silverwork: European Silverwork

Much Italian and French silverwork was melted down for reuse and thus lost. Early German Renaissance silverwork is less abundant than that of the 16th cent. from the two most prolific centers, Augsburg and Nuremberg, with their numerous Italian artisans. German characteristics prevail in Swiss silverwork, and the influence extended to Spain but was overbalanced by the presence of many Italian artisans there in the 15th cent.

Spanish silver of the 16th cent. carries elaborate designs, and in the 17th cent. silversmiths added filigree and enamel to the decoration. A Spanish architectural style of the 16th cent. is called plateresque for its profusion of ornate motifs similar to the work of the silversmiths of that period. Much fine 17th- and 18th-century Dutch silver shows designs in the French taste. Poland and Russia produced ecclesiastical plate, domestic ware, and horse trappings.

The Reformation brought destruction to ecclesiastical art of N Europe, and much plate was melted down in England during the Wars of the Roses so that little early English silver is extant. The hallmark came into use c.1300. Elizabethan pieces display German influence, and work of the period of Charles II is loaded with ornament. Cromwellian influence is reflected in English silverwork of extreme simplicity; French tendencies of the Louis XIV regime contributed great enrichment and were followed by the later rococo style; under Robert Adam's influence there was a classic reaction. Sheffield plate was an innovation of the 18th cent.; since then plated ware has become the product of important industries in England and the United States. The modern revival of hand-wrought silver was influenced by the severe forms of Danish work.

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

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