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THE campaigns of Charles VIII and Louis XII in Italy, and the patronage of Italian artists by Cardinal d’Amboise, brought a knowledge of Renaissance art into France. France was the first nation to adopt the style of ornament to which Italy had given birth, and at the very outset of the sixteenth century Italian influence made itself felt. From the reign of Francis I to that of Charles IX French jewelry was closely modeled on the Italian, while many Italian jewelers took up their abode in France, and among them Cellini, who resided in Paris from 1540 to 1545.
Not since the days of Charles V had France witnessed such profusion of jewelry as was indulged in by the splendor-loving Francis I, who exceeded even Henry VIII and Pope Paul III —two other great collectors of the day—in gathering together jewels and precious stones. We hear much of the jewelry of the day from Rabelais, who speaks of the rosaries, girdle-ornaments, rings, gold chains, jeweled necklaces, and of the various kinds of precious stones worn both in articles of jewelry and scattered in profusion over the dress.
An incident of considerable interest is recorded to have taken place in the time of Francis I in connection with a supposed abuse of enamel on the part of the jewelers. The king’s attention was drawn to the fact that when jewelry enameled with opaque enamels, which were considered to weigh heavier than the clear JEWELLERY ones, came to be realized, the enamel was so much pure loss. So, in spite of a protest by some of the leading goldsmiths, who declared that the proper execution of the majority of articles of jewelry was impossible without opaque enamel, an ordinance was passed in 1540 forbidding its use. After three years, however, the king relented, and again permitted the jewelers the full exercise of the resources of their art, provided there was no superfluous excess in the use of enamel.
Under the last Valois kings, Charles IX and Henry III, the production of jewelry in France, as elsewhere, was greater than at almost any other period. Vivid descriptions of the rich jewelry of this time are furnished by the chronicler Brantome. Actual articles of French Renaissance jewelry are, it must be confessed, of great rarity. Almost the only extant specimens are the wonderful mounted cameos in the Cabinet des Medailles of the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris, the majority of which are presumably of French origin. From comparison of these with contemporary designs, the distinguishing features of the French jewelry of the time appear to be—a cartouche-shaped frame with comparatively unbroken outline, enriched with scroll ornament and occasionally with human figures and grotesques, a slight use of openwork, and the general employment of a central ornament.
Like the Germans, the French had excellent masters, who engraved models for jewelry of great beauty of design. The following are the chief mattres orne-manistes who flourished in the sixteenth century:—Jean Duvet, known also as the Master of the Unicorn, born at Langres in 1485 and died about 1562, was goldsmith to Francis I and Henry II. His designs for small objects of personal use in the form of scrolls, flowers, and foliage, intended for execution in enamel, are among the earliest engravings in faille-douce produced for the purpose. Jacques Androuet Ducerceau worked chiefly at Orleans. His numerous engravings in the form of cartouches with rolled and voluted frames show the type of design mainly employed for pendants. His actual models for jewelry, numbering upwards of fifty, comprise clasps and brooches, and many pendants, including earrings.
After Androuet Ducerceau, the most famous jeweler of this time was Etienne Delaune, called Stephanus (1518-1595). He is said to have worked under Cellini during the latter’s residence in Paris. In 1573 he moved to Strasburg, where the greater part of his work was produced. A “little master” par excellence, he engraved with extraordinary delicacy a number of exquisite designs for jewelry. Two of his engravings of slightly different design, both dated 1576, represent the interior of goldsmiths’ workshops, and are of particular interest in illustrating the practice of the goldsmith’s art and the equipment of the workshop at this period.
Designs for jewelry are the most interesting of the engravings of Rend Boyvin (1530-1598), of Angers. He appears to have been influenced by the Italian artists of Fontainebleau, and his plates of jewel-ornament, engraved with great skill in the style of II Rosso, show considerable ingenuity and fancy in the combination of faceted stones and large pearls with human and fantastic figures.
More influential perhaps than any of the designs of the time are those of Pierre Woeiriot of Lorraine, who was born in 1532 and died after 1589. In 1555 Woeiriot settled at Lyons, where he produced a large number of engravings for jewelry. These, showing the greatest variety of design, include numerous patterns for rings, a dozen earrings, and ten pendent ornaments. These masterpieces of engraving and composition were published at Lyons in 1555 and 1561.
Spain occupies a peculiar place with respect to its Renaissance jewelry. In the sixteenth century the Spanish Peninsula was perhaps the richest part of the civilized world. Even at a time when universal luxury in personal ornaments reigned, Spain made itself an object of note by its extraordinary display in this direction. The union under the same dominion of three of the most powerful countries of Europe coincident with the newly developed wealth of America resulted in a desire among all classes for a more luxurious style of living and for more sumptuous ornaments.
The natural instinct of wealthy and cultured individuals to surround themselves with the choicest productions of the fine arts led to the importation of the best of such objects from other countries and of the first foreign craftsmen of the day. Juan de Arphe, “the Spanish Cellini,” himself of German extraction, devoted much attention to the naturalization of Renaissance forms.
Other jewelers also remained in so large a measure dependent on foreign influence, at first of Italian types, and then of the designs of French, German, and Flemish engravers of ornament, that it is often hard to arrive at a decision as to the precise provenance of their productions. But just as other works of art, the product of different countries, are stamped with certain indefinable characteristics, which in general circumstances may at once be detected, so jewels of Spanish origin betray the influence of national temperament in their composition and design.
The series of drawings by Barcelona jewelers published by Davillier in his Recherches sur [Orfevrerie en Espagne, bear sufficient evidence of this native spirit. Nevertheless, the majority of the surviving examples of the Renaissance jewelry of Spain approach at times very near to those of Germany. And there can be little doubt that the Nuremberg and Augsburg jewels which, as has been shown, were in vogue not only all over Germany, but in France and England and the Low Countries, were imported and imitated, as Davillier says, by the goldsmiths of Spain.
The most important Spanish jewels of the sixteenth century are in the form of enameled pendants. Of these the Victoria and Albert Museum possesses a collection, excelled by that of no other public museum, which was acquired at the sale in 1870 of the treasures of the sanctuary of the Virgen del Pilar at Saragossa.
A species of pendant which in Spain above all places has always been popular was the reliquary. It assumed numerous shapes; and among the many kinds of adornment it received were small panels of painted glass commonly known as verves dglomisds. This so-called verre dglomisd, which had been handed down from antiquity and was used in the Middle Ages, was brought to high perfection at the Renaissance. Adopted from Italy, where it was also employed for jewelry, it met with considerable favor in Spain in the sixteenth century. The process employed in its production consisted in covering the under side of a plate of glass or rock crystal with gold leaf. On this were traced the outlines of the design intended to be reserved in gold, and the remainder of the gold was then removed.
In the painting which followed, the finest details, the high lights, the shadows and flesh tints were first executed. Then came in successive applications, transparent varnishes of different colors and thicknesses, in accordance with the value of the tones desired. Small pieces of silver leaf were applied to certain parts to reflect the light and heighten the effect; and the whole was finally backed with a sheet of metal. In a similar way his countrymen the Martins gave their name to the varnish of their invention.
A peculiar and characteristic species of pendent ornament, numbers of which were produced in the seventeenth century chiefly at Barcelona, are certain badges worn by members of religious corporations. They are of open-worked gilt brass enriched with white, black, and blue opaque enamels fused into recesses stamped in the surface of the metal. These badges, which are either triangular, oval, square, or oblong in shape, are formed of two parts—a frame surrounded with rayed patterns, and a central portion ornamented with various designs. Among the latter designs are crowned monograms of Christ or the Virgin, with emblems such as palm leaves, and the device of a nail and the letter S interlaced—a rebus for “Esclavo.”
Fitted in the back is usually a miniature under crystal. In point of technique these enameled badges offer an interesting comparison with the well-known English enamels of the same date applied mainly to objects such as candlesticks and fire-dogs. Pendent badges of the same designs exist in gold. The collection of Senor de Osma at Madrid contains several examples. To the seventeenth century belong also the characteristic “lazos” or bow-shaped jewels worn as breast-ornaments, made of openwork gold set with emeralds, and occasionally with other stones. Of the same style are rings, also set with emeralds, and particularly long earrings, which have always been popular in Spain. The backs of these jewels are engraved with floral designs.
The greater part of the Spanish jewelry of the time is set with emeralds, which were acquired in quantities from Peru. Spain has always had a great reputation for these stones, which when of fine quality are still alluded to as ” old Spanish emeralds.” Emeralds are always subject to flaws and rarely free from them. The emeralds set in Spanish jewelry, though usually full of feathers, are nevertheless of great decorative value. The earlier Hispano-Moresque jewelry is of considerable rarity. It is often enriched with opaque enamel fired between cloisonne formed of twisted wire. From the union of Moorish and Renaissance forms developed the Spanish peasant jewelry, usually fashioned of stout silver filigree parcel-gilt.
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