A brief history of enameling


Around 1600 BC, in Mycenae and Cyprus some artisans of glass and metal discovered a material similar to the stone, capable to melt on the surface of gold, silver, bronze and copper and to stuck permanently. In these two places, it was created the enameling, a fine art that enriched great religious and military personalities’ metal ornaments with color.
Hence the technique spread by east (Mesopotamia, Persia, Russia) and by west (Greece, Italy, Gaul, Germany and the Balkans), following two paths that in the III-IV century AD intersected themselves thanks to the contacts between populations that occurred as a result of the barbarian invasions.

Middle Ages and Reinassance

The enameling experienced a period of wide use under the Byzantine Empire and was applied by the goldsmiths with the highest outcomes in the sacred and profane manufacturing. After the iconoclastic crisis that affected Constantinople (VII-X century. AD), the local masters moved into the heart of Europe importing models and oriental styles: the dominance of their workshops was extended until the twelfth century.
In the Carolingian period, the innovative Gothic style proposed the idea of an art bearer of light to reach God: impressive stained glass windows through which passed a lot of light were built. At the same time, the enameling was refined with the introduction of the champlevé technique, especially used in the ateliers of the German Rhine and Meuse: the latter distinguished themselves by attempting to modernize the Byzantine style through the introduction of motifs from the contemporary production of miniatures. Besides these schools, the masters from Limoges established themselves opening the first secular workshops and employing, in addition to the champlevé, the cloisonné technique and the enamel painting.
In the fourteenth century A.D., Paris increased his fame and became one of the capitals of the European enamel: in the French city, techniques of translucent enamel and basse-taille of Sienese tradition were widely applied. Towards the middle of the fifteenth century, the enamel painting spread with a strong connotation and artistic impact close to oil on canvas.

Modern era

The enameling went through a decline in the latter part of the seventeenth century, when an event provoked by the change of tastes and a lower accuracy in the productions. In the eighteenth century, the technique of painting on enamel allowed precision in miniature and became an important element for rococo decoration of small objects such as watches and jewelry.
During the nineteenth century, the industrialization and the diffusion of the daguerreotype caused the enameling’s abandonment. Towards the end of the century, however, antiquarians and archaeologists rediscovered an interest in the enamel and thanks to the incentive of twentieth-century movements (such as Art Nouveau) all the techniques were resumed and completed with outstanding results in jewelry.

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