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.

An exotic production is a crucifix cut in a blood-stone by Matteo del Nassaro, where the artist has so utilized the possibilities of this stone that he has made the red patches to come in suitable places to portray drops of blood.  Matteo worked also in Paris, in 1531, where he formed a school and craft shop, and where he was afterwards made Engraver of the Mint.

Vasari tells of an ingenious piece of work by Matteo, where he has carved a chalcedony into a head of Dejanira, with the skin of the lion about it.  He says, “In the stone there was a vein of red colour, and here the artist has made the skin turn over... and he has represented this skin with such exactitude that the spectator imagines himself to behold it newly torn from the animal!  Of another mark he has availed himself, for the hair, and the white parts he has taken for the face and breast.”  Matteo was an independent spirit:  when a baron once tried to beat him down in his price for a gem, he refused to take a small sum for it, but asked the baron to accept it as a gift.  When this offer was refused, and the nobleman insisted upon giving a low price, Matteo deliberately took his hammer and shattered the cameo into pieces at a single blow.  His must have been an unhappy life.  Vasari says that he “took a wife in France and became the father of children, but they were so entirely dissimilar to himself, that he had but little satisfaction from them.”

Another famous lapidary was Valerio Vicentino, who carved a set of crystals which were made into a casket for Pope Clement VII., while for Paul III. he made a carved crystal cross and chandelier.

Vasari reserves his highest commendation for Casati, called “el Greco,” “by whom every other artist is surpassed in the grace and perfection as well as in the universality of his productions."...  “Nay, Michelangelo himself, looking at them one day while Giovanni Vasari was present, remarked that the hour for the death of the art had arrived, for it was not possible that better work could be seen!” Michelangelo proved a prophet, in this case surely, for the decadence followed swiftly.



“Oh, thou discreetest of readers,” says Benvenuto Cellini, “marvel not that I have given so much time to writing about all this,” and we feel like making the same apology for devoting a whole chapter to enamel; but this branch of the goldsmith’s art has so many subdivisions, that it cries for space.

The word Enamel is derived from various sources.  The Greek language has contributed “maltha,” to melt; the German “schmeltz,” the old French “esmail,” and the Italian “smalta,” all meaning about the same thing, and suggesting the one quality which is inseparable from enamel of all nations and of all ages,—­its fusibility.  For it is always employed in a fluid state, and always must be.

Enamel is a type of glass product reduced to powder, and then melted by fervent heat into a liquid condition, which, when it has hardened, returns to its vitreous state.

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