Art Applied to Industry. — V. Gold and Silver.

The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review
by Sylvanus Urban, Gent.
July-December 1864
London John Henry and James Parker. 1864.

July, 1864.

With all its faults the present century can hardly be charged with ingratitude to its benefactors, or at least to those it considers to come under that title. In truth, the fault if any is quite the other way, for we can scarcely take up a newspaper without seeing that a testimonial has been presented to somebody or other. These testimonials take the most varied shapes, from gold medals which are utterly useless down to tea services which are just as much the reverse. More generally, however, the token of esteem will turn out to be a vase, or a candelabrum, or an epergne; but whatever form it may take, the design, and frequently the execution, but too often leaves a very great deal to be desired. To any one acquainted with what was done in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance there is really no sight more saddening than the interior of a silversmith's window; what little art is there to be found is generally of the latest and most debased rococo, with occasionally a soi'disant medieval chalice with proportions and engraving such as no mediaeval chalice ever had. If, on the contrary, we look over any collection of old plate, however late, say such as we see in Mr. Lambert's shop, we are at once struck with the amount of hand-work displayed; and if we go further and handle it, we are surprised at its exceeding lightness — it was hardly made to be sold at so much au ounce.

At the same time thus much must be said in favour of the modem silversmiths, viz. that the fault does not rest entirely with them; they only buy or cause to be manufactured things which they think will command a quick sale, and a great part of the blame must be attributed to their customers, who have the bad taste and want of education which leads them to buy such objects. A more general spread of art education will it is hoped, remedy this evil: in the meantime it may be as well to examine what was the state of things with regard to the silversmith's craft in the Middle Ages. I say the Middle Ages, because we possess a great mass of evidence, both documentary and real, of what was then done, which unfortunately is not the case with regard to the classic era; for although a considerable amount of documentary evidence might be obtained by an industrious rummaging of the old authors, still the value of the metal has so completely caused the destruction of the articles themselves that there would be very little to point to in the way of illustration. We even learn very little from Pliny (who is usually so full of details of all the arts), beyond certain facts of the poverty of the early Romans in respect to plate, of the gradual increase of the precious metals after the victories of Paulus Æmilius, and of the extravagances of later times; the most notable being the instance of Drusillanus, the slave of Claudius, who possessed a silver charger weighing 500 pounds, for the manufacture of which a workshop had to be expressly built: this charger being accompanied by eight other dishes each 250 pounds in weight. Our author finishes by sarcastically wanting to know how many of his fcltow slaves would it have taken to introduce these chargers, and whether giants were the guests for whom such large dishes were wanted. The most interesting information we obtain from the "Natural History" is in chapters liii. and Iv. of the 33rd Book. The former tells us of the enormous sums given for silver plate, and the latter mentions the names of the most celebrated artists. The Benvenuto Cellini of antiquity appears to have been one Mentor, whose works were so much esteemed that Lucius Crassus the orator paid 100,000 sesterces for two goblets chased by his hand. His most valued works, however, appear to have been dedicated in the temples, but in Pliny's time the conflagrations at Epliesus and in the Capitol had caused their destruction.

Other artists are also mentioned as well as the subjects on which they worked; these appear to have consisted of embossed figures of Sileni, Cupids, Centaurs and Bacchantes, hunting and battle scenes, the court of the Areopagus, and trial of Orestes, &c. Thus much for antiquity; but if wc want to form a just idea of wbat plate really ought to be we must go to the Middle Ages and to the early Renaissance.

In those times when there were no bankers, when usury was forbidden, and when the acquisition of land or houses was tpt to bring the possessor into suspicion with the ruling powers if he belonged to the middle classes, or to form an inconvenientenieat security for his good behaviour if his station of life were higher, it was often exceedingly desirable to possess property in the form of plate, which in peaceful times was useful and occasionally afforded a means of display, while, on the contrary, should disturbances arise, it could easily be hidden away or sent to the coiner, who made it into money. In those days it was also the custom to give and receive presents pretty much as it is at the present time in the East, and in the royal accounts will be found numberless instances of this custom. Froissart, the mediaeval Herodotus, in his quaint gossippiug manner always winds up his account of any embassy or visit of one distinguished person to another with the fact that rich presents in jewels or plate were given and received. It is obvious that all this must have made good trade for the goldsmiths, who were then artists working in their own shops and producing their own work, not tradesmen who buy things out of manufactories or have them made to order. Out of such goldsmiths' shops great artists used to proceed: thus Pliny tells us that Mentor made statues in bronze; William Torel, who executed the effigies of Queen Eleanor and Henry III., was a goldsmith; so was Francia the painter, and so was Benvenuto Cellini, who has become the representative man of the craft, although almost the only authentic works of his now remaining are in bronze. How is it that we never hear of goldsmiths turning artists in the present day? I do not mean that artists do not occasionally work for goldsmiths, for they do, as in the case of the late Mr. Cotterell, and of Mr. Armstead and Yechte. But somehow or other we never hear of men who keep a shop, as Francia and Cellini did, turning sculptors or painters; the fact being that Torel, Cellini, and Francia were both tradesmen and artists, whereas our present silversmiths are simply tradesmen whose utmost accomplishments are to know the value of precious stones and of good workmanship. As the precious metals were rarer in the Middle Ages than at the present day, it was by no means uncommon to execute vessels in copper or latten gilt; and from a passage in Sacclietti it is by no means improbable that their manufacture constituted a separate trade, as he speaks of an orafo d'ottone. At the present day this industry is represented by what is called or-molu, but a glance at any of the shops where fashionable nicknacks are sold will be sufficient to prove that the orafo d'ottone has taken leace of art quite as surely as his confrère who uses the more precious metals.

Before entering into a short description of the rarious articles required for ecclesiastical and secular use in the Middle Ages, it may be as well to take a glance at the Tarious processes by which they were enriched. The simplest of these was engraving. Here the lines were not of varying thicknesses, but the same throughout; they also terminated in a blunt end, like the engraving on the monumental brasses. The lines were filled up either with a black composition somewhat like our heel-ball, or by enamelling, or by niello, an art almost lost at the present time; the platina vessels made in Russia being the best modern specimens of it. I need scarcely say how common was its use in Italy, or tell the well-known story how Maso Finiguerra discovered the art of taking impressions on paper while trying the effect of his niellos.

A great deal of engraving is done now-a-days, but it is almost inconceivable how difficult it is to get small figures engraved in good strong lines like the old work. The engravers do not want skill, but unfortunately they cannot draw the figure, and even the most skilful copyist must fail if he does not exactly know what he is about. Here, again, is a case for the schools of design. I must say, however, that I have never had to complain of the engraving done by Hardman and Co.; and why? simply because not only has the engraver been well trained, but one of the firm, Mr. J. Powell, is an excellent artist, and the work being submitted to his inspection, it is not allowed to go out if incorrect.

Bossing up. — This process is described by Theophilus and Cellini; the former would appear to refer to reliefs, but the latter directs his attention more particularly to statuettes. First of all the intended figure was modelled, then cast in bronze, and a thin plate of silver hammered over it, and when completed this silver was cut off in pieces, soldered together, filled with pitch, and afterwards finished with various tools the pitch being finally melted out. Work of this description is exceedingly light, and some ten years ago in Rome I saw a crucifix by Caradosso, who is particularly mentioned by Cellini for his skill in bossing up, the weight of metal being almost inconceivably small for the size of the figure. The shrine of St. Romain at Rouen has some excellent statuettes done by this process, which is also employed in the great altar dossals and frontals at Florence, Pistoia, St. Ambrogio at Milan, St. Mark at Venice, and elsewhere.

Chasing from the Solid. — This was not a very usual process, as it required the greatest care and accuracy, but it was almost always more or less necessitated in the preparation of enamels, more especially those called the translucid on relief. The celebrated bell attributed to Cellini, formerly in the Strawberry-hill collection, is said to have been executed in this manner.

Stamping. — Also described by Theophilus, who gives long directions about it, especially for the preparation of the stamping irons: from his account it would appear to have been principally used for the ornamenting of horse furniture and books, and even for pulpits. The shrine of St. Taurin at Evreux presents some charming specimens of it executed during the best period of Christian art.

Punching is used for the grounds of engraving instead of cross-batching. The ornaments on the garments of the effigies of Richard II. and his Queen have been done by punching with a point.

Filagree. — This art is still practised. In parts where modern civilization has hardly reached, and in the more remote villages of Europe, we still see elegant ornaments of filagree in far better taste than the modern French jewellery which is gradually supplanting them.

Filagree is of two kinds: in one flat ribbons of metal are soldered together, the upper edges being often ornamented. This filagree, which is generally applied on a ground, is to be seen in the celebrated Hamilton fibula in the British Museum. The Roach Smith fibula at the same place is an example of the other variety, Which consists of little round wires soldered together in various patterns, with the addition of little metal balls, in fact, very like the modem Maltese work. In later times, f.,., in the thirteenth century, this filagree took a new form, and little leaves are soldered to the ends of the wires producing a most charming effect. This is the best development of the process; it occurs in the shrines of St. Taurin, St. Bomain, and in many others; the founder's plate at New College, Oxford, also presents traces of it.

In early jewellery we often find a very curious kind of work, consisting of a number of little cells formed by means of gold ribbons, like in cloissonne enamels. These cells are filled up with pieces of garnet cut into thin slices, or even with thin red glass.

This is hardly the place to enter into the subject of enamelling which played so great a part in mediaeval plate, but I can only remark that transparent enamels accord very much better with the precious metals than the opaque ones, and that the approved way of using both enamels and jewels in the early part of the Middle Ages was, as we are told by Theophilus, to set them alternately, often with filagree in the interstices.

Of course the gold and silver smiths frequently availed themselves of casting the smaller parts and finistiing them up with the burin, but, as far as I have been able to ascertain, figures of any size were either bossed up or plated upon wood. The latter plan was seldom used, and is not very satisfactory; see the shrine of St. Taurin at Evreux.

Now let us see a few of the uses to which the Church applied the labours of the goldsmith. First of all there was the chalice, of which it was de rigueur that the bowl should be of silver, whatever the rest might be. It is for this reason in ancient examples that we so often see the bowl of a later date. The mediaeval chalice can be deduced in clear gradation from the antique vase. Thus the little chalice found at Gourdon is nearly a copy in miniature of the celebrated vase at Naples. Then we get the chalice of Theophilus, where the gilded and nielloed bosses, like spoons, play so important a part — the handles having become a matter of indifference. Then we have the one at Augsburg, where we still see the spoons. In the Chichester example they occur only at the foot and end in trefoils; afterwards they disappear altogether, the only trace being in the cup into which the bowl drops. Still later we arrive at the fifteenth century chalice, where the knob is enormously large and the pipe enormously long.

The next most necessary vessel is the paten, which in the modern Roman communion is simply a round plate with no engraving on the upper surface, and which fits into the top of the chalice. Anciently the practice was different, and we find patens with engraving, enamels, and even with jewels, as that of St.Goshn in the cathedral of Nancy. The burettes for the wine and water, the cross or crucifix, for both were used, and the candlesticks, completed the absolute furniture of the altar. In early times the Holy Sacrament was enclosed in a vessel, often in the form of a dove, and suspended over the altar; it was shewn to the people in an ostensoir, which generally took the form of a little chapel on a foot and pipe like a chalice, or else a round sun with rays similarly mounted; it was also kept in a ciborium, a little circular vase with a conical top, but in after times it changed into a globular vessel placed on the stem and foot of a chalice. Book-covers, alms-basins, sacringbells, chrismatories, processional crosses, holy-water stoups, paxes, and portable altars were only a few of the articles demanded for the worship of the unreformed Church, and if the priest's cope required only a morse, there was hardly any end to the valuable adornments of the vestments of the higher clergy. Thus the bishop had his precious mitre, such as we see the remains of at Oxford; his crozier, such as is shewn at Winchester; his pastoral ring, his jewelled gloves, and jewelled orphreys to his chasuble, amice, stole, or cope. But the great anabition of the authorities of nearly every cathedral or large church was to possess a feretrum, or shriae, for the patron saint, to say nothing of numerous reliquaries, to describe the Tarious forms of which would be to give a long description of a great portion of mediaeval orfevrejHe, for nearly every vessel could be turned into a reliquary.

As to the great shrine, it consisted of a basement of marble or coloured stone, upon which was placed a wooden structure covered with plates of gold and silver. In latter times this upper part assumed the form of a small church with buttresses, pinnacles, windows, statues, &c.; but in the early part of the Middle Ages it was simply an oblong structure with a coped top. Of course all the processes above described were employed in its decoration, and although a long time was necessarily cmployed in the construction, when finished these feretra must have been marvels of the art of the time, to say nothing of subsequent votive oflTerings which were placed around or otherwise attached. The whole of this precious work was covered with a wooden cooperculumy which was raised or let down by means of pulleys and counterpoises attached to the roof of the church: and although no one of these great shrines remains in its former position, the very excellent description of the shrine of St. Thomas , Bccket by Erasmus enables us fully to realize the whole affair; such as the wooden chest which covered the golden one, and "being lifted up disclosed inestimable riches" — the jewels given by the French king, and the votive rings attached in bunches. Sometimes these shrines were comparatively small and could really be carried about, hence the term 'feretory;' but the more important ones were certainly fixtures, and appear to have been nothing more than the covering of the body, which was placed in the upper part of the stone basement, as at Westminster.

A few, very few, of the treasures attached to mediaeval churches have escaped the hand of the destroyer. But at Aixla-Chapelle the traveller, by paying a small fee, can even at the present day see what Erasmus would call "inestimable riches." Still more curious is the trcsor of the little church at Conques, in the middle of France: here the work is much earlier than that at Aix-la-Chapelle, being the work of Abbot Bego in the eleventh century. There is every reason to believe that he brought artists from a distance to work on the spot, much in the same manner as Sugcr describes the way he went to work at St. Denis. The revolution of 1789 dispersed the latter collection, but many of the objects are still to be seen at the Louvre and in the Cabinet de Medailles.

We now come to the Domestic Plate of the Middle Ages — a subject which has hitherto by no means received the attention it deserves, most people imagining that the church was the end-all and be-all of our ancestors, as the temples were of the ancient Greeks. Unfortunatelv, we know so little of the domestic life of the latter people, that it is difficult to bring forward proofs either way; but we do know sufficient to shew that our forefathers were just as fond, of beautiful things in their domestic life as they were in their ecclesiastical life. The best insight into the real state of things will be found in the Glossary attached by M. de Laborde to his Catalogue of the enamels in the Louvre; which work, moreover, contains the inventory of the gold, silver, and jewels belonging to the Duke of Anjou, made somewhere about 1360, before his proceeiing to England to take the place of his father King Johny &en the priftoner of Edward III.

In this inventory we find an immense amount of works in ike precious metals described with great minuteness; so much 10, that it would be perfectly easy for any one acquainted with ancient orfevrerie to make perfectly satisfactory reproductions of them. Thus we meet with, besides the chapel fomiturey gobelets, hanaps, pots d*argent, cups, flagons, dishes and plates for meat, saltcellars, basins, ,preuves, fountains, nefs, and ewers. The four last demand a word of explanation. Everybody in the Middle Ages was haunted by a fear of being poisoned, and if any one died in a sudden manner his death was very often put down to that cause, more especially if he were a person of high rank. It was believed, however, that certain substances, such as serpents' tongues, unicorn's horn (walrus' tooth), &c., would change colour if brought into contact with poisoned food; and accordingly, the carver had not only to taste the food, but to try it by means of touching it with the piece of assay. The piece of assay was often highly ornamented, and kept in the great n,irith the knife and fork and spoon of the proprietor; bu, occasionally it had a vessel to itself, and these are the e'preuves mentioned in the inventory.

As to the nef, it was, as its name imports, generally in the form of a ship. It must have been a large piece of plate, for fe read that immense sums were spent upon it, and that it was generally named like a real ship: thus one was called "the Tyger." The use of the fountain is a little more difficult to discover. As far as one can make out by a careful reading of the text, it appears to have been a vessel for containing water, that it had a tap or taps, and that it also generally possessed a goblet. The shape is also most fanciful: at one time it is a winged dragon on the top of a tree, at another a castle supported by figures; it had a stand, also of silver, the sides of which were generally enamelled with subjects, and the top, upon which the figures, or tree, or castle was placed, was enamelled green. From the occurrence of the tap and the goblet, we may surmise that it was placed on the table for the same purposes as we use water-jugs and glass goblets at the present day at our desserts.

The number of ewers in the collection was also very large: they generally occur in connection with a cup, and in all probability were used as much for wine as for water. They were made of the most extraordinary shapes, and enriched with a good deal of enamel, and sometimes precious stones. Their descendants may be seen in the little owls which perform the office of pepper-boxes, and which are even now to be seen in most of the goldsmiths* shops. The following will give some idea of what these ewers were like: —

"78. A lady, half of whose body is that of a woman, the other half that of a savage heast with two legs; upon a terrace enamelled with blue, with little trees, and stags and greyhounds, and mouldings helow; and from the lap of the said lady issues a head of an ox, of which she holds the horns in her hands, and in the said head is a spout, and from the ears of the aforesaid head, and from the sides of the said lady, and from the ends of her dress, hang by chains the scutcheons of the arms of the Archbishop of Rouen and Marigny. And the said lady is clothed with a little mantle slit at the sides, and has a long hat on her head, enamelled, the hat and dress being the same colour. And behind the said lady, on the back of the beast, is a place for a goblet made in tracery work, and the goblet is of crystal with a foot of silver enamelled with moulding and traceries, and about the crystal are four bats; and the cover is of crystal edged with silver, with mouldings and traceries; and the knob is made of vine-leaves, and from it comes a button of three sides enamelled with silver and green."

One great peculiarity of our ancestors was their fondness for precious materials, such as crystal, agate, onyx; and many was the antique vessel of these stones and many the antique intaglio and cameo which was worked up in connection with new forms by the mediæval goldsmith. Indeed, so strong was the fashion, that we find costly mountings lavished upon things of but little intrinsic value, such as ostrich-eggs, which generally turn up in inventories as oeuf de griffon, — such as glass vessels from the East, known as verre de Damas, probably of the same sort of manufacture as Mr. Slade,s glass lamp, or the wellknown Luck of Edenhall, which I am assured, Mr. Longfellow notwithstanding, is not broken. China vessels were also occasionally used, and only the other day I met in Hewett's shop, in Fenchurch-strcet, a piece of ware of the identical manufacture as that which figures among the founder's plate at New College, Oxford.

The artists of the Renaissance were just as fond of rare materials as their predecessors; and probably the most beautiful piece of jewellery in the world is the onyx vase belonging to Mr. Hope, the mounting of which is one mass of jewels, enamels, and figures. The traditions of the Middle Ages were also kept up in Germany to a late period, and the vessels manufactured in Bucli large quantities in Augsburg and Nuremborg were executed by the same processes as those of the Duke of Anjou, the only difference being that enamelling was gradually disused. Of late years our plate has got worse and worse in design and execution — so much so, that work of the last century is eagerly bought up whenever attainable. The reason is not that good work cannot be done; on the contrary, the best of work can be obtained if a price is only paid for it. I am not speaking of artists like Yechte and Armstead, but nmply of good workmen, who are certainly to be found, but in small numbers. What, however, shall we say to the ordinary man who has done nothing all his life but chase and model Louis XV. scrolls, or engrave rococo foliage? I once gave an ordinary piece of engraving to one of these workmen to execute, and the result was perfectly ludicrous. The late Mr. Pugin and the Ecclesiological Society set themselves to work some fifteen years ago to introduce the old way of working, which to say the truth had hardly ever been abandoned in the best articles. Unfortunately, in plate as in architecture, the later part of the Middle Ages was copied instead of the earlier, and we have still to deplore the absence of a really artistic feeling for the better and earlier work. Hardman, Hart, Skidmore, &c. execute certain things capitally — in fact, quite as well as the old; bat it ia exceedingly difficult to get a figure well bossed up or a piece of engraving well done, even if a drawing be given, while great inattention is paid to the setting of stones. I have had articles sent me where hardly a single stone was set truly; and on another occasion the work came home with two stones broken, and one turned upside down, while a crystal foiled andemeath had been substituted for the fourth.

Our enamels are also open to great improvement, the colours being far too bright and glaring: put any of them by the side of Chinese work, or even by the productions of M. Barbedienne, and the result is most disheartening. I am afraid the schoolmaster — I mean the master in the school of design — is sadly wanted among the workmen employed by the modern silversmith; who on his part would not be the worse if he were to attend the schools himself in his younger days, and thus become a little more of an artist without ceasing to be the tradesman. We all remember the beautiful works of Morel in the Exhibition of 1851; why should they not be substituted for the Mazeppas, Richard Coeur-de-Lions, and Charles the Firsts, which but too often are only bronze subjects cast in silver.

It now remains to say a few words on jewellery. If of late years our plate has been bad and tasteless, how much worse has been our jewellery. Until the late revival of Etruscan work it was positively dangerous to one's artistic feelings to look in at a jeweller's window. The revival of the Etruscan work, as everybody knows, is due to the energy of Signer Castellan!, who by dint of time and industry succeeded in gradually reviving nearly all the ancient processes. During the present century, and part of the last, the sepulchres in the southern half of Italy and the Greek islands have undergone a systematic search for the various antiquities contained in them. The most valuable of them are the painted vases and the jewellery. The jewellery is totally unlike anything of the present day, depending for its beauty not on precious stones, but on the fineness and skill with which the metal itself is worked up. Some of the articles are so slight that they must evidently have been used only for funeral purposes, but even that designed for everyday wear is so light that it exhibits the greatest possible contrast from that of our own day, when, as a jeweller once observed to me, people will have a lot of gold for their money. If we look carefully at the Etruscan work, and it is often so finely executed that it requires the aid of the microscope, we shall find the following processes: — 1. It is beaten up sometimes by hand, sometimes by a die; it is pierced; a thick wire was cast or worked into an ornamental pattern; two small wires are worked into a cable; a thin sheet of gold is cut into strips, and applied in various patterns edgewise, on a surface of metal; or the article is entirely made up of it, like our filagree; thin wire is twisted round in coils and soldered to a plain surface; wires are also placed in juxtaposition on a chalk or earthen core, and then soldered together, the core being afterwards removed; small flat chains are soldered together at their edges; and lastly, the Etruscans had the art of producing what we call frosting, by soldering most minute grains of gold, like dust, on to a gold surface, the difference being that our frosting, which is done by hand, soon becomes tarnished, while that under consideration remains always the same. Unfortunately, it is a process that we moderns have not as yet succeeded in imitating, and although Signer Castellani asserts in his pamphlet of last year that he has lately succeeded, I do not remember seeing any specimens of it in his stall at the Great Exhibition. At tlie same time great credit must be given to him, if not quite as the originator of the movement, at least for hanng mastered the details and brought the revival almost to perfection.

The finer jewels of the Middle Ages were constructed on a different principle. Very few have come down to us, but when we look at the representations of them in the pictures, and, above all, the MSS., we easily find the reason. They appear to have consisted almost entirely of precious stones, set with the smallest possible quantity of metal, and so fragile that one is apt to wonder how they could possibly have lasted any time at all. Of course they were not all of this description, which belongs principally to the fifteenth century. On the contrary, the Anglo-Saxon jewellery, such as the Hamilton fibula, the Roach Smith fibula, and the Alfred jewels, although displaying great delicacy of workmanship, are so arranged that they could be worn without much actual damage.

So, too, with the jewellery of the Renaissance, where enamelled objects in relief play a most important part. At that time every gentleman wore a piece of jewellery in his hat, called an ensign, and every lady a brooclt; the consequence was that a high order of art was in demand, and people vied with each other in employing the best goldsmiths. Any one who reads Cellini's Life, or the Lives of the Painters by Vasari, cannot fail to be struck with the great demand for first-rate jewellery; but then, as I said before, the jeweller made his own designs and worked at them with his own hands; and to do this he was not only apprenticed, but taught to draw: and Cellini describes how he obtained his first commission by the admiration of his drawing by a lady, who finally entrusted him with the resetting of a set of diamonds, which he effected in the form of a fleur-de-lys, filling up the spaces between the stones with little figures, foliage, masks, and other devices. In the British Museum will be found a sketch-book of Holbein, containing a great many designs for jewellery; these have been successfully copied by Messrs. Hancock, Widdowson and Veale, and other jewellers, and are among the most satisfactory specimens of modern work. The French imitations of the cinquecento jewellery are wonderfully executed, more especially the enamels on relief. As to the Etruscan work after Castellani, perhaps the best specimens are those of Mr. Green; but we are sadly apt to make it too heavy. Jewellery is far more important an affair than it appears at first sight, for either the real thing or its imitation is used by most people. The trade in the imitation assumes large proportions in France and Birmingham, and I really do not think the patterns produced in it are at all worse than those we see in the windows of fashionable jewellers, but rather better.

The last part of the present subject is that of the coinage. Now no one is obliged to buy plate and jewellery, in fact, there are very many of us who never can expect to do so; but everybody, even the poorest, has coins passing through his hands, and it consequently becomes a very serious consideration that these coins should display such art as shall render them agreeable objects and be the means of fostering good taste and a love of the fine arts; in fact, they are examples of art applied to industry in its fullest sense.

Like all other arts, that of making dies for the coinage has had its phases of good and bad. For the good, we must go to our old masters, the Greeks. The curious parallelism between the progress of Greek art and that of the Middle Ages is now well known: thus we have the pre-Phidian work and that of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century, as at Chartres; then we have the perfect work of Phidias and the porches of Notre Dame at Rheims, and the works of Torel at Westminster; and, lastly, come Praxiteles, Lysippus, and the late fourteenth century. The Greek coinage displays all these phases. The early coins are coarse heads, but are very energetic — see the coins of Athens; then they become gradually modified; and there is one of Athens which is almost perfect, having all the serenity of the first period with all the beauty of the second. The Attic coinage never got further than this, and, indeed, shortly afterwards went back to rude imitations of the earlier types. But if we wish to see the perfection of what the Greeks could do we must go to the coins of Syracuse: such as the great head, said to be Arethusa; that of Philistis, a most medieval composition; and, above all, to the lovely head on the coins of Panormus. Now the difference between these and the heads on other Greek coins, and indeed the classic female' head generally, is this: if both could be turned into actual life, the lady with the regulation classic features, although beautiful, would not have much to say for herself, and one would finish, as one generally does finish with tach people, viz. by getting heartily tired of her; but if the features of the Panormus coin could be called into life, we ihould find them to belong not only to a beautiful woman, but to what is even better, viz. one gifted with esprit.

The Greek portrait coins are also very fine; witness that of Alexander on the coins of Lysimachus, and those of the kings of Pergamus. The Roman coinage, although presenting good portraits, and to a certain degree good art, is very far behind that of the Greeks in the higher qualities. The great inconTcnience of the Greek money was the excessive relief of the subjects, which prevented its being arranged in piles, and which caused a great deal of wear in the most prominent parts. In the ooiaage of the Middle Ages this was remedied, and there are some beautiful works of the fourteenth century which leave very little to be desired; they are well designed, and well executed, and perfectly adapted for piling. As to the Italian series, it is almost impossible to speak too highly of it: witness the Milan coinage of Louis XII., said to have been designed by no less a person than Leonardo da Vinci; see also the coins and medals executed by Cellini, to say nothing of our own countryman, Simon.

Now in the present day our coinage is so very bad as regards art that probably the less said about it the better: I allude more particularly to the design. The old five-shilling piece was a noble coin, for the St. George and Dragon, although most ludicrously classical, was still well executed and well composed: so was the sovereign, with a sinular subject. The last Bepublican coinage of France was also excellently composed as regards the head; though why all our medallists should run mad after a wreath, with the designation of the coin within it, is more than I can imagine. It is certainly a most unnecessary piece of knowledge, for almost the first thing a child learns ia the value of money. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in England, the name of the moneyer and that of the town in which he lived formed the reverse; but still, by means of beautiful letters, and by intersecting the two concentric inacriptions by a cross, a very capital composition was obtained. With regard to our coinage it is clear that we cannot go to the Greeks, as their raised figures will not suit modern requirements (they must be reserved for medals); we should therefore take our lesson from the purest French and Italian types of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and doubtless, in the hands of a man of genius, the rose of England could be made as beautiful a reverse as the giglio of Florence.

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