Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 318 pages of information about Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages.

One of the most beautiful Corporation cups is at Norwich, where it is known as the “Petersen” cup.  It is shaped like a very thick and squat chalice, and around its top is a wide border of decorative lettering, bearing the inscription, “The + most + here + of. + Is + Dunne + by + Peter + Peterson +.”  This craftsman was a Norwich silversmith of the sixteenth century, very famous in his day, and a remarkably chaste designer as well.  A beautiful ivory cup twelve inches high, set in silver gilt, called the Grace Cup, of Thomas a Becket, is inscribed around the top band, “Vinum tuum bibe cum gaudio.”  It has a hall-mark of a Lombardic letter H, signifying the year 1445.  It is decorated by cherubs, roses, thistles, and crosses, relieved with garnets and pearls.  On another flat band is the inscription:  “Sobrii estote,” and on the cover, in Roman capitals, “Ferare God.”  It is owned by the Howard family, of Corby.

Tankards were sometimes made of such crude materials as leather (like the “lether bottel” of history), and of wood.  In fact, the inventory of a certain small church in the year 1566 tells of a “penny tankard of wood,” which was used as a “holy water stock.”

An extravagant design, of a period really later than we are supposed to deal with in this book, is a curious cup at Barber’s and Surgeon’s Hall, known as the Royal Oak.  It is built to suggest an oak tree,—­a naturalistic trunk, with its roots visible, supporting the cup, which is in the form of a semi-conventional tree, covered with leaves, detached acorns swinging free on rings from the sides at intervals!

Richard Redgrave called attention to some of the absurdities of the exotic work of his day in England.  “Rachel at a well, under an imitative palm tree,” he remarks, “draws, not water, but ink; a grotto of oyster shells with children beside it, contains... an ink vessel; the milk pail on a maiden’s head contains, not goat’s milk, as the animal by her side would lead you to suppose, but a taper!”

One great secret of good design in metal is to avoid imitating fragile things in a strong material.  The stalk of a flower or leaf, for instance, if made to do duty in silver to support a heavy cup or vase, is a very disagreeable thing to contemplate; if the article were really what it represented, it would break under the strain.  While there should be no deliberate perversion of Nature’s forms, there should be no naturalistic imitation.



We are told that the word “jewel” has come by degrees from Latin, through French, to its present form; it commenced as a “gaudium” (joy), and progressed through “jouel” and “joyau” to the familiar word, as we have it.

The first objects to be made in the form of personal adornment were necklaces:  this may be easily understood, for in certain savage lands the necklace formed, and still forms, the chief feature in feminine attire.  In this little treatise, however, we cannot deal with anything so primitive or so early; we must not even take time to consider the exquisite Greek and Roman jewelry.  Amongst the earliest mediaeval jewels we will study the Anglo-Saxon and the Byzantine.

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Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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