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enamel

enamel, a siliceous substance fusible upon metal. It may be so compounded as to be transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color. It was used to decorate jewelry in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Specimens of enamel-work found in Belgium and England date from as early as the 3d or 2d cent. B.C. Perfected in the Byzantine world, enamel, often in the cloisonné technique, was used to adorn screens and tabernacles. In the 12th cent. the Spanish excelled in the champlevé technique. In France at that time brilliant coloristic effects were achieved in the Meuse valley. Concurrently, Limoges became a long-time center of superb enamelwork production. From Limoges in the 16th cent. emerged the most famous artist to work in enamel, Léonard Limousin. In England, from the 17th cent. on, enamel provided the surface for miniature portraits. It was also used for the florid decoration of vanity cases and snuffboxes. In the 19th cent. there was a decline in craftsmanship and a general loss of interest in the enamel medium. The mid-1960s produced an extensive craft revival and reborn interest in enamel techniques.

See T. and B. Hughes, English Painted Enamels (1967); S. Benjamin, Enamels (1983); G. L. Matthews, Enamels, Enameling, Enamelists (1984).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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