AN OVERVIEW ON THE ORIGINS OF ENAMEL
Enamelling on metal is a process taking place at high temperature (over 500°C), which by the melting of enamel on metal achieves not only the permanent binding of enamel, but also the formation of a smooth surface with brilliant colours.
Enamelling is a unique and permanent effect at the disposal of the few artists who fall in love with this technique and, overcoming the many difficulties, manage to create wonderful masterpieces that will survive their authors. An enamelled object is as fascinating as a jewel. It attracts for its look, which is perceived as akin to crystal and natural stones. Its brightness has a large colour range. Enamel has noble origins, though being born of fire and earth. It was born to improve the monochromatic look of gold, of which enamel shares the durability.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Origins of Enamelling - 16th-11th century BC
II. Antiquity - 9th century BC-5th century AD
III. Early Middle Ages - 5th-11th century AD
IV. Late Middle Ages - 11th-15th century AD
V. Renaissance - 15th-16th century AD
VI. Early Modernity - 16th-18th century AD
VII. Late Modernity - 18th-21st century AD
THE ORIGINS OF ENAMELLING (16th-11th century BC)
Location of Cyprus and Mycene, the two cradles of enamelling (16th century BC).
The origins of the word “enamel” from old French “esmalt” are still debated among the experts. The two most common and widespread theories on its etymology derive it from Greek “smagdos”, a word used in the late Roman Empire (3rd-5th centuries AD) to indicate enameled objects and later with the same meaning during the 14th and 15th centuries; alternatively, it could come from German verb “schmelzen” which means “to melt”. Until some decades ago, the origins of enameling were also obscure, but the most recent archeological discoveries have shed some light on the most ancient phase of enameling.
Historically, enamel has been applied for the first time on ductile metals such as gold, silver, electrum (a gold-silver 20% alloy) and later on bronze and copper. During most of the 3000 years, production is almost limited to religious objects, items for personal use or jewelry. Its cradle lays probably between 1600-1400 BC in Greece and the Mediterranean area, from Mycenae to Cyprus. It is there where Mycenaean artisans, glassworkers and goldsmiths, that escaped from the Achaean invasion, created the oldest enameled objects found ever since.
On the left: bronze daggers, decorated with set metal, 16th century BC. Museum of Athens.
On the right: an enamelled cloisonné dagger, 15th century BC, Museum of Athens.
Since the 3rd millennium BC, glass and ceramic objects such as jewels began to be decorated and combined with metal components or soldered with gemstones.
On the left: glass paste from Egypt, 5th century BC.
On the right: ring of Tellus, 3rd century BC, decorated with gemstones.
Around 1500 BC, in the Mycenaean area, goldsmiths and glassworkers discover a kind of glass similar to stone that melts to gold and binds permanently to metal. A dagger with enameled parts of that period is preserved in the Museum of Athens.
Some scholars guess the first use of enameling in Pharao Egypt of rather than in Mesopotamia. However, there is no archaeological evidence and a famous scholar, Gardner, mistook enameled ceramics and colored glass for “real enamel”, for which the condition is to bind to the metallic surface by vitrification at high temperature (Dietzel). Only thanks to excavations the development of enameling can be studied during history. According to Higgins, the earliest production of blue enamels on gold was created in Mycenae around 1425 BC. The few pieces available show the good quality of the craftsmanship. Only a few enamelled objects of that time have been recovered from the archaeological digs. Anyway, the pieces found up to now show the good quality of craftsmanship at the time. It was the artist who had to choose which techniques to adopt in order to achieve the best decorative effects, according to the knowledge and materials at his disposal. For centuries, enamelling will still have a use limited to personal and religious objects.
As already mentioned, the oldest findings are set in the golden age of Cyprus (1500 – 1200 BC). A remarkable object is the 16 cm long golden scepter with golden handle found close to Episkopi (Curium), dated about 1100 BC. Its spherical top is enameled in semicircle cells alternating white, lilac and green. The craftsmanship and technique to work gold and enamel is impressive. During the centuries this technique became known as Cloisonné, from the French word Cloison, meaning “partition”. It can be seen in the Museum of Cyprus, Nicosia, together with six golden rings with round enameled partitions, all excavated in a tomb in Kouklia, Cyprus, dated about 1200 BC.
ANTIQUITY (9th century BC-4th century AD)
Examples of enamel filigree, one of the most ancient techniques of enamelling.
There are no archaeological findings between 1100 and 600 BC ; it seems that this technique extinguished, to regain prominence in 700 BC with works of filigree, in Azerbaidjan (Dietzel). Also in Etruria, Magna Grecia, and Spain, particularly in Seville, there has been some production of enameled objects in 700 to 400 BC (Gonzales¹). These works are very refined so that we believe that the practice was well known. According to Nuria Lopez-Ribalta, there have been findings in Spain such as the “collar of Gadir” in Cadiz (5th-7th centuries) and the pendant of the “Treasure of Carambolo” in Seville (8th-6th centuries). Since the 5th century BC, the Celts of Gaul (“La Tène culture”) produced enamelled objects of any kind, generally of bronze with a bright red colour; enamel will later rich the British Celts during the 3rd century BC. Greek writer Philostratus of Lemnos (Rome, 240 BC) witnessed that the Northern Barbarians of the Ocean regions applied colours on hot bronze (Champlevé technique).
In the 1st century BC (late Egyptian period) was produced the “Treasure of Queen Amanishaketo” (35-20 BC) in the Nubian region (Nuria Lopez-Ribalta). The most ancient enameling in Germany was found in the Rhine region during the Flavian dynasty (69-96 AD). The most ancient examples of German enamelling have been found in the Rhine region and are dated to the Flavian dynasty (69-96 AD). Enamelling probably spread through many routes. A first route starting started in Mesopotamia, whence it reached Persia, the Caucasus and Southern Russia. A second route started from Greece whence it reached Magna Graecia, Etruria, the Celts of Gaul and, through the Balkans, the Danube region and the Germans. These routes will cross each other during the Barbarian invasion.
During the 3rd century AD, it seems that enamelling was no more a part of Roman knowledge. Nevertheless, Augustan Rome was an operational centre for many glasswork manufacturers which spread throughout Italy and Europe wherever the Imperial troops settled. Both Romans and Barbarians played a role in the spreading of enamelling on bronze. The Romans spread through the empire some enameled objects of unknown origin, such as buckles or fasteners. That was the base for the development of the hybrid Gaul-Roman or British-Roman, mainly Champlevé on bronze, using a rough technique which we might define more “Barbarian”. In the 4th century, the Huns from the eastern steppes invaded the territories occupied by Germans and Goths and reintroduced Roman-Barbarian Cloisonné enamelling.
Bronze buckle, roman champlevé, 3rd century AD, (Vaison la Romaine),
Musée des Antiquités Nationales (Saint Germain-en-Laye, France).
EARLY MIDDLE AGES (5th-11th century)
In the 5th century, the Barbarian invasions begin and enamelling becomes more Oriental in style and had a lower technological level. Glass colours similar to enamel was melted in the cells, but they didn’t bind to the metal surface and were thus just mistaken for enamel.
Enamelling was born as cloisonné, but many centuries elapsed before enamel achieved an optimal level in expansion and binding. Its first golden age was in Byzantium (VI-XII centuries), with its well-defined outlines and bright colours.
Some examples of Byzantine Cloisonné from a Gospel Book.
Between the 6th and 8th centuries, the territories of England, Scotland and Ireland experienced a new impulse of Celtic Roman-British art, since they were never disturbed by the Barbarian invasions. A relevant example of the time is the Sutton Hoo Treasure (7th century, British Museum). The Anglo-Saxons learned this technique which was improved by their goldsmith knowledge and resulted in the new Insular Cloisonné style. Red thick enamel is combined with delicate filigrees decorated with more layers of enamel – a style derived from Byzantine art, especially as far as the geometrical motifs are concerned. It was only at the end of the 8th century that more complex figures appeared.
On the left: Decoration of a cauldron in bronze, from the Sutton-Hoo Treasure (England, 6th-7th century, above) and a bronze harnessing plate, found in France (1st century). On the right: Bronze buckle, found in Serbia-Montenegro (2nd-1st century)
Shoulder clasps from the burial ship of Sutton Hoo (England), cloisonné enamel, VI-VII century.
In Italy, during the 6th century, the Lombards overthrew the Ostrogoths in Ravenna where they learned the technique of Byzantine cloisonné.
One of the most important works left in Italy by the German peoples (Ostrogoths, Lombards and Franks) is the famous Iron Crown, created over many phases between 400-800 AD. The tradional history of this precious object has been largely confirmed by the analysis of the University of Milan: the gold of the Crown was from the time of Constantine (c. 350) while the plates with the original enamel decorations were added under the reign of Theoderic (c. 500 AD). The Crown was later restored by the Lombards over the next centuries, but it was only under Charlemagne that 21 out of 24 enamel plates have been replaced with new enamels as a restoration on occasion of his crowning on December 25, 800 AD. Since then, the Iron Crown has been worn by 32 kings and emperors, including Napoleon Bonaparte on December 2, 1804. The Iron Crown is now in the Treasure of the Monza Cathedral and is probably the most important enamelled object of this period.
The Italian workshops rapidly become very renowned for their production of Carolingian style enamels, which they exported in Europe throughout the 7th century. An important witness to the late Carolingian enamel art is the Altarpiece in the St. Ambrose Church (Milan), produced c. 850 by great enameller and goldsmith Volvinius.
The Iron Crown in the Cathedral of Monza, used to crown Theodolinda, Charlemagne, Napoleon many other kings. It was completed in many phases from the 5th to the 9th century AD.
Byzantine Cloisonné from the Altarpiece of St. Ambrose in Milan (850 AD) by goldsmith Volvinio.
The Pala d’Oro (Golden Altarpiece) in the St. Mark Cathedral (Venice, Italy) represents the most relevant example of Byzantine art both for beauty and dimensions. I
It was originally commissioned by Doge Pietro Orseolo I (976-978), expanded/restored by his successors Ordelaffo Falier (1105), Pietro Ziani (1209) and Andrea Dandolo (1342) and actually counts 250 cloisonné enamel plates, produced by Byzantine goldsmiths and/or smuggled from Constantinople during the Crusades.
Dettagli della Pala d’Oro del Duomo di San Marco a Venezia (X-XV secolo; 3,48 x 1,40 m).
The German regions shared the same evolutionary process between the 8th and 9th centuries as the earliest Byzantine objects reached these territories and inspired the craftsmen to produce true artistic objects.
Some Cloisonné objects dated to the 8th century have been found in Georgia and are now shown at the Fine Arts Museum together with the Triptychs of Martvili and Khalkhuli (9th-12th centuries; source: Nuria Lopez-Ribalta). In Gaul, the earliest rude examples of enamelling appeared by the 8th century; any attempt to absorb and imitate the Byzantine style didn’t come before the 9th century; the holy water font of Saint Maurice of Agaune, with Persian style drawings, is one of the most valuable products of this art. The Germanic lands follow the same evolutionary path between the 8th and 9th century when Byzantine artifacts were introduced.
Around the 10th century, in Central Europe, in Trier and Limoges, copper starts to replace gold. Throughout the Middle Ages a large quantity of reliquaries and religious-themed plates were produced. Copper is carved or engraved, gilded and filled with enamel. This technique is called Champlevé and a mass production of religious objects started, such as reliquaries, pyxes, chalices, crosiers, etc.
LATE MIDDLE AGES (11th-15th century)
The Carolingian era saw the development of stained glass, typical of the Gothic cathedrals: glass was either coloured or enamelled and formed by tesserae joined at the lead borders. This way, cathedral glass enamel was born. The oldest cathedral glass known was painted by a monk named Werner for the abbey of Tangersee in Bavaria and is dated to the 10th century. During the 11th century, Theophilus described a composition of “painting on glass” obtained with brown enamel.
Interesting examples of iron objects: a religious image and a little disc possibly meant to be used as money, found in Haute Vienne. Cloisonné Technique, 11th century AD.
Museum of Fine Arts in Limoges (France).
During the 12th century AD schools raised: Mosane in Liège and Namur, Rhenane in Cologne and Limousine in Limoges, and a forth one in Silos, Spain. They divulgated cloisonné and later painted enamel techniques. The Limousine school was the first lay workshop not to be lead by religious orders.
According to some recent studies by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the University of Turin, the period between the 12th-13th century was involved in an important switch in enamel composition. Spectrometric analysis showed in fact that the enamel type used up to the 12th century was chemically identical to Roman millefiori glass, but later switched to a different composition with chemical elements from the Middle East. According to some scholars, this could be explained with the reutilization of older Roman millefiori glass by artists. As this glass type ran short, they began to replace it with a new formula over a period of 50 years. By the second quarter of the 13th century, the new composition of enamel had already been adopted in the Mosane and Limousine schools.
On the left : Pastoral, champlevé technique, c.1150 AD. On the right : pix and reliquary-casket,
champlevé basse-taille, c.1200 AD. Castello Sforzesco, Milan.
Nicolas de Verdun is a preeminent exponent of the Mosan school, especially known for the Reliquary of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral (1190-1220) and the Altarpiece of Klosterneuburg (Austria, 1181). Soon after, a new style, the Gothic, developed. All this resulted in changes of style, concept and technique. There was a transition from the obscurantism (and obscurity) of the Romanesque period to the idea that art must be light to reach God. Artists began to produce the imposing Gothic stained glass through which lots of light passes. Indeed, while Romanesque enamels were matt, Byzantine, Venetian ad Italian enamels were smooth.
Over this period, the monk known as Theophilus the Presbyter describes the creation of enamels on metal in its famous treatise "Diversarum artium schedula" or "De diversis artibus". Some academics, such as Albert Ilg, Dodwell, Cyril Stanley Smith and Eckhard Freise, supported the identification of Theophilus with Rugerus from Helmarshausen, a goldsmith who both lived in Germany during the same period and one of the earliest manuscripts read "Teophilus is Rugerus" as a note. Other authors have expressed some doubts on this identification, e.g. Maria Luisa Martín Ansón in her book Esmaltes de España. Since some of the techniques described in the handbook are the same used by Roger (book miniatures, niello or metalworking), so we might still imagine some influence from this goldsmith on the writings of Theophilus.
By the end of the 13th century, Limoges decays and the shops of Majorca in Spain expands the technique of “translucent relief” thanks to some Italian goldsmiths. The base materials are gold and silver. Guccio di Mannaia from Siena applied this method during 1288-1292 creating the first artworks of this type: the chalice of Nicolò IV.
In 1337, Ugolino di Vieri, from Siena, created the large reliquary of the Cathedral of Orvieto. This technique, called “basse-taille” (bas-relief) is the evolution of “cloisonné” and “champlevé”; the engravings or chisels on the metal are often filled with enamel.
On the left, the Reliquiary of the Miracle of Bolsena, created by Senese goldsmith Ugolino di Vieri (1337-1339).
On the right, the Chalice of Nicholas IV by Guccio di Mannaia, the earliest known example of basse-taille enamel.
RENAISSANCE (15th-16th century)
Northern Italy switches from champlevé basse-taille to enamel painting. In the 15th century, Venetian and Lombard enamellers excel for their creations of chalices, plates, pitchers , competing with Limoges. The transition from champlevé to émail-paint happened in Italy and France at the same time. The enameled portrait of J. Fouquet, exhibited at the Louvre Museum, is the first of this kind. He learned this technique from Filarete in Italy in 1454.
Vases, plate. jug and bowl, Lombard and Venetian style, half of the 15th century.
Self-portrait of Jean Fouquet (Louvre), the first example of émail paint.
Since then, enameling starts to become an art: the plain and stylized figures of cloisonné and champlevé are abandoned and design gets more evidenced. Also the colours progressively get closer to paintings. Its brightness remains and transparency improves on thin gold or silver sheets. By the end of the 15th century, the works of the Pseudo-Monvaerni (from his signature MONVAERNI) are made without partitions and carvings on metal.
Work by the so-called Pseudo - Monvaerni, 12x16 cm, end of the 15th century (with detail of Christ’s face).
The first work to be considered a true painted enamel is dated to 1503 and was made by Nardon Pénicaud (1470-1542), the patriarch of a famous enamelist family. This work was commissioned by René II duke of Lorena (1451-1508) and is preserved in the Museum of Cluny. French painter Léonard Limosin (1505-1577) becomes the first acknowledged enamel artist. One of his works, the Incredulity of Saint Thomas, is shown in the Musée de l’Evêché in Limoges. Limosin had been educated in the school of Fontainebleu and was able to create hundreds of enameled portraits as well as mythological and religious scenes starting from his sketches.
Two works of Léonard Limosin. On the left: Flagellation, Enamel on Copper, 18x25 cm, presumably by Léonard Limosin, 1550 AD. On the right: Potrait of the Palatine Count Jean Philippe, by Léonard Limosin, 1550 AD.
EARLY MODERNITY (16th-18h century)
The Grisaille (cameo) technique appears in 1530: it consists of firing dark enamel on a copper surface covered with white enamel figures, completed with additional bas-relief firings. The best works of this period always combine different techniques (Translucent, Grisaille and Painted Enamel) with slight reliefs and golden friezes. Over time, this mixes style will lead (especially in Limoges) to the development of painting on enamel. The best enamellers will try their hand at all these techniques. Pierre Courteys, Pierre Raymond, Nouailher, Jacques Laudin, Janne de Court (Susanne Court) and many workshops will continue to create uncountable enamels of great value. There were also anonymous painters such as the so-called “Maitre de l’Eneide”.
Grisaille Technique: On the left: Florentine School work. On the right: Jean Laudin, The Folly.
In the last 30 years of the 17th century, this art is fading away as the taste changes and accuracy is lost to mass production. The “painting on enamel” technique is more commercial and almost an imitation of porcelain. Miniature sniff boxes and powder compacts prevail together with watch manufacturing and enameled goldsmith artworks . The guilloché technique is introduced, it consists of a mechanically worked gold or silver sheet covered by fired layers of transparent enamel. The same technique is used later by Fabergé at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. This painting technique is very good for miniature and slowly brings enamel back to its splendour. It will render the new “rococo” taste for luxury products and collectables. Jean and Henri Toutin first (1632), Jean I Petitot (1607, the so-called “Raphael of enamel”, died 1691) and the Huaud brothers are just some leading figures in this field. Chemist Turquet de Mayerme developed with Petitot a set of improved colours and famous portraitist Anton Van Duck (1599-1641) brought to life on enamel the portraits of the best contemporary painters. At the turn of the century, the dynasty of the Huaud (always in Geneva) will develop miniature on ivory and parchment. Rococo gave a push to a century of expansion of Genevan enamel decoration, which adopts sensual moods and light styles. The most extraordinary of all portraitists of this period is doubtless Jean-Etienne Liotard (1792-1789). His school formed many valid enamel artists.
Examples of miniature: on the left, box with portrait, created by J. P. Ador (Saint Petersburg, 1774), Hermitage Museum; on the right, oval miniature on copper, created by J-E Liotard.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the French Revolution led to a general crisis of luxury enamelled products, leaving the East as the only relevant market. The Chinese often commissioned pairs of clockwork which were much appreciated. Black enamel is invented, which allows marking the outlines. Amongst the most renowned artists, Jean-Louis Richter (1766-1841) is noteworthy for his use of flux enamel for the portrayal of realistic landscapes of great compositional imagination, inspired by Italian and Swiss panoramas. Couteau, Dubuisson and Merlet are the three major Parisian enamellers of Neoclassicism. Dubuisson and Merlet have continued to work even during the Restoration.
In England, miniature on enamel developed towards the middle of the 18th century: the models tend to be typically English and by mechanical impression, which favours large quantities to the detriment of artistic originality. Enamelling goes once again into a new decaying phase, which lasted through most of the 19th century. The first half of the century featured miniatures inspired by the works of Rubens, Raphael, Tiziano and Correggio, which found expression in many painting techniques, yet less bright then before, such as the 18 enamels in the Civic Museum of Turin.
During the 19th century, portraits and landscapes are the favourite themes, such as in the case of portraitist Charles Louis François Glardon (1825-1887). In 1839, Daguerre invented the first system to take pictures on copper film (named “daguerreotype”), which caused a flattening of portrait production in favour of photography. Lastly we remember the name of Rodolphe Piguet (1840-1915) who painted in the style of Impressionism. The impulse of Art Nouveau will contribute to recover the previously disused techniques.
J.B. Ernest Rubé Ruben and Dalpayrat start to work in Limoges, while Delphine De Cool triumphs in Paris. The English movement “Arts and Crafts” and Art Nouveau will get interested in the avant-garde between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It will be a break with the past, which will lead enamelled jewellery to an unprecedented level. Names associated with this movements are Lalique, i vari Thesmar, Fouquet, Vevere Tourette e Grasset, Feuillatre, Gaillard, Wolfers, von Cranach, Christofle e Lluis Masriera, in European and Tiffany in the USA. All previous techniques are reprised and improved; plique-à-jour becomes very popular, while Fabergé and Christofle first and Cartier and Boucheron later will make guilloché famous.
Two very different examples of miniature applied in the field of clockwork.
LATE MODERNITY (18th-21st century)
In the end of the 19th century, the techniques tend to become more and more industrial, leading to the decay of this art, which requires longer fabrication times than the frenzied lifestyles allow for. We remember goldsmiths such as Wagner, Froment-Maurice, Falize, Boucheron, Chritofle, Tard, Barbedienne and painted enamel artists such as Grandomme, Garnier, Popelin, Lepec, Meyer and the Soyers. An exception to this crisis at the turn of the century is goldsmith Carl Fabergé who introduces a production of coloured translucent enamels on silver. Towards the end of the 19th century, antiquarians and archaeologists renew their interest in enamel, which favours the restoration of many enamelling techniques. The famous ceramic and porcelain manufacture in Sèvres opened a new atelier in 1845-1872 where many good artists were educated and produces prestigious works. The last attempts to upgrade this art are by French Art Nouveau artists from the 20th century: a good example is the wonderful necklace made of gold, enamel, pearls and gemstones by René Lalique (1860-1945) in the Kunsthandwerk Museum (Frankfurt).
A representative of Italian Art Nouveau is Vincenzo Miranda, goldsmith and silversmith from Naples, whose firm takes part at the 1900 universal Exposition in Paris with a golden buckle with floreal motifs.
On the left, T. Gobert, Tripod-shaped vase with scenes of recreations in the open (1869-1872), National Museum of Ceramics in Sèvres.
On the right, Twelve Monograms Fabergé egg, created and given as a present to Marija Fjodorovna on Easter 1895 in memory of tsar Alexander III who had died the same year. Hillwood Museum of Washington D.C., USA.
At the same time, enamelling on iron develops especially for the production of household, road signs and poster designing, paving the way for architectural coverings of interiors and exteriors. The House of Morez is an example of this new tendency.
In the period of Art Déco during the years 1920-1930, the name of Limoges emerges once again thanks to the works of Alexandre Marty, his daughter Henriette, and artists Camille Fauré and Léon Louhaud. The Art Déco jugs of the Fauré Atelier are still indisputably recognized as works of art. In Germany (1915-1933), the art school “Burg Giebichenstein” (“Bauhaus”) will educate enamel teachers such as Maria Likartz a Lili Schultz, who produced their enamel works between the Wars. J. Goulden and R. Barriot are also noteworthy in France, while Miguel Soldevila and other members of the Massana School in Spain will follow in the footsteps of Grandhomme and Garnier and educate many enamellers who will later found the School of Barcelona, where painted enamel took a new personality. A noteworthy representative of this school is Lluís Masriera.
During the 1950s-1960s the most important artists were Josep Brunet, Núria Nialet, Francesca Ribas, Núria Ribot and Joan Gironès. The characteristics of this school can be appreciated in some enamellers of worldwide fame: F. Vilasís-Capalleja, Montserrat Mainar, Pascual Fort and Andréu Vilasís; the latter gave an important push to the renewal of enamelling in Spain. He was director and teacher at the Escuela “Llotja” in Barcelona since the 1970s up to the star of the Third Millennium. Similarly, in Germany Walter Lochmüller from Schwäbisch Gmünd emerges as well as the schools in Pforzheim or Hanau. It Is evident that the existence of schools derived from the Bauhaus has made it possible for Germany, Spain (Catalonia) and Great Britain to educate the best groups of enamel art in the 20th century.
In France, on the contrary, there was a decay of teaching centres until Georges Magadoux created the international biennials of enamel art (1971-1994). These meetings contributed to reach a higher artistic level. The biennials in Catalonia (Spain) and Salou followed: “El Món de l’Esmalt”. The same role was played by the “Rencontres” in Morez (France), by Tokyo in Japan and Coburg in Germany. In Keckskemét (1979) and later in Budapest, Hungary organized meetings with laboratories and symposiums. Australia contributes with its contests. In the USA, the Enamelist Society and the Carpenter Foundation played the same role. In France, the best artists have been: the traditionalists, such as R. Restoueix, the Betourné brothers and the Chéron family; the innovators, such as Christian Christel, Roger Duban, B. Veisbrot, H. Martial, M.T. Masias, J.C. Bessette.
In our days, this field is ruled by Dominique Gilbert and the Galérie du Canal. Germany is best remembered for the works of Martius, I. Martin, H. Blaich, U. Zehetbauer, M. Duntze, S.A. Klopsch and E. Massow. Gertrud Rittmann-Fischer and her husband August contributed with the foundation of the Creativ-Kreis-International since 1966, teaching enamel art and culture in Germany and worldwide. We finally remember here: in England, the Fusion stadium in London and B.S.O.E. (British Society of Enamellists); in the Netherlands, Go de Kron, Adriaan Van den Berk and Jan de Valk; in Japan, where the technique of Shippo Cloisonné rules, Kioko Iio, Yoshiko Yokoyama, Hobuko Horigome, Youko Yoshimura, Ota, Akiko Miura, Toshiko and Mamoru Tanaka (the latter ones in the field of mural arts); in the USA, Stefan Knapp, M. Seeler, K. Whitcomb, K.F. Bates, J. Schwarcz, J. Tanzer. In the Kecskemét laboratories assemble Russian, Georgian and Hungarian artists in international events.
In Italy, “creative workshops” came-up led by important artists such as Giuseppe Guidi, Studio Dal Campo (Turin), De Poli (Padua), Baldassarri Marcellon (Trent), Maretto and Maré (Milan). In Pesaro Bucci, Bastianelli and Jacopuccin (Laurana), Cellini (Studio Pesaro) work in cooperation with architects and designers such as Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass and Arnaldo Pomodoro (1928). By the end of the 20th century, new artists such as Orlando Sparaventi (a disciple of Bucci) and Ennio Cestonaro from Vicenza finally emerge. In Monza Brianza, the greatest names are Luisa Marzatico, a sculptor, and young artist Micaela Doni. Miranda Rognoni is famous not only for her artistic skills, but also for her contribution to the meeting of the best Italian artists and to introduce the young to enamel art.
A pair of centre-pieces made of enameled metal from the 1950s by Gio Ponti and Del Campo
Copper bowls designed by Ettore Sottsass with its wooden base stamped “Il Sestante”, ø 16 cm.
Over a period of 35 centuries, many enameling techniques have developed, passing through many populations distinguished by culture, religion and social background. They have been absorbed into and spread by many schools and artistic movements; yet the special fascination for this applied art has overcome every kind of obstacle, reaching our era almost untouched. It remains a difficult art for an élite of artists who have a passion for amazing results which become visible only after tens of firings in a kiln at 800°C. An unknown design of destiny has preserved these techniques and reached us almost unchanged:
- Cloisonné, with artworks created by the late Egino Weinert from Köln and 90-years old artist Gertrud Rittmann-Fischer who tells enameled stories and poetry.
- Translucent, often combined with Grisaille, as used by Larisa Solomnikova, who creates pieces like jewels.
Egino Weinert Gertrud Rittmann-Fischer Larisa Solomnikova
- The Ronde-bosse, Champlevé and Plique-à-jour techniques, especially used by goldsmiths.
- The Grisaille technique, rarely used but enshrined by great Masters such as Jean Zamora.
- There are also examples of abstract works such as this futurist enamel attributed to Balla:
- The perfection of Email-peint achieved by Betourné from Limoges, the Monna Margarita by Francesc Vilasís-Capalleja from Barcelona, or the emotions communicated by the faces of Micaela Doni.
Betourné Francesc Vilasís-Capalleja
Let’s imagine Leonardo using enamels to paint one of his masterpieces, the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, today protected due deterioration from time: it would be as if it were still “new”, keeping its original bright colours just extracted from a kiln with the Maestro’s expert hands.
Comparison of durability: on the left and above, the Mona Lisa (1510, oil painting)
by Leonardo da Vinci and her wrinkles of aging.
On the right and below, the portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and Queen Consort of France (1559-1560, enamel on copper), still looking as if it were new.
Leonardo knew it so well that he wrote thus in his Treatise on Painting² about painting and sculpture: