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THOUGH introduced early into Germany, the style of the Italian Renaissance made its way but slowly in a country where the ideas of the Middle Ages long held possession of people’s minds. It was not till after about 1515, when the spread of books and engravings quickened its general acceptance, that the new movement gained ground there.
The German goldsmiths, when once they had cast aside the Gothic style, seized upon Renaissance ornament with such avidity that by the second half of the sixteenth century they had acquired a widespread fame, and would seem by their richness of invention to have completely cast into the shade the Italian jewelers of their own day.
From an early period there had been a steady flow of artists leaving Germany to study in the great Italian ateliers. The principal of these, and one who influenced his countrymen more than any, was Albert Diirer, who showed in the engravings produced after his journey to Italy a perfect apprehension of Italian design.
As it traveled northward, Renaissance ornament increased in freedom from classic rule, and in the hands of the later droughts men and engravers who executed patterns for the goldsmiths, it lost much of its original purity, and assumed a mixed style, composed of strap and ribbon work, car touches, and intricate complications of architectural members, while the industrious affectation of the jewelers of the day for manipulative difficulties led to the production of ornaments whose effect is sometimes marred by over-elaboration of detail.
In addition to other circumstances, we must remember that the greater wealth of the middle classes was a powerful factor in the increasing production of jewelry. The goldsmiths consequently occupied an important position, and that there was a great demand for their services is proved by the fact that patterns for jewelry executed on their behalf by the foremost engravers of the day form no unimportant part of the engraved work produced by these artists.
In Germany, as elsewhere, success in trade resulted in a demand for objects of luxury. The city of Augsburg, situated on a great trade route, early attained to a height of commercial prosperity, while Munich, and especially Nuremberg, not far distant, flourished to an equal degree. Under the stimulating patronage of wealthy families, such as the Fugger family of Augsburg, articles of jewelry of every kind were produced in abundance, and throughout the sixteenth century found their way over nearly the whole of Europe.
In addition to these three cities, Prague during the last few years of the sixteenth and the commencement of the seventeenth century was likewise a center for the manufacture of an immense amount of enameled jewelry. This industry, carried on with considerable activity owing to the influence of the Archduke Ferdinand of Tirol (1520-1595), brother of Maximilian II, was most flourishing in the time of the Emperor Rudolph II (1552-1612), King of Hungary and Bohemia, under whose patronage several remarkable specimens of German goldsmith’s work now at Vienna were executed, such as the Austrian Imperial Crown, made in the year 1602.
The epoch of about forty years that terminated at the death of Rudolph II in 1612, and known as the Rudolphine period, witnessed the production, mainly in Southern Germany, of the greater part of the enameled jewelry now extant. Renaissance jewelry, as we speak of it, may be said to have almost ceased after that period, at a date which coincided with the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, and the Civil War in England.
Its proximity to Italy rendered Augsburg more quickly subject to the influence of the Italian style than Nuremberg and Munich, though by the middle of the sixteenth century the whole of Southern Germany followed the style of decoration of the Italian masters so thoroughly, that it is difficult to assign a large proportion of the ornaments of the period to either nation, since the distinguishing feature of the hall-mark finds no place on jewelry, as on other objects in the precious metals.
It is true that the extraordinary development of car touche and strap ornament on German work, as on that of the Netherlands, serves in many cases to distinguish it from the Italian, yet there is sufficient similarity in details of ornamentation, in masks and figures, as well as in the method of enamel-work and the setting of gems, to account for the divergence of opinion that exists as to the provenance of all the jewels of the period. Such is the glamour that surrounds Italian art, that it has been the custom to assign every fine jewel of the Renaissance to Italy; but a careful examination of existing examples has left us convinced that by far the greater number of them are not Italian, but of German origin, and belong to the second half of the sixteenth century and the early years of the seventeenth.
Portraits, alone, by German painters show that by the very commencement of the sixteenth century the wealth of the merchant princes of Southern Germany resulted in an even greater display of jewelry than was indulged in by the Italians. Various other considerations contribute to this conviction. First and foremost is the question of the designs from which the jewelers drew their ideas. A certain number of original drawings for jewelry by German artists exist. Of these there are examples of the work of the two greatest, namely, Durer (1471-1528) and Holbein (1497-1543).
To Holbein’s drawings, which were executed in England, detailed reference is made in a later chapter. In his designs for jewelry, as in all else, Diirer, the son of a goldsmith and descended from one on his mother’s side, maintains a high standard of excellence. Three sketches for pendent whistles, where the sound-producing part is formed of a ball with a hole in it, into which the air is carried by a pipe. In two cases the ball is held in the mouth of a lion, and in the third in the beak of a cock. The animals stand each on a curved pipe, and have a ring above for suspension. Two sketches for ring-shaped pendants—apparently whistles are also in this group of sketches. In both cases is air blown from a mouthpiece half-way round the ring into a ball held in an animal’s mouth.
Other sketches include a pendant, in the form of St. George and the Dragon within a laurel wreath, with a ring above and below. (2) A girdle-end formed of two dolphins with a chain attached. (3) A buckle and buckle-plate—the buckle formed of two dolphins, the plate ornamented with two cornucopia. (4) A round scent-case or pomander. In addition are miscellaneous designs for ornaments, erroneously considered to be patterns for embroidery. A charming representation of a pendent jewel is seen in Diirer’s woodcut of the Emperor Maximilian’s Triumphal Arch suspended from the Imperial Crown held by the figure of Genius.
Following Diirer there appeared a number of goldsmiths who, with the spread of the new style over Europe, were prepared to perform the task of remodeling personal ornaments in accordance with the taste of the day. The most ingenious of them, together with some artists of distinction, engraved with great fertility of imagination, for those who were not capable of design, patterns for goldsmith’s work and jewelry.
A large demand was made on the productive faculties of these engravers, who included among their ranks not only the best artists, termed from the usual small size of their productions “the little masters,” but many other designers of goldsmith’s ornament; and from their works, multiplied by means of engraving, the numerous craftsmen who worked in gold, enamel, and precious stones, drew their subjects and ideas.
On the question of the production of jewelry from such engraved designs, it is interesting to note the several points of similarity that exist in the procedure of the ornaments of the sixteenth century and that of the English furniture-designers of the eighteenth. In both cases the original producers of the designs were practical craftsmen, who certainly executed objects after their published patterns; while the patterns themselves were employed extensively as models. In both cases, too, it is quite evident that in a number of instances fanciful designs were produced which were never carried out. Hence one can readily understand the difficulties that are encountered in attempting to determine the provenance of such small and portable objects as personal jewels, the engraved designs for which were in like manner widely distributed.
But there is the strong probability, after all, that the greater number of jewels, after engraved designs of German origin, were executed in, or not very far distant from the locality in which the designs originated. If designs are considered insufficient for the identification of jewels, there exists a means much more certain, and one which should surely prevent the attribution to Italians of jewels unquestionably the work of German craftsmen.
It may be remembered that Cellini in his Trattati, in dealing with the goldsmith’s art, advised jewelers to preserve castings in lead of their works in gold and silver. In many cases Cellini’s recommendation has been literally carried out, and a considerable number of proofs struck by German jewelers of details of their jewels have fortunately come down to us.
The Bavarian National Museum at Munich contains a highly important collection of these leaden casts, being a complete series used by a family of gold and silver workers in Augsburg for upwards of 250 years (from about 1550 to 1800). The jewelers of Augsburg were among the first in Europe, and these models of their productions, bearing strong traces of the influence of contemporary ornaments, correspond in many details with original jewels dating from those times.
Examples of these lead models for jewelry exist in other collections, such as the Historical Museum at Basle. Of the same material, but of infinitely higher artistic importance, are the lead models by the hand of Peter Flotner of Nuremberg. In addition to engraved designs, Flotner executed models for goldsmiths, carved in stone and boxwood.
From these—of which original examples have survived—casts (so-called plaques) were made in lead, which were used as patterns for craftsmen in the same manner as engravings of ornament. Flotner’s models, though issued mainly for workers in gold and silver plate, were employed also by the jewelers, and exercised considerable influence on their productions.
Few engraved designs for jewelry are prior in date to the year 1550, though nearly all the prominent painter-engravers delighted in exercising their inventive faculty in this direction. One or two plates of pendants by Brosamer, and a buckle and whistle by Aldegrever, represent almost the sole engravings of the kind before Virgil Solis—the first to devise a more ambitious series of jewels. Among the earliest is the pattern book for goldsmith’s work, by Hans Brosamer (about 1480-1554).
These woodcuts, which are singularly attractive, are of a transitional character, with traces of Gothic design. They include two pages of pendants composed of stones between leaf work grouped round a central ornament and hung with pear-shaped pearls. One pendant consists of a niche between pillars—a similar style of ornament to that adopted by Androuet Ducerceau, and the first assignable instance, says Herr Lichtwark, of the use of architecture in German jewelry of this time, though this same motive was frequently represented later on by Erasmus Hornick and Mignot. Three other pendants are in the form of whistles for wearing on the neck-chain. In an engraving for a whistle of a similar kind by Aldegrever (1502-1558), Reproduced by Quaritch in 1897 from a copy now in the possession of Mr. Max Rosenheim. ‘ Lichtwark (A.), Der Ornamentstich der deutschen Fruhrenaissance, in. the lower part is formed of a case containing an ear-pick and a knife for the finger-nails. Except for this design (which finds a place in the background of his engraving of the pair of folding pocket-spoons of the year 1539), Aldegrever’s only example of jewelry is the remarkable Gothic girdle-buckle with its buckle-plate and tag (dated 1537).
The characteristic fig-leaf ornament of the early German Renaissance is better represented here than on any other engraving of the period. More modern in style is Mathias Zundt (1498-1586), whose compositions (dated 1551-1554) are carried out with great fineness. Zundt lived at Nuremberg; his great contemporaries, Virgil Solis and Erasmus Hornick being natives of the same city. It was to Virgil Solis (1514-1562), one of the most skillful and prolific of the German Klein-Meister, that the jewelers and other craftsmen of the day owed their finest inspirations.
Virgil Solis’s beautiful series of pendants are executed with great charm and delicacy. They bear the character of a transition from the graceful foliage of the early to the full Renaissance, with its fanciful architectural forms, its scroll ornament, arabesques, animals, and grotesque human masks and figures. Erasmus Hornick likewise exercised a potent influence on the jewelry of the time. He’ engraved in 1562 a series of pendants, chains, and other jewels of the most delicate execution.
The pendants in form of an architectural niche with the subject placed in the center, are the prototype of all the jewels of this kind which we meet with subsequently in the prints of the Flemish engraver Collaert. While many important engravings were being issued for the benefit of the jewelers of Nuremberg, a great quantity of jewelry was produced at Munich under the patronage of the Dukes of Bavaria. Duke Albert V had as court painter a skillful miniaturist whom he employed to paint in the form of an inventory exact copies in miniature of his jewels and those of his wife, Anne of Austria, preserved in his treasury. In addition to these drawings, now in the Royal Library at Munich, are a number of others, which came into the possession of Dr. von Hefner-Alteneck, and on his death in 1904 were purchased for the sum of $2,500 for the Bavarian National Museum.
Though the majority of these drawings for jewelry, in themselves works of extraordinary beauty, were copies of objects then already in existence, the presence of jewels similar to Mielich’s designs leads to the supposition that this artist exercised a strong influence on the jewelers of his day, and that a number of jewels were also executed at the command of the Duke from original sketches of his. None of the actual objects depicted by Mielich have survived, save a large gold chain set with pearls, rubies, and emeralds, which corresponds, particularly in its rich enamel-work, to one of the drawings lately added to the National Museum. This chain is known as the collar of the Order of St. George.
The size and quality of its stones and the great beauty of the enameled settings render it, without doubt, the finest article of its kind in existence. It is preserved in the Royal Treasury (Schatzkammer) at Munich, together with a number of other objects of the same type. The last decades of the sixteenth century saw the appearance of a new species of ornamental design, whose chief advocate, Theodor de Bry (1528-1598), of Lige, with his sons Johann Theodor and Johann Israel, settled in Frankfort-on-the-Main about 1560. It is a rich and varied surface decoration, often of white upon a black ground, composed of scroll ornament richly set with flowers, fruit, grotesques, and figures.
JEWELLERY of animals, the whole being charmingly designed, and engraved with great brilliancy of touch. In addition to his more famous knife-handles, de Bry executed several engravings for clasps, buckles, and metal attachments to girdles. For the counterpart of the artistic style of de Bry one must look to the Low Countries and particularly to the work of the engraver Hans Collaert (1540-1622), of Antwerp, who developed remarkable fertility in the production of patterns for jewelry.
Collaert’s designs require special attention, because of the tendency, elaborated largely by him and other engravers of the school of Antwerp, towards exuberant car touche ornaments with a mixture of extravagant and loosely arranged strap-work, and stud- or boss-work. This style, full of grotesques and arabesques, pervaded the work of every craftsman of the day, and dealt a final blow to any further development of pure Renaissance ornament.
Collaert’s chief series of pendants, eleven in number, published in 1581 are probably the best known of all designs for jewelry of this epoch. One of these engravings, in particular, has been several times reproduced. It is a large pendant hung from a car touche and surmounted by a figure of Orpheus with a lyre, with two seated female figures. The rest of the jewel is made up of scroll ornaments and bracket-shaped terminal figures, and is hung with three drop pearls. This pendant is of peculiar interest in connection with its bearing on what has already been said with regard to the attributions given to Cinquecento jewelry.
At the furthest corner of Germany from Flanders was the ancient kingdom of Hungary, where jewelry was employed in almost Oriental profusion. Independent jewels enriched with enamel-work in the Renaissance taste were produced, too, in considerable quantity. Fine examples of the latter are preserved in the museum at Buda-Pesth, while to the exhibition held there in 1884 Cinquecento jewelry of great beauty and wealth was lent by noble Hungarian families.
All these display striking similarity to the jewels executed at Augsburg, Prague, and elsewhere in the latter part of the sixteenth and the early years of the seventeenth century. In addition to those which betray the influence of foreign styles, there are jewels of native work, whose surface is enriched with the so-called Draht-Email. This ” filigree-enamel,” which was executed from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century in Hungary and throughout the valley of the Danube, is composed of bright opaque colors fired between cloisonne or partitions composed of twisted wire.
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