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A Glosssary Of Enamels

By Grace Kaler

( Orginally published November 1961 )



JAIPUR ENAMELS - India's most precious enamels were produced at Jaipur, in the Rajputana section of North India, from the 15th century. Jaipur artists applied enamels to objects of gold with a superior taste that left no lack of harmony. The quality of their enamel colors has never been surpassed in splendor or in purity

JANSEN, STEPHEN THEODORE - In England, Stephen Jansen was recognized for his efforts in advancing the technique of painted enamels. This type of enameling flourished from about 1750 to 1820, mostly at Battersea (London).

JAPANESE ENAMELS - The knowledge of enameling in Japan may date back to the 7th century. One example of enameling on metal, discovered in a tomb near Nars, is believed to date from that period, and to have originated in Japan.

Three productive periods have been described as the Early, the Middle period, and the Modern. Definite dating of these periods is difficult.

Bowes, in his "Notes on Shippo," states that the Early period probably began in the latter part of the 16th century and continued through the 17th; the Middle period apparently covered most of the 18th century and part of the 19th. The Modern works are classified as those made for export after 1868.

The almost complete absence of makers' marks make it impossible to date Japanese enamels exactly. The 18th century seems to have been the most distinguished period of enameling in Japan.

The Early, and the Middle period enamels are worked on metal foundations of extreme thinness, usually not exceeding one-sixteenth of an inch. This particular quality forms one of the fine features which characterizes Japanese enamels in marked contrast to all Chinese works.

There were three distinct applications of the art: encrusted, transparent, painted.

JEWELS, ENAMELED - When tiny fragments of transparent frit are fired on a charcoal block, by means of a blowtorch, spherical jewels result. Choice colors are purple, gold, aquamarine, and sapphire blue; pink and beige opaques are effective too.

Greater brilliance is achieved by imbedding tiny circles of silver or gold foil in the jewels.

JUSTINIAN I (483-565) - The development of the art of enamelixig at Byzantium dates back at least to the time of Justinian I, Byzantine Emperor (527-565).

Elaborate and gracefully refined glass mosaics and enamels, both precious to Byzantine art, ornament the basilica of San Vitale. Especially famous are the representations of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora, accompanied by their courtiers.

The most beautiful of all Byzantine churches, San Vitale is in Ravenna, one of the oldest towns in Italy.

JUTES - Members of a Germanic division which invaded Britain from the continent and settled there in the 5th century. The Jutes, like the Vikings and the Angles, considered a gold or bronze bracelet a symbol of honor.

The royal official bracelet, worn as an emblem of rank in coronation ceremonies, was frequently a heavy flat band of gold, with the outer surface elaborately ornamented with colored enamels, and the inner surface lined with rich red velvet.

KAJI, TSUNEKICHI (1803-1883) - After the time of the enameler Hirati (1591-1646), there was no further significant development of enameling in Japan until Tsunekichi Kaji, of Nagoya, originated a cloisonne technique.

After making a study of this particular process as practiced by Dutch craftsmen, Kaji mastered a method of cloisonne, using brass cloisons and opaque enamels exclusively.

K'ANG HSI ENAMELS - Chinese enamels from the K'ang Hsi period (1662-1722) retain some of the boldness of design and intensity of color which characterize Ming enamels (1368 1644). Improvement in technical finish is exemplified in certain original and objective applications.

Excellent examples of K'ang Hsi enamels are included in the Avery Collection of Chinese Cloisonne Enamels in the Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Ants and Sciences, Brooklyn, N. Y.

KENZAN, OGATA (1663-1743) - One of two Japanese potters whose works are regarded as unique masterpieces of the Edo period (1615-1868). Kenzan found a way of enameling decorations on the soft raku glazes.

Perhaps the most famous of the tea ceremony bowls are those of the raku (meaning pleasure or enjoyment) type. They were produced in Kyoto by the Raku family, which continues to make pottery as it has for 14 generations.

KILN - A small muffled furnace which can be heated to extremely high temperatures, for the purpose of firing enamels. The quality of glazes achieved in the firing process depends mainly on the even distribution of the heat. A satisfactory kiln for firing enamels reaches a temperature of 1500 degrees F. rapidly.

KLOSTERNEUBURG - An Austrian town, near Vienna, made famous by an ancient monastery, founded there in 1108 by Leopold, margrawe of Austria.

An elaborately enameled altar-piece of more than 50 panels, in the chapel of the monastery, was created bv Nicholas of Verdun 1181, and is without comparison in the art of enameling. The panels show scenes from the Old Testament and the Evangels.

KNOBS, ENAMELED - Ornamental knobs, or bosses, were designed for the purpose of decorating European looking glasses, and were popular in the latter half of the 18th century.

The shapes were round and oval, and usually between three and four inches in diameter. Though they were given the name Battersea, having originated in Battersea, England, similar ornaments were produced in other European enamel centers. Porcelain and enamel medallions, set in brass, were used in fashioning knobs for furniture in the beginning of the 19th century. They were often decorated with painted patterns.

KOBAN - The most ancient examples of enamelwork, other than Mycenaean vitreous ornaments, are those applied to bronze ornaments found in a burial ground at Koban in the Caucasus. It is claimed that these enameled ornaments date from the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.

KO KU YAO LUN - There is no Chinese written record of the art of enameling until 1387, when a scholarly work on antiquities, the Ko ku yao lun, by Tsao Ch'ao, was published.

This authority records the making of enamels on a large and varied scale, when they were called Ta shih yao (Arabian fired ware), which, according to the record, "resembles the cloisonne work of Fo-lang."

KOREAN ENAMELS - Important Korean tombs have revealed various types of lacquered vessels, including splendid square trays, delicately decorated with inlays of enamel.

The art of enameling on metal flourished in Korea in the 17th century.

KOUKLIA - It was in a Mycenaean tomb of the 13th century B.C., at Kouklia, on the island of Cyprus, that several gold finger rings were discovered in 1952. These rings are decorated with what are believed to be the earliest examples of enameling found to that time.

KYOTO - The old capital of Japan, Kyoto, has been active in the production of different types of cloisonne enamels. Certain distinct characteristics have given these works importance.

Examples of the different techniques were exhibited at the World Fair in Paris in 1870; thereafter, these enamels were exported to Western countries in increasing quantities.

LAKABI WARE - A type of pottery, made in Rhages, near Teheran in Northern Persia, probably in the 13th or 14th century, It was later given the name of lakabi ware by reason of a cloisonne technique of engraving lines to limit the flow of enamels.

A few extremely fine examples are decorated in this manner. A golden brown luster was used; also strong blue, green, amber - yellow, and manganese - purple glazes.

LAMAIST ENAMELS - Tibetan altar-pieces, and other lamaist ritual objects are sometimes enriched with enamelwork. Among the important examples in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, there is, in cloisonne enamel, a symbolic figure of an elephant carrying a vase. This was probably an altar ornament, used as an incense burner or flower holder.

Of fine Chinese workmanship is a gilt-bronze figure of a Lamaist Bodhisattva, or Buddhist divinity, on a lotus pedestal which is decorated in champleve enamel; the top is enameled in a brocaded design, the sides with scrolled clouds and flying bats, all worked in colors on a turquoise blue ground.

LAMP WORKERS - According to Diderot's Encyclopedia, ingenious oil lamps provided both light and heat for certain 16th century European enamelers. As they practiced their craft in Italy and France, these enamelers were known as lamp workers. The heat was forced from the lamp, by a jet of air, with sufficient strength to fuse enamels, as with a modern blowtorch.

LA TENE ENAMELS - French enamels of the La Tene period are among the finest extant examples of undoubted early enamels. The earliest phase of Tenian culture, from the 6th to the late 5th century B.C., spread from the middle Rhine region to Eastern France, Eastern Bavaria, and Western Bohemia. The period is represented by excellent enamelwork.

LAUDIN - A 17th century family of enamelers in France. Despite the outstanding works produced by the Laudin, Nouailher, and other families who were master enamelers, the 17th century was a period of decadence for the art of enameling in Limoges.

LIMBURG - Among the most beautiful extant examples of Byzantine enamels is a cloisonne reliquary, containing a piece of the Holy Cross, in the Church of Limburg.

This work bears an inscription indicating that it was made to the order of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII (912-959). The main interests of this emperor were in the encouragement of art and learning.

LIIMOGES ENAMELS - The art of enameling, particularly champleve, flourished in Limoges, in central France, during the 12th, 13th and later centuries. Though the classical period extended from the beginning of the 16th century to about 1580, perhaps the best works were produced during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Limoges enamels, brilliant in color and strong in composition, were divided into two main periods: the ecclesiastical period, with few examples remaining, and the secular period.

They were also divided into two main groups: enameled figures on a plain background, and plain figures on an enameled background.

One of the most elaborate examples of Limoges enamelwork in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is a portion of a large 13th century reliquary with ivory figures, champleve enamel, intaglios, cameos, and jewels.

There is, in the Cluny Museum, Paris, a choice collection of 20 Limoges enamels from the ecclesiastical period.