Origins and History
The earliest cloisonné enamelwork appeared in the jewellery art of Ancient Egypt, like the pectoral jewels worn by the Pharaohs, and in 12th century BC tombs on the island of Cyprus. It was then adopted by migrating Barbarian tribes such as the Visigoths, whose goldsmiths combined thick-walled cloisons with red garnets, gold and vitreous enamel. At the same time, the thin-wire technique was being developed in the Eastern Roman Empire centered on Constantinople, and in Western Europe by celtic metalwork, which had a huge influence on early Christian art in monasteries across Ireland and northern England. The style was also imitated during the era of Carolingian art at the court of King Charlemagne in Aachen, and during the succeeding period of Otanian Art, which was itself responsible for several unique masterpieces of German Medieval Art including the Gero Cross (965–70), the Golden Madonna of Essen (980) and the Cross of Otto and Mathilda (973). Enamelwork was also a speciality of Mosan art, a regional school of Romanesque culture centered on the Bishopric of Liege in present-day Belgium. Led by goldsmiths such asGodefried De Clare (1100-73) and Nicholas of Verdun (1156–1232), the movement was renowned for both its cloisonné and champlevé enamelling.
Cloisonné decoration arrived in China in the 14th century, during the era of Ming Dynasty Art, where it became known as “Dashi ware”. Indeed, the most highly regarded Chinese items were made during the reigns of the Xuande Emperor and Jingtai Emperor (1450–57). The Chinese cloisonné industry may have benefited from the arrival of numerous Byzantine craftsmen following the sack of Constantinople in 1453. In any event Chinese enamelwork is the best known cloisonné in the world (see, for instance, the extensive collection of Chinese cloisonné at the G.W. Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts), although exquisite examples of the technique (known as “Shippo”) were created by Japanese artists from the mid-19th century onwards. During the era of modern art, cloisonné enamelling reached its apogee around the turn of the century in Russia, in the form of masterpieces created by the Khlebnikov silversmiths and Fabergé goldsmiths for the Romanov court in St Petersburg.
There are numerous outstanding examples of precious metalwork decorated with cloisonné enamelwork. They include: the Pectoral of Senusret II (1890 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art); the Celtic-style Petrie Crown (100 BCE); the Iron Crown of Lombardy (8th/9th century, Monza Cathedral); the Irish Ardagh Chalice (8th/9th century, National Museum of Ireland); the Altar-tomb of St. Ambrose (850, Basilica of Saint Ambrose, Milan); the Khakhuli Triptych (8th-12th century, Art Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi); the Alfred Jewel, a 9th-century Anglo-Saxon ornament; the Golden Madonna of Essen (10th century, Essen Cathedral); “Pala d’Oro”, the famous altar screen in St Mark’s Cathedral Venice, commissioned by the doge Ordelafo Faliero from Byzantine enamellers in 1102; the Stavelot Triptych (1156, Morgan Library & Museum, New York); and the Fabergé Easter Eggs created by Peter Carl Fabergé (1846–1920).
My Enamelling Influences
Helen’s work is very influenced by the art nouveau movement, in particular the beautiful colours and females of the artist Alfons Mucha and the famous jeweller René Lalique. The colours and curves and attention to detail that this period was known for. It was very much ahead of its time.
All of her pieces are made by hand using the traditional enamelling technique of cloisonné.