University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

Schopfer, Jean
[The silversmith's art: the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries],   pp. [336]-357 PDF (6.4 MB)

Page 353

Middle Ages, of the Renascence period, and
of modern times; and we have striven, in the
course of this rapid review, to place. under
full, clear light the dominant ideas which
inspired the old workers in the precious
metals. We have also exercised our right
of judgment. Such examinations of the
productions of the past would be a sterile
amusement, if we did not have constantly in
sight our principal object, which is to ex-
tract from the work of so many centuries all
that can be useful and good for ourselves.
   There now remains for us to discover
what the nineteenth century, of which we
are the children and to which we are attached
by so many bonds, has done with the gold-
and silversmith's art, once so magnificent.
   Such will be the object of a final article,
and thus we shall give to this historical
study a necessary conclusion: which is the
art of the present.
   M. SCHOPFER'S interesting account of
the destruction of noted works of the silver-
smith's art, recalls Victor Hugo's famous
saying that "time is greedy, but man greed-
ier." We are wont to generalize over the
losses effected by wars and revolutions, with-
out forming a concrete idea of what these
losses are. Second only to the waste of
human life, must be ranked the waste of
human endeavor. Soldiery, fanatics and
still more guilty sovereigns have done all in
their power to sweep away the world's fund
of beauty. This is especially true in all
that concerns works of industrial art, since
the materials employed to create them have
a distinct and oftentimes a high commercial
value. An illustration of such destruction
is given by M. Schopfer in alluding to the
lack of coined money during the Middle
Ages. He writes that when a king or great
noble found himself confronted by debt, his
first act was to send his gold and silver plate
to the melting pot; that when he again grew
Plate XXI. Coffee-pot in silver: period of Louis XVI
affluent, he called in his worker in the pre-
cious metals to convert his surplus coin into
some rarely beautiful article for the adorn-
ment of his table, or his bedchamber. Yet
in view of the unhappy fate which threat-

Go up to Top of Page