes--giving detailed explanations of the production of cloisonne, champleve, plique-a-jour and painted enamels and their many variations, from the initial preparation of the enamel and metal to the firing and polishing of the finished piece.
Then, in a chapter-by-chapter unveiling of enameled treasures from around the world, the author provides tantalizing glimpses back in time, as we see Bronze Age chieftains whose displays of power included splendid enameled horse trappings, princes of the Church wealthy enough to commission magnificent enameled altars, and Oriental emperors who strolled amidst the splendor of gardens and palaces decorated with enameled furniture, wine vessels, incense burners, even ceremonial drums.
Beginning in the eighteenth century, when technological innovations made production methods simpler, and consequently less expensive, enameled wares were brought to a wider audience. Whether applied to base metals such as bronze or copper, or to precious metals such as gold or silver, the durability of enamel and the dazzling array of colors in which it is available have enhanced the utility, beauty, and ultimately the value of the objects it adorns. Jewelry, ornaments, mustard pots, cutlery, snuffboxes, and myriad other objects have all been embellished by the hand of the enameller.
The energy and excitement of the nineteenth century generated a profusion of exotic and evocative enameling styles, ranging from the Moorish and Etruscan to the neoclassic and Oriental and culminating in Art Nouveau. Although this enthusiasm did not survive World War I, interest in enameling revived in the 1960s after nearly a fifty year hiatus, and it is apparent, as we read of the new and exciting experiements with the medium, that we are currently witnessing am important epoch in the history of the craft.
In a final chapter on collecting, Susan Benjamin discusses the various factors affecting the value of an enamel, the restoration of damaged enamels, and the detection of fakes, forgeries and reproductions. With the panoply of riches--both antique and modern--available to today's collector, her cardinal rule is both simple and reassuring: "Collect what appeals to you."
A glossary of special terms, a list of further reading and a guide to public collections of enamels all combine to extend the usefulness of this concise work.« less