Of the Green Family from Harpole, Northamptonshire their Ancestors and Relatives

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019 02:39 AM BST

Silversmiths Work Part 3 by Christopher Dresser

Having chosen a form for a vessel, the next question with which we have to deal is, will it require a handle and spout? It is curious that while the position of a spout and handle in relation to a vessel is governed by a simple natural law, we yet rarely find them placed as they should be. Consideration must also be given to any form of decoration on the surface of the object.

Having chosen a form for a vessel, the next question with which we have to deal is, will it require a handle and spout? It is curious that while the position of a spout and handle in relation to a vessel is governed by a simple natural law, we yet rarely find them placed as they should be. This is the more curious, as a vessel may become practically of immense weight, owing to the handle being misplaced.

A pound weight is easily lifted, but when applied to the shorter end of the steelyard it will balance a hundredweight. If this principle is applied to a tea-pot which actually weighs but little, it may yet be very heavy to lift. In nineteen cases out of twenty, handles are so placed on tea-pots and similar vessels that they are in use lifted only by a force capable of raising two or three such vessels, if the principle of the steelyard was not acting against the person who uses the vessel. Take our ordinary form of tea-pot, and see how far the centre of the weight (the centre of gravity) is from the handle in a horizontal direction, and you will be able to judge of the leverage acting disadvantageously to the person who may pour tea from such a pot. Now if the part held is to the right or left of a right line passing through the centre of gravity of any vessel, there is leverage acting to the disadvantage of the person desiring to pour from that vessel, and this increases just as the point held is removed from the central line spoken of.

Fig. 124 would pour when in a postion shown in Fig. 125, but see how far the hand that holds it would be to the right of the centre of gravity, which distance is of great disadvantage, as it causes the vessel to appear much heavier than it actually is, and requires a much greater expenditure of force in order to put it to its use than is necessary were it properly formed.

The law governing the application of handle and spout to vessels is this, and the same principle applies whether the vessel be formed of metal, glass, or earthenware: - Find the centre of gravity of the vessel, which can easily be done by letting a vertical line drop over it when placed in two different positions, as in Figs. 126, 127, and where the two vertical lines intersect as in a in Fig. 128, is the centre of gravity. The position of the handle being fixed on, draw a line through the centre of gravity of the vessel. The spout must now be at right angles to this line. If this be the case the vessel will pour freely, while the handle is just hung upon the thumb or finger of the person desiring to pour from it, as may be seen from Figs. 129, 130, in which the straight line A, passing through the centre of gravity a, is at right angles, as it should be, with the straight line passing through the spout.

This law, if obeyed, will always enable liquid to be poured, from a vessel without its appearing heavier than it actually is, but it will be seen that the shape of the vessel must be considered so that the spout and handle can bear this relation to each other, as in Figs. 131, 132. Some shapes will not admit of it, so they must be avoided, as may be seen by examining Figs. 124, 125, which show a tea-pot of faulty shape oin this respect.

A consideratrion of this law shows us that the handles of jugs, those formed of silver, of glass, and of earthenware alike, usually have the handles too high; but in this respect things are much better than they wre a few years back. Now we somewhat frequently see a jug with the handle in the right place, while some years back we never did. Silver jugs are now the most generally faulty in this respect, and such mistakes as the wrong placing of the handle or spout of a vessel result only from ignorance, for no man knowing the law would violate it (Fig. 133).

It is unnecessary that I say more respecting shape and the general construction of silver and gold vessels, except to remark that if figures or other ornaments are beaten up on the surface of a vase, they must not destroy or mar its general contour.

Iron is not used with us as it should be. Not only is the effect produced when it is inlaid with silver and other metals excellent, but by this mode of work our art creations are greatly preserved, for the iron is valueless, and the labour of removing the small quantity of precious metal inlaid would be so great as to render the gain inadequate remuneration for the time consumed in collecting it.

M. Christophle, of Paris and also M. Barbedien in a lesser degree, have succeeded in inlaying copper vessels with silver, and some of their works are very beautiful; and the japanese have from an early time inlaid silver in bronze. This inlaying of silver into copper is a step in the right direction, and should be encouraged by all lovers of art. The Indians not only inlay silver in iron, but also gold in silver; and the formness and intricacy of some specimens of this inlaying are truly marvellous.

By the process of enamelling, colour can be applied to metal, and of all arts this art of enamelling produces works which are most lovely; at any rate, if the best works of enamel do not surpass those produced by any other manufacture, they are, at least, equal with the works of the highest excellence. Transparent enamels are in some cases very beautiful, but they do not generally compare with the opaque enamels, such as werre largely used by the Chinese about a hundred and fifty years back, and by the Japanese, or those now so skilfully applied by Barbedien, the Algerian Onyx Company, and Christophle, all of Paris.

Chinese cloisonne enamel vases may be seen at the South Kensington Museum, and here you may also find one or two small pieces of Japanese enamel, as well as one or two grand specimens by Barbedien, of Paris.

The Chinese enamels have most frequently a light blue (sort of turquoise) ground, but they occur with both red, white, green, and yellow grounds; while the ornament is of mixed colours, but generally with light yellow-green, deeper blue-green, or dark blue prevailing in it.

The Japanese enamels have a lower tone of colour-effect than the Chinese, and the work is finer and the colours more mingled, while the modern French enamels are full in colour, and are yet rich and subdued in general effect - some of them, indeed, are most beautiful works.

Elkingtons, of Birmingham and London, have also produced some beautiful things in this way, but not in the quantities that Barbedien has. I most strongly advise the art-student to study these works in enamel.

Niello work is a form of enrichment applied to metal not in general use; it is a difficult process. Silver snuff-boxes and pendants for watch-chains with a niello pattern upon them are not uncommon in Belgium and Russia, the niello pattern appearing as dark lead-pencil work upon the silver. Some niello work is very quiet and beautiful, but much need not be said respecting it.

Jewels may be inserted in the metal, but if this is done they should be somewhat sparingly used, even in the most costly of works, for if they are abundant they produce mere glitter, and the aim of the ornamentist must in all cases be the production of repose.

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