E-text prepared by Robert J. Hall
ARTS AND CRAFTS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
A Description of Mediaeval Workmanship in Several of the Departments of Applied Art, Together with Some Account of Special Artisans in the Early Renaissance
JULIA DE WOLF ADDISON
Author of "The Art of the Pitti Palace," "The Art of the National Gallery," "Classic Myths in Art," etc.
The very general and keen interest in the revival of arts and crafts in America is a sign full of promise and pleasure to those who are working among the so-called minor arts. One reads at every turn how greatly Ruskin and Morris have influenced handicraft: how much these men and their co-workers have modified the appearance of our streets and houses, our materials, textiles, utensils, and all other useful things in which it is possible to shock or to please the aesthetic taste, without otherwise affecting the value of these articles for their destined purposes.
In this connection it is interesting to look into the past, particularly to those centuries known as the Middle Ages, in which the handicrafts flourished in special perfection, and to see for ourselves how these crafts were pursued, and exactly what these arts really were. Many people talk learnedly of the delightful revival of the arts and crafts without having a very definite idea of the original processes which are being restored to popular favour. William Morris himself, although a great modern spirit, and reformer, felt the necessity of a basis of historic knowledge in all workers. "I do not think," he says, "that any man but one of the highest genius could do anything in these days without much study of ancient art, and even he would be much hindered if he lacked it." It is but turning to the original sources, then, to examine the progress of mediaeval artistic crafts, and those sources are usually to be found preserved for our edification in enormous volumes of plates, inaccessible to most readers, and seldom with the kind of information which the average person would enjoy. There are very few books dealing with the arts and crafts of the olden time, which are adapted to inform those who have no intention of practising such arts, and yet who wish to understand and appreciate the examples which they see in numerous museums or exhibitions, and in travelling abroad. There are many of the arts and crafts which come under the daily observation of the tourist, which make no impression upon him and have no message for him, simply because he has never considered the subject of their origin and construction. After one has once studied the subject of historic carving, metal work, embroidery, tapestry, or illumination, one can never fail to look upon these things with intelligent interest and vastly increased pleasure.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century art had been regarded as a luxury for the rich dilettante,—the people heard little of it, and thought less. The utensils and furniture of the middle class were fashioned only with a view to utility; there was a popular belief that beautiful things were expensive, and the thrifty housekeeper who had no money to put into bric-a-brac never thought of such things as an artistic lamp shade or a well-coloured sofa cushion. Decorative art is well defined by Mr. Russell Sturgis: "Fine art applied to the making beautiful or interesting that which is made for utilitarian purposes."
Many people have an impression that the more ornate an article is, the more work has been lavished upon it. There never was a more erroneous idea. The diligent polish in order to secure nice plain surfaces, or the neat fitting of parts together, is infinitely more difficult than adding a florid casting to conceal clumsy workmanship. Of course certain forms of elaboration involve great pains and labour; but the mere fact that a piece of work is decorated does not show that it has cost any more in time and execution than if it were plain,—frequently many hours have been saved by the device of covering up defects with cheap ornament. How often one finds that a simple chair with a plain back costs more than one which is apparently elaborately carved! The reason is, that the plain one had to be made out of a decent piece of wood, while the ornate one was turned out of a poor piece, and then stamped with a pattern in order to attract the attention from the inferior material of which it was composed. The softer and poorer the wood, the deeper it was possible to stamp it at a single blow. The same principle applies to much work in metal. Flimsy bits of silverware stamped with cheap designs of flowers or fruits are attached to surfaces badly finished, while the work involved in making such a piece of plate with a plain surface would increase its cost three or four times.
A craft may easily be practised without art, and still serve its purpose; the alliance of the two is a means of giving pleasure as well as serving utility. But it is a mistake to suppose that because a design is artistic, its technical rendering is any the less important. Frequently curious articles are palmed off on us, and designated as "Arts and Crafts" ornaments, in which neither art nor craft plays its full share. Art does not consist only in original, unusual, or unfamiliar designs; craft does not mean hammering silver so that the hammer marks shall show; the best art is that which produces designs of grace and appropriateness, whether they are strikingly new or not, and the best craftsman is so skilful that he is able to go beyond the hammer marks, so to speak, and to produce with the hammer a surface as smooth as, and far more perfect than, that produced by an emery and burnisher. Some people think that "Arts and Crafts" means a combination which allows of poor work being concealed under a mask of aesthetic effect. Labour should not go forth blindly without art, and art should not proceed simply for the attainment of beauty without utility,—in other words, there should be an alliance between labour and art.
One principle for which craftsmen should stand is a respect for their own tools: a frank recognition of the methods and implements employed in constructing any article. If the article in question is a chair, and is really put together by means of sockets and pegs, let these constructive necessities appear, and do not try to disguise the means by which the result is to be attained. Make the requisite feature a beauty instead of a disgrace.
It is amusing to see a New England farmer build a fence. He begins with good cedar posts,—fine, thick, solid logs, which are at least genuine, and handsome so far as a cedar post is capable of being handsome. You think, "Ah, that will be a good unobjectionable fence." But, behold, as soon as the posts are in position, he carefully lays a flat plank vertically in front of each, so that the passer-by may fancy that he has performed the feat of making a fence of flat laths, thus going out of his way to conceal the one positive and good-looking feature in his fence. He seems to have some furtive dread of admitting that he has used the real article!
A bolt is to be affixed to a modern door. Instead of being applied with a plate of iron or brass, in itself a decorative feature on a blank space like that of the surface of a door, the carpenter cuts a piece of wood out of the edge of the door, sinks the bolt out of sight, so that nothing shall appear to view but a tiny meaningless brass handle, and considers that he has performed a very neat job. Compare this method with that of a mediaeval locksmith, and the result with his great iron bolt, and if you can not appreciate the difference, both in principle and result, I should recommend a course of historic art study until you are convinced. On the other hand, it is not necessary to carry your artistry so far that you build a fence of nothing but cedar logs touching one another, or that you cover your entire door with a meander of wrought iron which culminates in a small bolt. Enthusiastic followers of the Arts and Crafts movement often go to morbid extremes. Recognition of material and method does not connote a display of method and material out of proportion to the demands of the article to be constructed. As in other forms of culture, balance and sanity are necessary, in order to produce a satisfactory result.
But when a craftsman is possessed of an aesthetic instinct and faculty, he merits the congratulations offered to the students of Birmingham by William Morris, when he told them that they were among the happiest people in all civilization—"persons whose necessary daily work is inseparable from their greatest pleasure."
A mediaeval artist was usually a craftsman as well. He was not content with furnishing designs alone, and then handing them over to men whose hands were trained to their execution, but he took his own designs and carried them out. Thus, the designer adapted his drawing to the demands of his material and the craftsman was necessarily in sympathy with the design since it was his own. The result was a harmony of intention and execution which is often lacking when two men of differing tastes produce one object. Luebke sums up the talents of a mediaeval artist as follows: "A painter could produce panels with coats of arms for the military men of noble birth, and devotional panels with an image of a saint or a conventionalized scene from Scripture for that noble's wife. With the same brush and on a larger panel he could produce a larger sacred picture for the convent round the corner, and with finer pencil and more delicate touch he could paint the vellum leaves of a missal;" and so on. If an artistic earthenware platter was to be made, the painter turned to his potter's wheel and to his kiln. If a filigree coronet was wanted, he took up his tools for metal and jewelry work.
Redgrave lays down an excellent maxim for general guidance to designers in arts other than legitimate picture making. He says: "The picture must be independent of the material, the thought alone should govern it; whereas in decoration the material must be one of the suggestors of the thought, its use must govern the design." This shows the difference between decoration and pictorial art.
One hears a great deal of the "conventional" in modern art talk. Just what this means, few people who have the word in their vocabularies really know. As Professor Moore defined it once, it does not apply to an arbitrary theoretical system at all, but is instinctive. It means obedience to the limits under which the artist works. The really greatest art craftsmen of all have been those who have recognized the limitations of the material which they employed. Some of the cleverest have been beguiled by the fascination of overcoming obstacles, into trying to make iron do the things appropriate only to wood, or to force cast bronze into the similitude of a picture, or to discount all the credit due to a fine piece of embroidery by trying to make it appear like a painting. But these are the exotics; they are the craftsmen who have been led astray by a false impulse, who respect difficulty more than appropriateness, war rather than peace! No elaborate and tortured piece of Cellini's work can compare with the dignified glory of the Pala d'Oro; Ghiberti's gates in Florence, though a marvellous tour de force, are not so satisfying as the great corona candelabrum of Hildesheim. As a rule, we shall find that mediaeval craftsmen were better artists than those of the Renaissance, for with facility in the use of material, comes always the temptation to make it imitate some other material, thus losing its individuality by a contortion which may be curious and interesting, but out of place. We all enjoy seeing acrobats on the stage, but it would be painful to see them curling in and out of our drawing-room chairs.
The true spirit which the Arts and Crafts is trying to inculcate was found in Florence when the great artists turned their attention to the manipulation of objects of daily use, Benvenuto Cellini being willing to make salt-cellars, and Sansovino to work on inkstands, and Donatello on picture frames, while Pollajuolo made candlesticks. The more our leading artists realize the need of their attention in the minor arts, the more nearly shall we attain to a genuine alliance between the arts and the crafts.
To sum up the effect of this harmony between art and craft in the Middle Ages, the Abbe Texier has said: "In those days art and manufactures were blended and identified; art gained by this affinity great practical facility, and manufacture much original beauty." And then the value to the artist is almost incalculable. To spend one's life in getting means on which to live is a waste of all enjoyment. To use one's life as one goes along—to live every day with pleasure in congenial occupation—that is the only thing worth while. The life of a craftsman is a constant daily fulfilment of the final ideal of the man who spends all his time and strength in acquiring wealth so that some time (and he may never live to see the day) he may be able to control his time and to use it as pleases him. There is stored up capital represented in the life of a man whose work is a recreation, and expressive of his own personality.
In a book of this size it is not possible to treat of every art or craft which engaged the skill of the mediaeval workers. But at some future time I hope to make a separate study of the ceramics, glass in its various forms, the arts of engraving and printing, and some of the many others which have added so much to the pleasure and beauty of the civilized world.
CHAPTER INTRODUCTION I. Gold and Silver II. Jewelry and Precious Stones III. Enamel IV. Other Metals V. Tapestry VI. Embroideries VII. Sculpture in Stone (France and Italy) VIII. Sculpture in Stone (England and Germany) IX. Carving in Wood and Ivory X. Inlay and Mosaic XI. Illumination of Books Bibliography Index
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Examples of Ecclesiastical Metal Work Crown of Charlemagne Bernward's Cross and Candlesticks, Hildesheim Bernward's Chalice, Hildesheim Corona at Hildesheim. (detail) Reliquary at Orvieto Apostle spoons Ivory Knife Handles, with Portraits of Queen Elizabeth and James I. Englis The "Milkmaid Cup" Saxon Brooch The Tara Brooch Shrine of the Bell of St. Patrick The Treasure of Guerrazzar Hebrew Ring Crystal Flagons, St. Mark's, Venice Sardonyx Cup, 11th Century, Venice German Enamel, 13th Century Enamelled Gold Book Cover, Siena Detail; Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne Finiguerra's Pax, Florence Italian Enamelled Crozier, 14th Century Wrought Iron Hinge, Frankfort Biscornette's Doors at Paris Wrought Iron from the Bargello, Florence Moorish Keys, Seville Armour. Showing Mail Developing into Plate Damascened Helmet Moorish Sword Enamelled Suit of Armour Brunelleschi's Competitive Panel Ghiberti's Competitive Panel Font at Hildesheim, 12th Century Portrait Statuette of Peter Vischer A Copper "Curfew" Sanctuary Knocker, Durham Cathedral Anglo-Saxon Crucifix of Lead Detail, Bayeux Tapestry Flemish Tapestry, "The Prodigal Son" Tapestry, Representing Paris in the 15th Century Embroidery on Canvas, 16th Century, South Kensington Museum Detail of the Syon Cope Dalmatic of Charlemagne Embroidery, 15th Century, Cologne Carved Capital from Ravenna Pulpit of Nicola Pisano, Pisa Tomb of the Son of St. Louis, St. Denis Carvings around Choir Ambulatory, Chartres Grotesque from Oxford, Popularly Known as "The Backbiter" The "Beverly minstrels" St. Lorenz Church, Nuremberg, Showing Adam Kraft's Pyx, and the Hanging Medallion by Veit Stoss Relief by Adam Kraft Carved Box—wood Pyx, 14th Century Miserere Stall; An Artisan at Work Miserere Stall, Ely; Noah and the Dove Miserere Stall; the Fate of the Ale-wife Ivory Tabernacle, Ravenna The Nativity; Ivory Carving Pastoral Staff; Ivory, German, 12th Century Ivory Mirror Case; Early 14th Century Ivory Mirror Case, 1340 Chessman from Lewis Marble Inlay from Lucca Detail of Pavement, Baptistery, Florence Detail of Pavement, Siena; "Fortune," by Pinturicchio Ambo at Ravello; Specimen of Cosmati Mosaic Mosaic from Ravenna; Theodora and Her Suite, 16th Century Mosaic in Bas-relief, Naples A Scribe at Work; 12th Century Manuscript Detail from the Durham Book Ivy Pattern, from a 14th Century French Manuscript Mediaeval Illumination Caricature of a Bishop Illumination by Gherart David of Bruges, 1498; St. Barbara Choral Book, Siena Detail from an Italian Choral Book
ARTS AND CRAFTS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
GOLD AND SILVER
The worker in metals is usually called a smith, whether he be coppersmith or goldsmith. The term is Saxon in origin, and is derived from the expression "he that smiteth." Metal was usually wrought by force of blows, except where the process of casting modified this.
Beaten work was soldered from the earliest times. Egyptians evidently understood the use of solder, for the Hebrews obtained their knowledge of such things from them, and in Isaiah xli. 7, occurs the passage: "So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, 'It is ready for the soldering.'" In the Bible there are constant references to such arts in metal work as prevail in our own times: "Of beaten work made he the candlesticks," Exodus. In the ornaments of the tabernacle, the artificer Bezaleel "made two cherubims of gold beaten out of one piece made he them."
An account of gold being gathered in spite of vicissitudes is given by Pliny: "Among the Dardoe the ants are as large as Egyptian wolves, and cat coloured. The Indians gather the gold dust thrown up by the ants, when they are sleeping in their holes in the Summer; but if these animals wake, they pursue the Indians, and, though mounted on the swiftest camels, overtake and tear them to pieces."
Another legend relates to the blessed St. Patrick, through whose intercession special grace is supposed to have been granted to all smiths. St. Patrick was a slave in his youth. An old legend tells that one time a wild boar came rooting in the field, and brought up a lump of gold; and Patrick brought it to a tinker, and the tinker said, "It is nothing but solder. Give it here to me." But then he brought it to a smith, and the smith told him it was gold; and with that gold he bought his freedom. "And from that time," continues the story, "the smiths have been lucky, taking money every day, and never without work, but as for the tinkers, every man's face is against them!"
In the Middle Ages the arts and crafts were generally protected by the formation of guilds and fraternities. These bodies practically exercised the right of patent over their professions, and infringements could be more easily dealt with, and frauds more easily exposed, by means of concerted effort on the part of the craftsmen. The goldsmiths and silversmiths were thus protected in England and France, and in most of the leading European art centres. The test of pure gold was made by "six of the more discreet goldsmiths," who went about and superintended the amount of alloy to be employed; "gold of the standard of the touch of Paris" was the French term for metal of the required purity. Any goldsmith using imitation stones or otherwise falsifying in his profession was punished "by imprisonment and by ransom at the King's pleasure." There were some complaints that fraudulent workers "cover tin with silver so subtilely... that the same cannot be discovered or separated, and so sell tin for fine silver, to the great damage and deceipt of us." This state of things finally led to the adoption of the Hall Mark, which is still to be seen on every piece of silver, signifying that it has been pronounced pure by the appointed authorities.
The goldsmiths of France absorbed several other auxiliary arts, and were powerful and influential. In state processions the goldsmiths had the first place of importance, and bore the royal canopy when the King himself took part in the ceremony, carrying the shrine of St. Genevieve also, when it was taken forth in great pageants.
In the quaint wording of the period, goldsmiths were forbidden to gild or silver-plate any article made of copper or latten, unless they left some part of the original exposed, "at the foot or some other part,... to the intent that a man may see whereof the thing is made for to eschew the deceipt aforesaid." This law was enacted in 1404.
Many of the great art schools of the Middle Ages were established in connection with the numerous monasteries scattered through all the European countries and in England. The Rule of St. Benedict rings true concerning the proper consecration of an artist: "If there be artists in the monastery, let them exercise their crafts with all humility and reverence, provided the abbot shall have ordered them. But if any of them be proud of the skill he hath in his craft, because he thereby seemeth to gain something for the monastery, let him be removed from it and not exercise it again, unless, after humbling himself, the abbot shall permit him." Craft without graft was the keynote of mediaeval art.
King Alfred had a monastic art school at Athelney, in which he had collected "monks of all kinds from every quarter." This accounts for the Greek type of work turned out at this time, and very likely for Italian influences in early British art. The king was active in craft work himself, for Asser tells us that he "continued, during his frequent wars, to teach his workers in gold and artificers of all kinds."
The quaint old encyclopaedia of Bartholomew Anglicus, called, "The Properties of Things," defines gold and silver in an original way, according to the beliefs of this writer's day. He says of gold, that "in the composition there is more sadness of brimstone than of air and moisture of quicksilver, and therefore gold is more sad and heavy than silver." Of silver he remarks, "Though silver be white yet it maketh black lines and strakes in the body that is scored therewith."
Marco Polo says that in the province of Carazan "the rivers yield great quantities of washed gold, and also that which is solid, and on the mountains they find gold in the vein, and they give one pound of gold for six of silver."
Workers in gold or silver usually employ one of two methods—casting or beating, combined with delicacy of finish, chasing, and polishing. The technical processes are interestingly described by the writers of the old treatises on divers arts. In the earliest of these, by the monk Theophilus, in the eleventh century, we have most graphic accounts of processes very similar to those now in use. The naive monastic instructor, in his preface, exhorts his followers to honesty and zeal in their good works. "Skilful in the arts let no one glorify himself," say Theophilus, "as if received from himself, and not from elsewhere; but let him be thankful humbly in the Lord, from whom all things are received." He then advises the craftsman earnestly to study the book which follows, telling him of the riches of instruction therein to be found; "you will there find out whatever... Tuscany knows of mosaic work, or in variety of enamels, whatever Arabia shows forth in work of fusion, ductility or chasing, whatever Italy ornaments with gold... whatever France loves in a costly variety of windows; whatever industrious Germany approves in work of gold, silver or copper, and iron, of woods and of stones." No wonder the authorities are lost in conjecture as to the native place of the versatile Theophilus! After promising all these delightful things, the good old monk continues, "Act therefore, well intentioned man,... hasten to complete with all the study of thy mind, those things which are still wanting among the utensils of the House of the Lord," and he enumerates the various pieces of church plate in use in the Middle Ages.
Directions are given by Theophilus for the workroom, the benches at which the smiths are to sit, and also the most minute technical recipes for "instruments for sculping," for scraping, filing, and so forth, until the workshop should be fitted with all necessary tools. In those days, artists began at the very beginning. There were no "Windsor and Newtons," no nice makers of dividers and T-squares, to whom one could apply; all implements must be constructed by the man who contemplated using them.
We will see how Theophilus proceeds, after he has his tools in readiness, to construct a chalice. First, he puts the silver in a crucible, and when it has become fluid, he turns it into a mould in which there is wax (this is evidently the "cire perdu" process familiar to casters of every age), and then he says, "If by some negligence it should happen that the melted silver be not whole, cast it again until it is whole." This process of casting would apply equally to all metals.
Theophilus instructs his craftsman how to make the handles of the chalice as follows: "Take wax, form handles with it, and grave upon them dragons or animals or birds, or leaves—in whatever manner you may wish. But on the top of each handle place a little wax, round like a slender candle, half a finger in length,... this wax is called the funnel.... Then take some clay and cover carefully the handle, so that the hollows of the sculpture may be filled up.... Afterwards place these moulds near the coals, that when they have become warm you may pour out the wax. Which being turned out, melt the silver,... and cast into the same place whence you poured out the wax. And when they have become cold remove the clay." The solid silver handles are found inside, one hardly need say.
In casting in the "cire perdu" process, Benvenuto Cellini warns you to beware lest you break your crucible—"just as you've got your silver nicely molten," he says, "and are pouring it into the mould, crack goes your crucible, and all your work and time and pains are lost!" He advises wrapping it in stout cloths.
The process of repousse work is also much the same to-day as it has always been. The metal is mounted on cement and the design partly beaten in from the outside; then the cement is melted out, and the design treated in more detail from the inside. Theophilus tells us how to prepare a silver vessel to be beaten with a design. After giving a recipe for a sort of pitch, he says, "Melt this composition and fill the vial to the top. And when it has become cold, portray... whatever you wish, and taking a slender ductile instrument, and a small hammer, design that which you have portrayed around it by striking lightly." This process is practically, on a larger scale, what Cellini describes as that of "minuterie." Cellini praises Caradosso beyond all others in this work, saying "it was just in this very getting of the gold so equal all over, that I never knew a man to beat Caradosso!" He tells how important this equality of surface is, for if, in the working, the gold became thicker in one place than in another, it was impossible to attain a perfect finish. Caradosso made first a wax model of the object which he was to make; this he cast in copper, and on that he laid his thin gold, beating and modelling it to the form, until the small hollow bas-relief was complete. The work was done with wooden and steel tools of small proportions, sometimes pressed from the back and sometimes from the front; "ever so much care is necessary," writes Cellini, "...to prevent the gold from splitting." After the model was brought to such a point of relief as was suitable for the design, great care had to be exercised in extending the gold further, to fit behind heads and arms in special relief. In those days the whole film of gold was then put in the furnace, and fired until the gold began to liquefy, at which exact moment it was necessary to remove it. Cellini himself made a medal for Girolamo Maretta, representing Hercules and the Lion; the figures were in such high relief that they only touched the ground at a few points. Cellini reports with pride that Michelangelo said to him: "If this work were made in great, whether in marble or in bronze, and fashioned with as exquisite a design as this, it would astonish the world; and even in its present size it seems to me so beautiful that I do not think even a goldsmith of the ancient world fashioned aught to come up to it!" Cellini says that these words "stiffened him up," and gave him much increased ambition. He describes also an Atlas which he constructed of wrought gold, to be placed upon a lapis lazuli background: this he made in extreme relief, using tiny tools, "working right into the arms and legs, and making all alike of equal thickness." A cope-button for Pope Clement was also quite a tour de force; as he said, "these pieces of work are often harder the smaller they are." The design showed the Almighty seated on a great diamond; around him there were "a number of jolly little angels," some in complete relief. He describes how he began with a flat sheet of gold, and worked constantly and conscientiously, gradually bossing it up, until, with one tool and then another, he finally mastered the material, "till one fine day God the Father stood forth in the round, most comely to behold." So skilful was Cellini in this art that he "bossed up in high relief with his punches some fifteen little angels, without even having to solder the tiniest rent!" The fastening of the clasp was decorated with "little snails and masks and other pleasing trifles," which suggest to us that Benvenuto was a true son of the Renaissance, and that his design did not equal his ability as a craftsman.
Cellini's method of forming a silver vase was on this wise. The original plate of silver had to be red hot, "not too red, for then it would crack,—but sufficient to burn certain little grains thrown on to it." It was then adjusted to the stake, and struck with the hammer, towards the centre, until by degrees it began to take convex form. Then, keeping the central point always in view by means of compasses, from that point he struck "a series of concentric circles about half a finger apart from each other," and with a hammer, beginning at the centre, struck so that the "movement of the hammer shall be in the form of a spiral, and follow the concentric circles." It was important to keep the form very even all round. Then the vase had to be hammered from within, "till it was equally bellied all round," and after that, the neck was formed by the same method. Then, to ornament the vase, it was filled with pitch, and the design traced on the outside. When it was necessary to beat up the ornament from within, the vase was cleared out, and inverted upon the point of a long "snarling-iron," fastened in an anvil stock, and beaten so that the point should indent from within. The vase would often have to be filled with pitch and emptied in this manner several times in the course of its construction.
Benvenuto Cellini was one of the greatest art personalities of all time. The quaintness of the aesthetic temperament is nowhere found better epitomized than in his life and writings. But as a producer of artistic things, he is a great disappointment. Too versatile to be a supreme specialist, he is far more interesting as a man and craftsman than as a designer. Technical skill he had in unique abundance. And another faculty, for which he does not always receive due credit, is his gift for imparting his knowledge. His Treatises, containing valuable information as to methods of work, are less familiar to most readers than his fascinating biography. These Treatises, or directions to craftsmen, are full of the spice and charm which characterize his other work. One cannot proceed from a consideration of the bolder metal work to a study of the dainty art of the goldsmith without a glance at Benvenuto Cellini.
The introduction to the Treatises has a naive opening: "What first prompted me to write was the knowledge of how fond people are of hearing anything new." This, and other reasons, induced him to "write about those loveliest secrets and wondrous methods of the great art of goldsmithing."
Francis I. indeed thought highly of Cellini. Upon viewing one of his works, his Majesty raised his hands, and exclaimed to the Mareschal de France, "I command you to give the first good fat abbey that falls vacant to our Benvenuto, for I do not want my kingdom to be deprived of his like."
Benvenuto describes the process of making filigree work, the principle of which is, fine wire coiled flat so as to form designs with an interesting and varied surface. Filigree is quite common still, and any one who has walked down the steep street of the Goldsmiths in Genoa is familiar with most of its modern forms. Cellini says: "Though many have practised the art without making drawings first, because the material in which they worked was so easily handled and so pliable, yet those who made their drawings first did the best work. Now give ear to the way the art is pursued." He then directs that the craftsman shall have ready three sizes of wire, and some little gold granules, which are made by cutting the short lengths of wire, and then subjecting them to fervent heat until they become as little round beads. He then explains how the artificer must twist and mould the delicate wires, and tastily apply the little granules, so as to make a graceful design, usually of some floriate form. When the wire flowers and leaves were formed satisfactorily, a wash of gum tragacanth should be applied, to hold them in place until the final soldering. The solder was in powdered form, and it was to be dusted on "just as much as may suffice,... and not more,"... this amount of solder could only be determined by the experience of the artist. Then came the firing of the finished work in the little furnace; Benvenuto is here quite at a loss how to explain himself: "Too much heat would move the wires you have woven out of place," he says, "really it is quite impossible to tell it properly in writing; I could explain it all right by word of mouth, or better still, show you how it is done,—still, come along,—we'll try to go on as we started!"
Sometimes embossing was done by thin sheets of metal being pressed on to a wooden carving prepared for the purpose, so that the result would be a raised silver pattern, which, when filled up with pitch or lead, would pass for a sample of repousse work. I need hardly say that a still simpler mechanical form of pressing obtains on cheap silver to-day.
So much for the mechanical processes of treating these metals. We will now examine some of the great historic examples, and glance at the lives of prominent workers in gold and silver in the past.
One of the most brilliant times for the production of works of art in gold and silver, was when Constantine, upon becoming Christian, moved the seat of government to Byzantium. Byzantine ornament lends itself especially to such work. The distinguishing mark between the earlier Greek jewellers and the Byzantine was, that the former considered chiefly line, form, and delicacy of workmanship, while the latter were led to expression through colour and texture, and not fineness of finish.
The Byzantine emperors loved gold in a lavish way, and on a superb scale. They were not content with chaste rings and necklets, or even with golden crowns. The royal thrones were of gold; their armour was decorated with the precious metal, and their chariots enriched in the same way. Even the houses of the rich people were more endowed with precious furnishings than most of the churches of other nations, and every family possessed a massive silver table, and solid vases and plate.
The Emperor Theophilus, who lived in the ninth century, was a great lover of the arts. His palace was built after the Arabian style, and he had skilful mechanical experts to construct a golden tree over his throne, on the branches of which were numerous birds, and two golden lions at the foot. These birds were so arranged by clockwork, that they could be made to sing, and the lions also joined a roar to the chorus!
A great designer of the Middle Ages was Alcuin, the teacher of Charlemagne, who lived from 735 to 804; he superintended the building of many fine specimens of church plate. The school of Alcuin, however, was more famous for illumination, and we shall speak of his work at more length when we come to deal with that subject.
Another distinguished patron of art was the Abbot Odo of Cluny, who had originally been destined for a soldier; but he was visited with what Maitland describes as "an inveterate headache, which, from his seventeenth to his nineteenth year, defied all medical skill," so he and his parents, convinced that this was a manifestation of the disapproval of Heaven, decided to devote his life to religious pursuits. He became Abbot of Cluny in the year 927.
Examples of ninth century goldsmithing are rare. Judging from the few specimens existing, the crown of Charlemagne, and the beautiful binding of the Hours of Charles the Bold, one would be inclined to think that an almost barbaric wealth of closely set jewels was the entire standard of the art of the time, and that grace of form or contour was quite secondary. The tomb was rifled about the twelfth century, and many of the valuable things with which he was surrounded were taken away. The throne was denuded of its gold, and may be seen to-day in the Cathedral at Aachen, a simple marble chair plain and dignified, with the copper joints showing its construction. Many of the relics of Charlemagne are in the treasury at Aachen, among other interesting items, the bones of the right arm of the Emperor in a golden shrine in the form of a hand and arm. There is a thrill in contemplating the remains of the right arm of Charlemagne after all the centuries, when one remembers the swords and sceptres which have been wielded by that mighty member. The reliquary containing the right arm of Charlemagne is German work (of course later than the opening of the tomb), probably between 1155 and 1190. Frederic Barbarossa and his ancestors are represented on its ornamentation.
There is little goldsmith's work of the Norman period in Great Britain, for that was a time of the building of large structures, and probably minor arts and personal adornment took a secondary place.
Perhaps the most satisfactory display of mediaeval arts and crafts which may be seen in one city is at Hildesheim: the special richness of remains of the tenth century is owing to the life and example of an early bishop—Bernward—who ruled the See from 993 to 1022. Before he was made bishop, Bernward was tutor to the young Emperor Otto III. He was a student of art all his life, and a practical craftsman, working largely in metals, and training up a Guild of followers in the Cathedral School. He was extremely versatile: one of the great geniuses of history. In times of war he was Commander in Chief of Hildesheim; he was a traveller, having made pilgrimages to Rome and Paris, and the grave of St. Martin at Tours. This wide culture was unusual in those days; it is quite evident from his active life of accomplishment in creative art, that good Bishop Bernward was not to be numbered among those who expected the end of the world to occur in the year 1000 A. D. Of his works to be seen in Hildesheim, there are splendid examples. The Goldsmith's School under his direction was famous.
He was created bishop in 992; Taugmar pays him a tribute, saying: "He was an excellent penman, a good painter, and as a household manager was unequalled." Moreover, he "excelled in the mechanical no less than in the liberal arts." In fact, a visit to Hildesheim to-day proves that to this man who lived ten centuries ago is due the fact that Hildesheim is the most artistic city in Germany from the antiquarian's point of view. This bishop influenced every branch of art, and with so vital an influence, that his See city is still full of his works and personality. He was not only a practical worker in the arts and crafts, but he was also a collector, forming quite a museum for the further instruction of the students who came in touch with him. He decorated the walls of his cathedral; the great candelabrum, or corona, which circles above the central aisle of the cathedral, was his own design, and the work of his followers; and the paschal column in the cathedral was from his workshop, wrought as delightfully as would be possible in any age, and yet executed nearly a thousand years ago. No bishop ever deserved sainthood more, or made a more practical contribution to the Church. Pope Celestine III. canonized him in 1194.
Bernward came of a noble family. His figure may be seen—as near an approach to a portrait of this great worker as we have—among the bas-reliefs on the beautiful choir-screen in St. Michael's Church in Hildesheim.
The cross executed by Bernward's own hands in 994 is a superb work, with filigree covering the whole, and set with gems en cabochon, with pearls, and antique precious stones, carved with Greek divinities in intaglio. The candlesticks of St. Bernward, too, are most interesting. They are made of a metal composed of gold, silver, and iron, and are wrought magnificently, into a mass of animal and floriate forms, their outline being well retained, and the grace of the shaft and proportions being striking. They are partly the work of the mallet and partly of the chisel. They had been buried with Bernward, and were found in his sarcophagus in 1194. Didron has likened them, in their use of animal form, to the art of the Mexicans; but to me they seem more like delightful German Romanesque workmanship, leaning more towards that of certain spirited Lombard grotesques, or even that of Arles and certain parts of France, than to the Aztec to which Didron has reference. The little climbing figures, while they certainly have very large hands and feet, yet are endowed with a certain sprightly action; they all give the impression of really making an effort,—they are trying to climb, instead of simply occupying places in the foliage. There is a good deal of strength and energy displayed in all of them, and, while the work is rude and rough, it is virile. It is not unlike the workmanship on the Gloucester candlestick in the South Kensington Museum, which was made in the twelfth century.
Bernward's chalice is set with antique stones, some of them carved. On the foot may be seen one representing the three Graces, in their customary state of nudity "without malice."
Bernward was also an architect. He built the delightful church of St. Michael, and its cloister. He also superintended the building of an important wall by the river bank in the lower town.
When there was an uneasy time of controversy at Gandesheim, Bernward hastened to headquarters in Rome, to arrange to bring about better feeling. In 1001 he arrived, early in January, and the Pope went out to meet him, kissed him, and invited him to stay as a guest at his palace. After accomplishing his diplomatic mission, and laden with all sorts of sacred relics, Bernward returned home, not too directly to prevent his seeing something of the intervening country.
A book which Bishop Bernward had made and illuminated in 1011 has the inscription: "I, Bernward, had this codex written out, at my own cost, and gave it to the beloved Saint of God, Michael. Anathema to him who alienates it." This inscription has the more interest for being the actual autograph of Bernward.
He was succeeded by Hezilo, and many other pupils. These men made the beautiful corona of the cathedral, of which I give an illustration in detail. Great coronas or circular chandeliers hung in the naves of many cathedrals in the Middle Ages. The finest specimen is this at Hildesheim, the magnificent ring of which is twenty feet across, as it hangs suspended by a system of rods and balls in the form of chains. It has twelve large towers and twelve small ones set around it, supposed to suggest the Heavenly Jerusalem with its many mansions. There are sockets for seventy-two candles. The detail of its adornment is very splendid, and repays close study. Every little turret is different in architectonic form, and statues of saints are to be seen standing within these. The pierced silver work on this chandelier is as beautiful as any mediaeval example in existence.
The great leader of mediaeval arts in France was the Abbot Suger of St. Denis. Suger was born in 1081, he and his brother, Alvise, who was Bishop of Arras, both being destined for the Episcopate. As a youth he passed ten years at St. Denis as a scholar. Here he became intimate with Prince Louis, and this friendship developed in after life. On returning from a voyage to Italy, in 1122, he learned at the same time of the death of his spiritual father, Abbot Adam, and of his own election to be his successor. He thus stood at the head of the convent of St. Denis in 1123. This was due to his noble character, his genius for diplomacy and his artistic talent. He was minister to Louis VI., and afterwards to Louis VII., and during the second Crusade, he was made Regent for the kingdom. Suger was known, after this, as the Father of his Country, for he was a courageous counsellor, firm and convincing in argument, so that the king had really been guided by his advice. While he was making laws and instigating crusades, he was also directing craft shops and propagating the arts in connection with the life of the Church. St. Bernard denounced him, as encouraging too luxurious a ritual; Suger made a characteristic reply: "If the ancient law... ordained that vessels and cups of gold should be used for libations, and to receive the blood of rams,... how much rather should we devote gold, precious stones, and the rarest of materials, to those vessels which are destined to contain the blood of Our Lord."
Suger ordered and himself made most beautiful appointments for the sanctuary, and when any vessel already owned by the Abbey was of costly material, and yet unsuitable in style, he had it remodelled. An interesting instance of this is a certain antique vase of red porphyry. There was nothing ecclesiastical about this vase; it was a plain straight Greek jar, with two handles at the sides. Suger treated it as the body of an eagle, making the head and neck to surmount it, and the claw feet for it to stand on, together with its soaring wings, of solid gold, and it thus became transformed into a magnificent reliquary in the form of the king of birds. The inscription on this Ampula of Suger is: "As it is our duty to present unto God oblations of gems and gold, I, Suger, offer this vase unto the Lord."
Suger stood always for the ideal in art and character. He had the courage of his convictions in spite of the fulminations of St. Bernard. Instead of using the enormous sums of money at his disposal for importing Byzantine workmen, he preferred to use his funds and his own influence in developing a native French school of artificers.
It is interesting to discover that Suger, among his many adaptations and restorations at St. Denis, incorporated some of the works of St. Eloi into his own compositions. For instance, he took an ivory pulpit, and remodelled it with the addition of copper animals. Abbots of St. Denis made beautiful offerings to the church. One of them, Abbot Matthiew de Vendome, presented a wonderful reliquary, consisting of a golden head and bust, while another gave a reliquary to contain the jaw of St. Louis. Suger presented many fine products of his own art and that of his pupils, among others a great cross six feet in height. A story is told of him, that, while engaged in making a particularly splendid crucifix for St. Denis, he ran short of precious stones, nor could he in any way obtain what he required, until some monks came to him and offered to sell him a superb lot of stones which had formerly embellished the dinner service of Henry I. of England, whose nephew had given them to the convent in exchange for indulgences and masses! In these early and half-barbaric days of magnificence, form and delicacy of execution were not understood. Brilliancy and lavish display of sparkling jewels, set as thickly as possible without reference to a general scheme of composition, was the standard of beauty; and it must be admitted that, with such stones available, no more effective school of work has ever existed than that of which such works Charlemagne's crown, the Iron Crown of Monza, and the crown of King Suinthila, are typical examples. Abbot Suger lamented when he lacked a sufficient supply of stones; but he did not complain when there occurred a deficiency in workmen. It was comparatively easy to train artists who could make settings and bind stones together with soldered straps!
In 1352 a royal silversmith of France, Etienne La Fontaine, made a "fauteuil of silver and crystal decorated with precious stones," for the king.
The golden altar of Basle is almost as interesting as the great Pala d'Oro in Venice, of which mention is made elsewhere. It was ordered by Emperor Henry the Pious, before 1024, and presented to the Prime Minister at Basle. The central figure of the Saviour has at its feet two tiny figures, quite out of scale; these are intended for the donors, Emperor Henry and his queen, Cunegunda.
Silversmith's work in Spain was largely in Byzantine style, while some specimens of Gothic and Roman are also to be seen there. Moorish influence is noticeable, as in all Spanish design, and filigree work of Oriental origin is frequently to be met with. Some specimens of champleve enamel are also to be seen, though this art was generally confined to Limoges during the Middle Ages. A Guild was formed in Toledo which was in flourishing condition in 1423.
An interesting document has been found in Spain showing that craftsmen were supplied with the necessary materials when engaged to make valuable figures for the decoration of altars. It is dated May 12, 1367, "I, Sancho Martinez Orebsc, silversmith, native of Seville, inform you, the Dean and Chapter of the church of Seville, that it was agreed that I make an image of St. Mary with its tabernacle, that it should be finished at a given time, and that you were to give me the silver and stones required to make it."
In Spain, the most splendid triumphs of the goldsmith's skill were the "custodias," or large tabernacles, in which the Host was carried in procession. The finest was one made for Toledo by Enrique d'Arphe, in competition with other craftsmen. His design being chosen, he began his work in 1517, and in 1524 the custodia was finished. It was in the form of a Gothic temple, six sided, with a jewelled cross on the top, and was eight feet high. Some of the gold employed was the first ever brought from America. The whole structure weighed three hundred and eighty-eight pounds. Arphe made a similar custodia for Cordova and another for Leon. His grandson, Juan d'Arphe, wrote a verse about the Toledo custodia, in which these lines occur:
"Custodia is a temple of rich plate Wrought for the glory of Our Saviour true... That holiest ark of old to imitate, Fashioned by Bezaleel the cunning Jew, Chosen of God to work his sovereign will, And greatly gifted with celestial skill."
Juan d'Arphe himself made a custodia for Seville, the decorations and figures on which were directed by the learned Francesco Pacheco, the father-in-law of Velasquez. When this custodia was completed, d'Arphe wrote a description of it, alluding boldly to this work as "the largest and finest work in silver known of its kind," and this could really be said without conceit, for it is a fact.
A Gothic form of goldsmith's work obtained in Spain in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries; it was based upon architectural models and was known as "plateresca." The shrines for holding relics became in these centuries positive buildings on a small scale in precious material. In England also were many of these shrines, but few of them now remain.
The first Mayor of London, from 1189 to 1213, was a goldsmith, Henry Fitz Alwyn, the Founder of the Royal Exchange; Sir Thomas Gresham, in 1520, was also a goldsmith and a banker. There is an entertaining piece of cynical satire on the Goldsmiths in Stubbes' Anatomy of Abuses, written in the time of Queen Elizabeth, showing that the tricks of the trade had come to full development by that time, and that the public was being aroused on the subject. Stubbes explains how the goldsmith's shops are decked with chains and rings, "wonderful richly." Then he goes on to say: "They will make you any monster or article whatsoever of gold, silver, or what you will. Is there no deceit in these goodlye shows? Yes, too many; if you will buy a chain of gold, a ring, or any kind of plate, besides that you shall pay almost half more than it is worth... you shall also perhaps have that gold which is naught, or else at least mixed with drossie rubbage.... But this happeneth very seldom by reason of good orders, and constitutions made for the punishment of them that offend in this kind of deceit, and therefore they seldom offend therein, though now and then they chance to stumble in the dark!"
Fynes Moryson, a traveller who died in 1614, says that "the goldsmiths' shops in London... are exceedingly richly furnished continually with gold, with silver plate, and with jewels.... I never see any such daily show, anything so sumptuous, in any place in the world, as in London." He admits that in Florence and Paris the similar shops are very rich upon special occasions; but it is the steady state of the market in London to which he has reference.
The Company of Goldsmiths in Dublin held quite a prominent social position in the community. In 1649, a great festival and pageant took place, in which the goldsmiths and visiting craftsmen from other corporations took part.
Henry III. set himself to enrich and beautify the shrine of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, and with this end in view he made various extravagant demands: for instance, at one time he ordered all the gold in London to be detailed to this object, and at another, he had gold rings and brooches purchased to the value of six hundred marks. The shrine was of gold, and, according to Matthew Paris, enriched with jewels. It was commenced in 1241. In 1244 the queen presented an image of the Virgin with a ruby and an emerald. Jewels were purchased from time to time,—a great cameo in 1251, and in 1255 many gems of great value. The son of ado the Goldsmith, Edward, was the "king's beloved clerk," and was made "keeper of the shrine." Most of the little statuettes were described as having stones set somewhere about them: "an image of St. Peter holding a church in one hand and the keys in the other, trampling on Nero, who had a big sapphire on his breast;" and "the Blessed Virgin with her Son, set with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and garnets," are among those cited. The whole shrine was described as "a basilica adorned with purest gold and precious stones."
Odo the Goldsmith was in charge of the works for a good while. He was succeeded by his son Edward. Payments were made sometimes in a regular wage, and sometimes for "task work." The workmen were usually known by one name—Master Alexander the King's Carpenter, Master Henry the King's Master Mason, and so forth. In an early life of Edward the Confessor, there is an illumination showing the masons and carpenters kneeling to receive instruction from their sovereign.
The golden shrine of the Confessor was probably made in the Palace itself; this was doubtless considered the safest place for so valuable a work to remain in process of construction; for there is an allusion to its being brought on the King's own shoulders (with the assistance of others), from the palace to the Abbey, in 1269, for its consecration.
In 1243 Henry III. ordered four silver basins, fitted with cakes of wax with wicks in them, to be placed as lights before the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. The great gold shrine of Becket appears to have been chiefly the work of a goldsmith, Master Adam. He also designed the Coronation Chair of England, which is now in Westminster Abbey.
The chief goldsmith of England employed by Edward I. was one Adam of Shoreditch. He was versatile, for he was also a binder of books. A certain bill shows an item of his workmanship, "a group in silver of a child riding upon a horse, the child being a likeness of Lord Edward, the King's son."
A veritable Arts and Crafts establishment had been in existence in Woolstrope, Lincolnshire, before Cromwell's time; for Georde Gifford wrote to Cromwell regarding the suppression of this monastery: "There is not one religious person there but what doth use either embrothering, wryting books with a faire hand, making garments, or carving."
In all countries the chalices and patens were usually, designed to correspond with each other. The six lobed dish was a very usual form; it had a depressed centre, with six indented scallops, and the edge flat like a dinner plate. In an old church inventory, mention is made of "a chalice with his paten." Sometimes there was lettering around the flat edge of the paten. Chalices were-composed of three parts: the cup, the ball or knop, and the stem, with the foot. The original purpose of having this foot hexagonal in shape is said to have been to prevent the chalice from rolling when it was laid on its side to drain. Under many modifications this general plan of the cup has obtained. The bowl is usually entirely plain, to facilitate keeping it clean; most of the decoration was lavished on the knop, a rich and uneven surface being both beautiful and functional in this place.
Such Norman and Romanesque chalices as remain are chiefly in museums now. They were usually "coffin chalices"—that is, they had been buried in the coffin of some ecclesiastic. Of Gothic chalices, or those of the Tudor period, fewer remain, for after the Reformation, a general order went out to the churches, for all "chalices to be altered to decent Communion cups." The shape was greatly modified in this change.
In the thirteenth century the taste ran rather to a chaster form of decoration; the large cabochons of the Romanesque, combined with a liquid gold surface, gave place to refined ornaments in niello and delicate enamels. The bowls of the earlier chalices were rather flat and broad. When it became usual for the laity to partake only of one element when communicating, the chalice, which was reserved for the clergy alone, became modified to meet this condition, and the bowl was much smaller. After the Reformation, however, the development was quite in the other direction, the bowl being extremely large and deep. In that period they were known as communion cups. In Sandwich there is a cup which was made over out of a ciborium; as it quite plainly shows its origin, it is naively inscribed: "This is a Communion Coop." When this change in the form of the chalice took place, it was provided, by admonition of the Archbishop, in all cases with a "cover of silver... which shall serve also for the ministration of the Communion bread." To make this double use of cover and dish satisfactory, a foot like a stand was added to the paten.
The communion cup of the Reformation differed from the chalice, too, in being taller and straighter, with a deep bowl, almost in the proportions of a flaring tumbler, and a stem with a few close decorations instead of a knop. The small paten served as a cover to the cup, as has been mentioned.
It is not always easy to see old church plate where it originally belonged. On the Scottish border, for instance, there were constant raids, when the Scots would descend upon the English parish churches, and bear off the communion plate, and again the English would cross the border and return the compliment. In old churches, such as the eleventh century structure at Torpenhow, in Cumberland, the deep sockets still to be seen in the stone door jambs were intended to support great beams with which the church had constantly to be fortified against Scottish invasion. Another reason for the disappearance of church plate, was the occasional sale of the silver in order to continue necessary repairs on the fabric. In a church in Norfolk, there is a record of sale of communion silver and "for altering of our church and fynnishing of the same according to our mindes and the parishioners." It goes on to state that the proceeds were appropriated for putting new glass in the place of certain windows "wherein were conteined the lives of certain prophane histories," and for "paving the king's highway" in the church precincts. At the time of the Reformation many valuable examples of Church plate were cast aside by order of the Commissioners, by which "all monuments of feyned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition," were to be destroyed. At this time a calf or a sheep might have been seen browsing in the meadows with a sacring-bell fastened at its neck, and the pigs refreshed themselves with drinking from holy-water fonts!
Croziers of ornate design especially roused the ire of the Puritans. In Mr. Alfred Maskell's incomparable book on Ivories, he translates a satirical verse by Guy de Coquille, concerning these objectionable pastoral staves (which were often made of finely sculptured ivory).
"The staff of a bishop of days that are old Was of wood, and the bishop himself was of gold. But a bishop of wood prefers gorgeous array, So his staff is of gold in the new fashioned way!"
During the Renaissance especially, goldsmith's work was carried to great technical perfection, and yet the natural properties of the metal were frequently lost sight of, and the craftsmen tried to produce effects such as would be more suitable in stone or wood,—little architectonic features were introduced, and gold was frequently made to do the work of other materials. Thus it lost much of its inherent effectiveness. Too much attention was given to ingenuity, and not enough to fitness and beauty.
In documents of the fourteenth century, the following list of goldsmiths is given: Jean de Mantreux was goldsmith to King Jean. Claux de Friburg was celebrated for a gold statuette of St. John which he made for the Duke of Normandy. A diadem for this Duke was also recorded, made by Jean de Piguigny. Hannequin made three golden crowns for Charles V. Hans Crest was goldsmith to the Duke of Orleans, while others employed by him were Durosne, of Toulouse, Jean de Bethancourt, a Flemish goldsmith. In the fifteenth century the names of Jean de Hasquin, Perrin Manne, and Margerie d'Avignon, were famous.
Artists in the Renaissance were expected to undertake several branches of their craft. Hear Poussin: "It is impossible to work at the same time upon frontispieces of books: a Virgin: at the picture for the congregation of St. Louis, at the designs for the gallery, and for the king's tapestry! I have only a feeble head, and am not aided by anyone!"
A goldsmith attached to the Court of King Rene of Anjou was Jean Nicolas. Rene also gave many orders to one Liguier Rabotin, of Avignon, who made him several cups of solid gold, on a large tray of the same precious metal. The king often drew his own designs or such bijoux.
Among the famous men of Italy were several who practised the art of the goldsmith. Ugolino of Siena constructed the wonderful reliquary at Orvieto; this, is in shape somewhat similar to the facade of the cathedral.
Verocchio, the instructor of Leonardo da Vinci, accomplished several important pieces of jewelery in his youth: cope-buttons and silver statuettes, chiefly, which were so successful that he determined to take up the career of a sculptor. Ghirlandajo, as is well known, was trained as a goldsmith originally, his father having been the inventor of a pretty fashion then prevailing among young girls of Florence, and being the maker of those golden garlands worn on the heads of maidens. The name Ghirlandajo, indeed, was derived from these garlands (ghirlandes).
Francia began life as a goldsmith, too, and was never in after life ashamed of his profession, for he often signed his works Francesco Francia Aurifex. Francia was a very skilful workman in niello, and in enamels. In fact, to quote the enthusiastic Vasari, "he executed everything that is most beautiful, and which can be performed in that art more perfectly than any other master had ever done." Baccio Baldini, also, was a goldsmith, although a greater portion of his ability was turned in the direction of engraving. His pupil Maso Finniguerra, who turned also to engraving, began his career as a goldsmith.
The great silver altar in the Baptistery in Florence occupied nearly all the goldsmiths in that city. In 1330 the father of the Orcagnas, Cione, died; he had worked for some years before that on the altar. In 1366 the altar was destroyed, but the parts in bas-relief by Cione were retained and incorporated into the new work, which was finished in 1478. Ghiberti, Orcagna, Verocchio, and Pollajuolo, all executed various details of this magnificent monument.
Goldsmiths did not quite change their standing and characteristics until late in the sixteenth century. About that time it may be said that the last goldsmith of the old school was Claude Ballin, while the first jeweller, in the modern acceptation of the word, was Pierre de Montarsy.
Silver has always been selected for the better household utensils, not only on account of its beauty, but also because of its ductility, which is desirable in making larger vessels; its value, too, is less than that of gold, so that articles which would be quite out of the reach of most householders, if made in gold, become very available in silver. Silver is particularly adapted to daily use, for the necessary washing and polishing which it receives keeps it in good condition, and there is no danger from poison through corrosion, as with copper and brass.
In the middle ages the customary pieces of plate in English homes were basins, bottles, bowls, candlesticks, saucepans, jugs, dishes, ewers and flagons, and chafing-dishes for warming the hands, which were undoubtedly needed, when we remember how intense the cold must have been in those high, bare, ill-ventilated halls! There were also large cups called hanaps, smaller cups, plates, and porringers, salt-cellars, spoons, and salvers. Forks were of much later date.
There are records of several silver basins in the Register of John of Gaunt, and also in the Inventory of Lord Lisle: one being "a basin and ewer with arms" and another, "a shaving basin." John of Gaunt also owned "a silver bowl for the kitchen." If the mediaeval household lacked comforts, it could teach us lessons in luxury in some other departments! He also had a "pair of silver bottles, partly gilt, and enamelled, garnished with tissues of silk, white and blue," and a "casting bottle" for distributing perfume: Silver candelabra were recorded; these, of course, must have been in constant service, as the facilities for lighting were largely dependent upon them. When the Crown was once obliged to ask a loan from the Earl of Salisbury, in 1432, the Earl received, as earnest of payment, "two golden candelabra, garnished with pearls and precious stones."
In the Close Roll of Henry III. of England, there is found an interesting order to a goldsmith: "Edward, son of Eudo, with all haste, by day and by night, make a cup with a foot for the Queen: weighing two marks, not more; price twenty marks, against Christmas, that she may drink from it in that feast: and paint it and enamel it all over, and in every other way that you can, let it be decently and beautifully wrought, so that the King, no less than the said Queen, may be content therewith." All the young princes and princesses were presented with silver cups, also, as they came to such age as made the use of them expedient; Lionel and John, sons of Edward III., were presented with cups "with leather covers for the same," when they were one and three years old respectively. In 1423 the chief justice, Sir William Hankford, gave his great-granddaughter a baptismal gift of a gilt cup and a diamond ring, together with a curious testimonial of eight shillings and sixpence to the nurse!
Of dishes, the records are meagre, but there is an amusing entry among the Lisle papers referring to a couple of "conserve dishes" for which Lady Lisle expressed a wish. Husee had been ordered to procure these, but writes, "I can get no conserve dishes... however, if they be to be had, I will have of them, or it shall cost me hot water!" A little later he observes, "Towards Christmas day they shall be made at Bevoys, betwixt Abbeville and Paris."
Flagons were evidently a novelty in 1471, for there is an entry in the Issue Roll of Edward IV., which mentions "two ollas called silver flagons for the King." An olla was a Latin term for a jar. Lord Lisle rejoiced in "a pair of flagons, the gilt sore worn." Hanaps were more usual, and appear to have been usually in the form of goblets. They frequently had stands called "tripers." Sometimes these stands were very ornate, as, for instance, one owned by the Bishop of Carpentras, "in the shape of a flying dragon, with a crowned damsel sitting upon a green terrace." Another, belonging to the Countess of Cambridge, was described as being "in the shape of a monster, with three buttresses and three bosses of mother of pearl... and an ewer,... partly enamelled with divers babooneries"—a delightful expression! Other hanaps were in the forms of swans, oak trees, white harts, eagles, lions, and the like—probably often of heraldic significance.
A set of platters was sent from Paris to Richard II., all of gold, with balas rubies, pearls and sapphires set in them. It is related of the ancient Frankish king, Chilperic, that he had made a dish of solid gold, "ornamented all over with precious stones, and weighing fifty pounds," while Lothaire owned an enormous silver basin bearing as decoration "the world with the courses of the stars and the planets."
The porringer was a very important article of table use, for pap, and soft foods such as we should term cereals, and for boiled pudding. These were all denominated porridge, and were eaten from these vessels. Soup was doubtless served in them as well. They were numerous in every household. In the Roll of Henry III. is an item, mentioning that he had ordered twenty porringers to be made, "like the one hundred porringers" which had already been ordered!
An interesting pattern of silver cups in Elizabethan times were the "trussing cups," namely, two goblets of silver, squat in shape and broad in bowl, which fitted together at the rim, so that one was inverted as a sort of cover on top of the other when they were not in use. Drinking cups were sometimes made out of cocoanuts, mounted in silver, and often of ostrich eggs, similarly treated, and less frequently of horns hollowed out and set on feet. Mediaeval loving cups were usually named, and frequently for some estates that belonged to the owner. Cups have been known to bear such names as "Spang," "Bealchier," and "Crumpuldud," while others bore the names of the patron saints of their owners.
A kind of cruet is recorded among early French table silver, "a double necked bottle in divisions, in which to place two kinds of liquor without mixing them." A curious bit of table silver in France, also, was the "almsbox," into which each guest was supposed to put some piece of food, to be given to the poor.
Spoons were very early in their origin; St. Radegond is reported by a contemporary to have used a spoon, in feeding the blind and infirm. A quaint book of instructions to children, called "The Babee's Booke," in 1475, advises by way of table manners:
"And whenever your potage to you shall be brought, Take your sponys and soupe by no way, And in your dish leave not your spoon, I pray!"
And a later volume on the same subject, in 1500, commends a proper respect for the implements of the table:
"Ne playe with spoone, trencher, ne knife."
Spoons of curious form were evidently made all the way from 1300 to the present day. In an old will, in 1477, mention is made of spoons "wt leopards hedes printed in the sponself," and in another, six spoons "wt owles at the end of the handles." Professor Wilson said, "A plated spoon is a pitiful imposition," and he was right. If there is one article of table service in which solidity of metal is of more importance than in another, it is the spoon, which must perforce come in contact with the lips whenever it is used. In England the earliest spoons were of about the thirteenth century, and the first idea of a handle seems to have been a plain shaft ending in a ball or knob. Gradually spoons began to show more of the decorative instinct of their designers; acorns, small statuettes, and such devices terminated the handles, which still retained their slender proportions, however. Finally it became popular to have images of the Virgin on individual spoons, which led to the idea, after a bit, of decorating the dozen with the twelve apostles. These may be seen of all periods, differently elaborated. Sets of thirteen are occasionally met with, these having one with the statue of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, with a lamb on his shoulders: it is known as the "Master spoon."
The first mention of forks in France is in the Inventory, of Charles V., in 1379. We hear a great deal about the promiscuous use of knives before forks were invented; how in the children's book of instructions they are enjoined "pick not thy teeth with thy knife," as if it were a general habit requiring to be checked. Massinger alludes to a
"silver fork To convey an olive neatly to thy mouth,"
but this may apply to pickle forks. Forks were introduced from Italy into England about 1607.
A curiosity in cutlery is the "musical knife" at the Louvre; the blade is steel, mounted in parcel gilt, and the handle is of ivory. On the blade is engraved a few bars of music (arranged for the bass only), accompanying the words, "What we are about to take may Trinity in Unity bless. Amen." This is a literal translation. It indicates that there were probably three other knives in the set so ornamented, one with the soprano, one alto, and one tenor, so that four persons sitting down to table together might chant their "grace" in four-part harmony, having the requisite notes before them! It was a quaint idea, but quite in keeping with the taste of the sixteenth century.
The domestic plate of Louis, Duke of Anjou, in 1360, consisted of over seven hundred pieces, and Charles V. of France had an enormous treasury of such objects for daily use. Strong rooms and safes were built during the fourteenth century, for the lodging of the household valuables. About this time the Dukes of Burgundy were famous for their splendid table service. Indeed, the craze for domestic display in this line became so excessive, that in 1356 King John of France prohibited the further production of such elaborate pieces, "gold or silver plate, vases, or silver jewelry, of more than one mark of gold, or silver, excepting for churches." This edict, however, accomplished little, and was constantly evaded. Many large pieces of silver made in the period of the Renaissance were made simply with a view to standing about as ornaments. Cellini alludes to certain vases which had been ordered from him, saying that "they are called ewers, and they are placed upon buffets for the purpose of display."
The salt cellar was always a piece de resistance, and stood in the centre of the table. It was often in the form of a ship in silver. A book entitled "Ffor to serve a Lorde," in 1500, directs the "boteler" or "panter," to bring forth the principal salt, and to "set the saler in the myddys of the table." Persons helped themselves to salt with "a clene kniffe." The seats of honour were all about the salt, while those of less degree were at the lower end of the table, and were designated as "below the salt." The silver ship was commonly an immense piece of plate, containing the napkin, goblet, and knife and spoon of the host, besides being the receptacle for the spices and salt. Through fear of poison, the precaution was taken of keeping it covered. This ship was often known as the "nef," and frequently had a name, as if it were the family yacht! One is recorded as having been named the "Tyger," while a nef belonging to the Duke of Orleans was called the "Porquepy," meaning porcupine. One of the historic salts, in another form, is the "Huntsman's salt," and is kept at All Soul's College, Oxford. The figure of a huntsman, bears upon its head a rock crystal box with a lid. About the feet of this figure are several tiny animals and human beings, so that it looks as if the intent had been to picture some gigantic legendary hunter—a sort of Gulliver of the chase.
The table was often furnished also with a fountain, in which drinking-water was kept, and upon which either stood or hung cups or goblets. These fountains were often of fantastic shapes, and usually enamelled. One is described as representing a dragon on a tree top, and another a castle on a hill, with a convenient tap at some point for drawing off the water.
The London City Companies are rich in their possessions of valuable plate. Some of the cups are especially beautiful. The Worshipful Company of Skinners owns some curious loving cups, emblematic of the names of the donors. There are five Cockayne Loving Cups, made in the form of cocks, with their tail feathers spread up to form the handles. The heads have to be removed for drinking. These cups were bequeathed by William Cockayne, in 1598. Another cup is in the form of a peacock, walking with two little chicks of minute proportions on either side of the parent bird. This is inscribed, "The gift of Mary the daughter of Richard Robinson, and wife to Thomas Smith and James Peacock, Skinners." Whether the good lady were a bigamist or took her husbands in rotation, does not transpire.
An interesting cup is owned by the Vintners in London, called the Milkmaid. The figure of a milkmaid, in laced bodice, holds above her head a small cup on pivots, so that it finds its level when the figure is inverted, as is the case when the cup is used, the petticoat of the milkmaid forming the real goblet. It is constructed on the same principle as the German figures of court ladies holding up cups, which are often seen to-day, made on the old pattern. The cups in the case of this milkmaid are both filled with wine, and it is quite difficult to drink from the larger cup without spilling from the small swinging cup which is then below the other. Every member is expected to perform this feat as a sort of initiation. It dates from 1658.
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.
JEWELRY AND PRECIOUS STONES
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.
Anglo-Saxon and Irish jewelry is famous for delicate filigree, fine enamels, and flat garnets used in a very decorative way. Niello was also employed to some extent. It is easy, in looking from the Bell of St. Patrick to the Book of Kells, to see how the illuminators were influenced by the goldsmiths in early times,—in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon work.
The earliest forms of brooches were the annular,—that is, a long pin with a hinged ring at its head for ornament, and the "penannular," or pin with a broken circle at its head. Through the opening in the circle the pin returns, and then with a twist of the ring, it is held more firmly in the material. Of these two forms are notable examples in the Arbutus brooch and the celebrated Tara brooch. The Tara brooch is a perfect museum in itself of the jeweller's art. It is ornamented with enamel, with jewels set in silver, amber, scroll filigree, fine chains, Celtic tracery, moulded glass—nearly every branch of the art is represented in this one treasure, which was found quite by accident near Drogheda, in 1850, a landslide having exposed the buried spot where it had lain for centuries. As many as seventy-six different kinds of workmanship are to be detected on this curious relic.
At a great Exhibition at Ironmonger's Hall in 1861 there was shown a leaden fibula, quite a dainty piece of personal ornament, in Anglo-Saxon taste, decorated with a moulded spiral meander. It was found in the Thames in 1855, and there are only three other similar brooches of lead known to exist.
Of the Celtic brooches Scott speaks:
"...the brooch of burning gold That clasps the chieftain's mantle fold, Wrought and chased with rare device, Studded fair with gems of price."
One of the most remarkable pieces of Celtic jewelled work is the bell of St. Patrick, which measures over ten inches in height. This saint is associated with several bells: one, called the Broken Bell of St. Brigid, he used on his last crusade against the demons of Ireland; it is said that when he found his adversaries specially unyielding, he flung the bell with all his might into the thickest of their ranks, so that they fled precipitately into the sea, leaving the island free from their aggressions for seven years, seven months, and seven days.
One of St. Patrick's bells is known, in Celtic, as the "white toned," while another is called the "black sounding." This is an early and curious instance of the sub-conscious association of the qualities of sound with those of colour. Viollet le Duc tells how a blind man was asked if he knew what the colour red was. He replied, "Yes: red is the sound of the trumpet." And the great architect himself, when a child, was carried by his nurse into the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, where he cried with terror because he fancied that the various organ notes which he heard were being hurled at him by the stained glass windows, each one represented by a different colour in the glass!
But the most famous bell in connection with St. Patrick is the one known by his own name and brought with his relics by Columbkille only sixty years after the saint's death. The outer case is an exceedingly rich example of Celtic work. On a ground of brass, fine gold and silver filigree is applied, in curious interlaces and knots, and it is set with several jewels, some of large size, in green, blue, and dull red. In the front are two large tallow-cut Irish diamonds, and a third was apparently set in a place which is now vacant. On the back of the bell appears a Celtic inscription in most decorative lettering all about the edge; the literal translation of this is: "A prayer for Donnell O'Lochlain, through whom this bell shrine was made; and for Donnell, the successor of Patrick, with whom it was made; and for Cahalan O'Mulhollan, the keeper of the bell, and for Cudilig O'Immainen, with his sons, who covered it." Donald O'Lochlain was monarch of Ireland in 1083. Donald the successor of Patrick was the Abbot of Armagh, from 1091 to 1105. The others were evidently the craftsmen who worked on the shrine. In many interlaces, especially on the sides, there may be traced intricate patterns formed of serpents, but as nearly all Celtic work is similarly ornamented, there is probably nothing personal in their use in connection with the relic of St. Patrick! Patrick brought quite a bevy of workmen into Ireland about 440: some were smiths, Mac Cecht, Laebhan, and Fontchan, who were turned at once upon making of bells, while some other skilled artificers, Fairill and Tassach, made patens and chalices. St. Bridget, too, had a famous goldsmith in her train, one Bishop Coula.
The pectoral cross of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne is now to be seen in Durham. It was buried with the saint, and was discovered with his body. The four arms are of equal length, and not very heavy in proportion. It is of gold, made in the seventh century, and is set with garnets, a very large one in the centre, one somewhat smaller at the ends of the arms, where the lines widen considerably, and with smaller ones continuously between.
Among the many jewels which decorated the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury was a stone "with an angell of gold poynting thereunto," which was a gift from the King of France, who had had it "made into a ring and wore it on his thumb." Other stones described as being on this shrine were sumptuous, the whole being damascened with gold wire, and "in the midst of the gold, rings; or cameos of sculptured agates, carnelians, and onyx stones." A visitor to Canterbury in 1500 writes: "Everything is left far behind by a ruby not larger than a man's thumb nail, which is set to the right of the altar. The church is rather dark, and when we went to see it the sun was nearly gone down, and the weather was cloudy, yet we saw the ruby as well as if it had been in my hand. They say it was a gift of the King of France."
Possessions of one kind were often converted into another, according to changing fashions. Philippa of Lancaster had a gold collar made "out of two bottles and a turret," in 1380.
Mediaeval rosaries were generally composed of beads of coral or carnelian, and often of gold and pearls as well. Marco Polo tells of a unique rosary worn by the King of Malabar; one hundred and four large pearls, with occasional rubies of great price, composed the string. Marco Polo adds: "He has to say one hundred and four prayers to his idols every morning and evening."
In the possession of the Shah of Persia is a gold casket studded with emeralds, which is said to have the magic power of rendering the owner invisible as long as he remains celibate. I fancy that this is a safe claim, for the tradition is not likely to be put to the proof in the case of a Shah! Probably there has never been an opportunity of testing the miraculous powers of the stones.
The inventory of Lord Lisle contains many interesting side lights on the jewelry of the period: "a hawthorne of gold, with twenty diamonds;" "a little tower of gold," and "a pair of beads of gold, with tassels." Filigree or chain work was termed "perry." In old papers such as inventories, registers, and the like, there are frequent mentions of buttons of "gold and perry;" in 1372 Aline Gerbuge received "one little circle of gold and perry, emeralds and balasses." Clasps and brooches were used much in the fourteenth century. They were often called "ouches," and were usually of jewelled gold. One, an image of St. George, was given by the Black Prince to John of Gaunt. The Duchess of Bretagne had among other brooches one with a white griffin, a balas ruby on its shoulder, six sapphires around it, and then six balasses, and twelve groups of pearls with diamonds.
Brooches were frequently worn by being stuck in the hat. In a curious letter from James I. to his son, the monarch writes: "I send for your wearing the Three Brethren" (evidently a group of three stones) "...but newly set... which I wolde wish you to weare alone in your hat, with a Littel black feather." To his favourite Buckingham he also sends a diamond, saying that his son will lend him also "an anker" in all probability; but he adds: "If my Babee will not spare the anker from his Mistress, he may well lend thee his round brooch to weare, and yett he shall have jewels to weare in his hat for three grate dayes."
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the women wore nets in their hair, composed of gold threads adorned with pearls. At first two small long rolls by the temples were confined in these nets: later, the whole back hair was gathered into a large circular arrangement. These nets were called frets—"a fret of pearls" was considered a sufficient legacy for a duchess to leave to her daughter.
In the constant resetting and changing of jewels, many important mediaeval specimens, not to mention exquisite vessels and church furniture, were melted down and done over by Benvenuto Cellini, especially at the time that Pope Clement was besieged at the Castle of St. Angelo.
Probably the most colossal jewel of ancient times was the Peacock Throne of Delhi. It was in the form of two spread tails of peacocks, composed entirely of sapphires, emeralds and topazes, feather by feather and eye by eye, set so as to touch each other. A parrot of life size carved from a single emerald, stood between the peacocks.
In 1161 the throne of the Emperor in Constantinople is described by Benjamin of Tudela: "Of gold ornamented with precious stones. A golden crown hangs over it, suspended on a chain of the same material, the length of which exactly admits the Emperor to sit under it. The crown is ornamented with precious stones of inestimable value. Such is the lustre of these diamonds that even without any other light, they illumine the room in which they are kept."
The greatest mediaeval jeweller was St. Eloi of Limoges. His history is an interesting one, and his achievement and rise in life was very remarkable in the period in which he lived. Eloi was a workman in Limoges, as a youth, under the famous Abho, in the sixth century; there he learned the craft of a goldsmith. He was such a splendid artisan that he soon received commissions for extensive works on his own account. King Clothaire II. ordered from him a golden throne, and supplied the gold which was to be used. To the astonishment of all, Eloi presented the king with two golden thrones (although it is difficult to imagine what a king would do with duplicate thrones!), and immediately it was noised abroad that the goldsmith Eloi was possessed of miraculous powers, since, out of gold sufficient for one throne, he had constructed two. People of a more practical turn found out that Eloi had learned the art of alloying the gold, so as to make it do double duty.
A great many examples of St. Eloi's work might have been seen in France until the Revolution in 1792, especially at the Abbey of St. Denis. A ring made by him, with which St. Godiberte was married to Christ, according to the custom of mediaeval saints, was preserved at Noyon until 1793, when it disappeared in the Revolution. The Chronicle says of Eloi: "He made for the king a great numer of gold vesses enriched with precious stones, and he worked incessantly, seated with his servant Thillo, a Saxon by birth, who followed the lessons of his master." St. Eloi founded two institutions for goldsmithing: one for the production of domestic and secular plate, and the other for ecclesiastical work exclusively, so that no worker in profane lines should handle the sacred vessels. The secular branch was situated near the dwelling of Eloi, in the Cite itself, and was known as "St. Eloi's Enclosure." When a fire burned them out of house and shelter, they removed to a suburban quarter, which soon became known in its turn, as the "Cloture St. Eloi." The religious branch of the establishment was presided over by the aforesaid Thillo, and was the Abbey of Solignac, near Limoges. This school was inaugurated in 631.
While Eloi was working at the court of King Clothaire II., St. Quen was there as well. The two youths struck up a close friendship, and afterwards Ouen became his biographer. His description of Eloi's personal appearance is worth quoting, to show the sort of figure a mediaeval saint sometimes cut before canonization. "He was tall, with a ruddy face, his hair and beard curly. His hands well made, and his fingers long, his face full of angelic sweetness.... At first he wore habits covered with pearls and precious stones; he had also belts sewn with pearls. His dress was of linen encrusted with gold, and the edges of his tunic trimmed with gold embroidery. Indeed, his clothing was very costly, and some of his dresses were of silk. Such was his exterior in his first period at court, and he dressed thus to avoid singularity; but under this garment he wore a rough sack cloth, and later on, he disposed of all his ornaments to relieve the distressed; and he might be seen with only a cord round his waist and common clothes. Sometimes the king, seeing him thus divested of his rich clothing, would take off his own cloak and girdle and give them to him, saying: 'It is not suitable that those who dwell for the world should be richly clad, and that those who despoil themselves for Christ should be without glory.'"
Among the numerous virtues of St. Eloi was that of a consistent carrying out of his real beliefs and theories, whether men might consider him quixotic or not. He was strongly opposed to the institution of slavery. In those days it would have been futile to preach actual emancipation. The times were not ripe. But St. Eloi did all that he could for the cause of freedom by investing most of his money in slaves, and then setting them at liberty. Sometimes he would "corner" a whole slave market, buying as many as thirty to a hundred at a time. Some of these manumitted persons became his own faithful followers: some entered the religious life, and others devoted their talents to their benefactor, and worked in his studios for the furthering of art in the Church.
He once played a trick upon the king. He requested the gift of a town, in order, as he explained, that he might there build a ladder by which they might both reach heaven. The king, in the rather credulous fashion of the times, granted his request, and waited to see the ladder. St. Eloi promptly built a monastery. If the monarch did not choose to avail himself of this species of ladder,—surely it was no fault of the builder!
St. Quen and St. Eloi were consecrated bishops on the same day, May 14, St. Quen to the Bishopric of Rouen, and Eloi to the See of Noyon. He made a great hunt for the body of St. Quentin, which had been unfortunately mislaid, having been buried in the neighbourhood of Noyon; he turned up every available spot of ground around, within and beneath the church, until he found a skeleton in a tomb, with some iron nails. This he proclaimed to be the sacred body, for the legend was that St. Quentin had been martyred by having nails driven into his head! Although it was quite evident to others that these were coffin nails, still St. Eloi insisted upon regarding his discovery as genuine, and they began diligently to dismember the remains for distribution among the churches. As they were pulling one of the teeth, a drop of blood was seen to follow it, which miracle was hailed by St. Eloi as the one proof wanting. Eloi had the genuine artistic temperament and his religious zeal was much influenced by his aesthetic nature. He once preached an excellent sermon, still preserved, against superstition. He inveighed particularly against the use of charms and incantations. But he had his own little streak of superstition in spite of the fact that he fulminated against it. When he had committed some fault, after confession, he used to hang bags of relics in his room, and watch them for a sign of forgiveness. When one of these would turn oily, or begin to affect the surrounding atmosphere peculiarly, he would consider it a sign of the forgiveness of heaven. It seems to us to-day as if he might have looked to his own relic bags before condemning the ignorant.