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Enamelwork: The Art of Fusing Glass and Metal

Enamelwork is a technique of decoration whereby metal objects or surfaces are given a vitreous glaze that is fused onto the surface by intense heat to create a brilliantly colored decorative effect. It is an art form noted for its brilliant, glossy surface, which is hard and long-lasting.

The History of Enamelwork

The origins of enamelwork are uncertain, but enamel remnants from ancient times has been found in excavations of ancient cultures such as the Mycenaeans, the Greeks, the Celts, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Chinese. Enamelwork reached new heights in the Middle Ages, especially in Europe, where it was used to adorn religious objects, such as chalices, reliquaries, crosses and caskets. Enamelwork was also popular in Islamic art, where it was applied to metalwork, ceramics and glass.

In the Renaissance, enamelwork was influenced by the styles of painting and sculpture, and new techniques were developed, such as painted enamels and en ronde bosse (in full round). Enamelwork was also used to decorate jewelry, watches, snuffboxes and other luxury items. In the 18th and 19th centuries, enamelwork continued to flourish in Europe and America, with notable examples from France, England, Switzerland and Russia. In the 20th and 21st centuries, enamelwork has been revived by modern artists and designers who continue to experiment with new forms and materials.

The Techniques of Enamelwork

Enamelwork involves applying powdered glass or enamel to a metal surface, usually copper, silver or gold. The enamel is then heated in a kiln or a furnace until it melts and fuses with the metal. The enamel can be applied in various ways, such as:

Cloisonné: The enamel is separated by thin metal wires or strips that form a design on the metal surface.

Champlevé: The metal surface is carved or engraved with a design and then filled with enamel.

Basse-taille: The metal surface is engraved with a low-relief design and then covered with transparent or translucent enamel that reveals the design underneath.

Plique-à-jour: The enamel is applied to a metal framework that forms a design but has no backing. The enamel resembles stained glass when light passes through it.

Painted enamels: The enamel is applied as a thin layer on a metal surface and then painted with various colors and details.

The Beauty of Enamelwork

Enamelwork is admired for its rich and vibrant colors that do not fade or tarnish over time. Enamelwork can also create various effects depending on the type and thickness of the enamel, the color and texture of the metal and the light conditions. Enamelwork can be glossy or matte, smooth or textured, opaque or transparent. Enamelwork can also display various patterns and motifs that reflect the artistic tastes and influences of different periods and regions.

At M.S. Rau, we offer a stunning selection of rare and fine enamelwork for sale online or in our New Orleans gallery. You can find exquisite examples of enamelwork from various eras and cultures, featuring high-quality craftsmanship and artistic expression. Whether you are looking for a cloisonné vase, a champlevé casket, a basse-taille pendant or a painted enamel plaque, you can find it all at M.S. Rau.

Browse our collection of enamelwork today and discover why this technique is one of the most fascinating and beautiful in history.