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Damascene Work

Engravers and designers of this class were also much employed, both in Germany and France, in providing models for the damascene work, which was long popular in both these countries, as well as in Italy.

It is remarkable, that although we find that the Crusaders bought Oriental arms at Damascus, and sometimes brought the more elaborate articles to Europe, as in the case of the "Vase de Vincennes", no attempts should have been made to imitate the manufacture until the middle of the fifteenth century, when we find it in use in Italy for decorating the plate-armour, which was then adopted in that country.

It is most probable that the art was first introduced by the great trading cities, such as Venice, Pisa, and Genoa, from the East, and was afterwards taken up as a more permanent decoration for armour than parcel-gilding by the artists of Milan, which city was then to Europe what Damascus had been to the East, viz. the great emporium for the best arms and armour. So exclusively, indeed, was the art, in the first instance, employed upon weapons, that to the very last the Italian writers designate it under the title of "lavoro all azzimina".

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the art began to be exercised out of Italy; and it is by no means improbable that it was taught to the workmen of France and Spain by those travelling artists whom the good taste, or possibly the vanity, of the kings of those countries attached to their courts. Probably the finest existing specimen of damascening is the armour of Francis I., now in the Cabinet de Medailles, at Paris. Both this and the shield in Her Majesty's possession at Windsor have been attributed to the famous Cellini; but on comparing them with any of his known works, the drawing of the figures indicates rather an Augsburg artist than the broad style which Cellini had acquired from his study of the works of Michael Angelo.

From that time down to the middle of the seventeenth century a great number of arms were decorated with damascening, of which the Louvre, the Cabinet de Medailles, and the Mus6e d'Artillerie, contain numerous fine specimens; and the names of Michael Angelo, Negroli, the Piccinini, and Cursinet, may be mentioned as excelling in damascene work, as well as in the art of the armourer generally.

In England the process does not appear to have been much exercised; parcel-gilding, engraving, blacking, and russeting, being well received as substitutes; and the few specimens we possess were probably imported, or captured in our foreign wars, as in the case of the splendid suits of armour brought to England by the Earl of Pembroke after the battle of St. Quentin.









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