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Three Byzantine Ceramics (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore)

Author(s): Richard H. Randall, Jr.

Source: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 110, No. 785 (Aug., 1968), pp. 461-464
Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/875673 .
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With the knowledge that ceder-green is chrysocolla, the mean- works; both the pigment and the colour name became obsolete
ing of the name is clear, as the word chrysocolla is derived from at the same time. In this case, evidence is still required to deter-
Greek and means, literally, an adhesive for gold. Both malachite mine the exact meaning of the name.
and the mineral still known as chrysocolla are reputed to have Correct identification of colour names is important not only
been used as a cold solder for gold during the medieval period. in supplementing work done in the scientific examination of
The OxfordEnglishDictionarycontains numerous examples which paintings, but also in helping to make references to painting
show that solderwas often spelt without 1; thus it is probable that materials more easily understood. Research into the meaning of
is a corrupt form of solder-green
ceder-green and that its true meaning names is best rewarded by close examination of practical works,
was forgotten by the time chrysocolla became an obsolete pig- which were not necessarily written by eminent painters, but
ment in the mid-seventeenth century. information gained in that way may be usefully applied to works
Another colour name which has received scant attention is of a more general nature, such as Hilliard's treatise, and may also
general;again it is a name which may be found in sixteenth and help to explain brief referencesto colours in documents relating to
early seventeenth-century sources, but not in later works. Unlike other important painters.
ceder-green,the name generalis mentioned in the OxfordEnglish
Dictionarywhere it is described doubtfully as 'a ground colour' and
it is grouped with other words derived from the Latin genus.
However, general was undoubtedly a yellow pigment and that
fact points to the possibility that the colour name comes from
the same Indo-European root as many English and foreign
words connected with yellow or gold. A foreign word comparable Recent Museum Acquisitions
with generalis the Spanish genuli,which appears as the name of a
yellow pigment in the seventeenth-century works on painting by
Palomino and Pacheco. The English and Spanish names are
equally difficult to interpret and both became obsolete at the same ThreeByzantineCeramics
Certain references to general suggest that it was associated with Gallery,Baltimore)
massicot, which has, since the eighteenth century anyway, been
identified as lead monoxide. In The Art of Drawing with the Pen BY RICHARD H. RANDALL, JR
(16o6) Henry Peacham refers to 'masticot or general' as if the
names are synonymous, yet both names are listed without such THREE Byzantine ceramics added to the Walters Art Gallery
an indication in several other sources, Bodleian MS. Ashmole collections this year have allowed a broadening of the collection
1494, B.M. MSS. Stowe 680, and Sloane 2092. A price list in in a direction hitherto quite difficult. Though many fragments of
V. & A. MS. 86.L.65 includes general at three shillings and Byzantine dishes were found at Corinth, Sparta, and Constan-
fourpence per pound whereas massicot is shown at exactly twice tinople many years ago, complete dishes have been rarely avail-
the price for the same quantity, therefore implying that the able. The new techniques of skin diving have brought to light a
pigments were not identical. Distinct names may have been number of shipwrecks in the Adriatic, Aegean, and Mediter-
applied to different degrees of lead monoxide, as that pigment ranean Seas in the past several years in which have been dis-
could vary in depth of colour according to the length of time it covered classical remains, sculpture, oil jars, and recently a
was heated. However, that would not account for a great differ- number of groups of Byzantine glazed ware.
ence in price between massicot and general, and it seems pos- The dishes usually recovered from the shipwrecks are of the
sible that one name refers to lead monoxide and the other to lead type most common in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and
stannate. Documentary evidence of instructions for making the generally described as early sgraffitoware. The body is red with a
latter, an oxide of lead and tin, was found in foreign language whitish slip and a thin glaze, through which the designs are
sources by Mrs Merrifield who undertook research into the history drawn. Two of the Walters Art Gallery pieces are flat dishes with
of painting materials in the nineteenth century, but the yellow a vestigial rim foot and a sharply upturned outer edge. The first
received no further attention until it was identified through the of these (Fig.61) is decorated with a hawk or kite grasping a
scientific examination of paintings during the present century, stylized branch within a decorative border. He is strongly and
and since then a yellow which correspondsto the colour identified broadly drawn, the lines of the figure appearing brown against
as lead stannate has been observed on paintings dating from the the off-white of the glaze. The second dish (Fig.59) shows a
fifteenth to the beginning of the seventeenth century. leopard rampant amid sprigs of foliage. It is more delicately
Existence of a tin-yellow was not unknown in England in the drawn and the dish has patches of purple grey in the glaze from
seventeenth century, for a paper on artists' colours in Philosophi- the firing. Each is approximately 9- inches in diameter.
cal Transactions(1686) contains the statement that massicot is The third Walters example (Fig.6o) is a deep bowl with a rim
'an improper calx of tin'. The writer had taken the definition from foot. It is incised with a design probably derived from Persian
De Lithiasi, a treatise written by the physician, Van Helmont, pottery of a tree-of-life motif within a concentric design of a star,
during the first half of the seventeenth century. Certainly, a rosette, and a circle. The glaze is again off-white, but slightly
some writers remembered that a yellow pigment was at one greyish, and the rim of the bowl retains considerable evidence of
time made from tin, but they do not answer the question as sea life attached to it.
to which name was applied to the pigment when it was in The workshop that produced this particular group of pottery
current use. Because changes in the meaning of colour names have was probably on the mainland of Asia Minor, though no excava-
occurred so often in the past, one must accept the possibility that tions have identified specific kiln sites. While some thirteen pieces
massicot was once used for lead stannate and was later transferred of the find that I have examined reveal a repetition of animal and
to lead monoxide. However, it is significant that lead stannate has plant motifs, there is a continual liveliness in the drawing, whether
been observed in paintings which date from a period preceding the motifs are of Persian derivation or more purely Byzantine, as
the early seventeenth century and that the name generalis like- in the case of the animals. The present find was made in a wreck
wise to be found in sixteenth and very early seventeenth-century off the northern Dodecanese Islands at the south edge of the


Aegean Sea, from which a considerable number of pieces were

recovered. Three very similar examples, perhaps from another
find, are at the Cleveland Museum, and while two show a close
parallel with the bird and tree-of-life examples, the third has no
border design and shows a combat of a hawk and a rabbit. The HerbertRead
most recent evidence from the excavations at Constantinople
indicates that this ware must date in the twelfth century, probably
around A.D.I 140. NOman since Ruskin, indeed no other Englishman than Ruskin,
can have had such a deep and complex associationwith the world
of the visual arts in this country than Herbert Read nor brought
to it a wider or more humane concern with all that these arts
involve and express. Perhaps only at the moment of his death
have even his friendsbeen brought to recognize his multitudinous
(WaltersArt Gallery,
EarlyBookbindings services to that world. We may have to remind ourselves for
instance that this aspect of a career, which also embraced an
Baltimore) intense and widely branching commitment to the literary arts,
began as an AssistantKeeper in the Victoria and Albert Museum
BY DOROTHY MINER (in the Department of Ceramics) whither he had moved from
the Treasury in 1922 at the age of 29. His first art publication
SINCE the extensive exhibition of ten years ago, 'The History of indeed derived from his work there, being a study of English
stained glass and it was this museum experience which obtained
Bookbinding A.D.525-1950', the Walters Art Gallery has been on
the lookout for important examples of early bookbindings which for him in 1931 the Watson Gordon Professorshipof Fine Art
would fill gaps in our collection in that field. Some of those added at Edinburgh University. So although he would not in later
during the last eighteen months or so are illustrated here with years have defined his contribution to the understanding of art
brief notes. as an academic one, his qualifications to write and speak were
The first is a collection of five separate works, printed by various formed within a great general collection, daily in touch with
works of every kind and in the company of such distinguished
presses in France, Italy, and Germany, at dates ranging from
scholars of the period as Bernard Rackham and Eric Maclagan.
1498 to 1520 - for the most part tracts or poems on theological
Because of his personal modesty, because so few great men can
topics. The board-covered volume has a sturdy half-binding of
have been so unready to speak of, as distinct from declaring,
pigskin impressedin black with the name of the first author of the
series: Aurelius Prudentius, the date of the binding, 1529, and himself, his awareness of the nature and values of scholarship
the armorial block of the owner, Johann Hess, a Protestantdivine and his support of scholarly enterprisemay be hidden from those
from Breslau (Fig.63). This block, executed for Hess in 1525, is who did not directly witness or benefit from it. The editor has
written elsewhere of his place in the history of this Magazine. As
among the earliest armorial owners' stamps to be designed for a
book-collector. The binding is the work of a Breslau binder, a publisher, in the firm of Routledge & Kegan Paul, he was res-
known by his initials as Master H. B. ponsible for numerous art-historical publications, and such
The second book is the Sacrdde LouisXV Roy deFrance... dans authors as Frederick Antal, Erna Auerbach, W. G. Constable,
and Arnold Hauser are among those who have had reason to
I'Vglise de Reims, Paris [1723] - the magnificent extra large folio
official publication recording the coronation ceremonies of the acknowledge his devoted attention to their studies and in some
cases even more significantaid and encouragement.
12-year-old Louis XV. Most of the presentation copies of this
work were bound in morocco impressed with very large dentelle At the Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art we enjoyed in
the last six years of his life not only his unfailing service, but also
plaques, with the ticket of Antoine-Michel Padeloup who became
binder to the King in 1733. This example (Fig.62) is exceptional the pleasuresof his presence which in spite of Herbert's reticence
in that the red morocco is tooled with small tools in a design of was something most positive. Simply, everyone enjoyed him being
there. Not only was he, unlike myself, present at the moment of
strapwork, helixes, pointille flowers, etc. which still has a late
seventeenth-century character and, in fact, resembles the earliest the Foundation's conception in Washington, but did, I believe,
bindings that can be attributed to Padeloup around 1725. by his personal authority secure for it on that day a firm root.
As Mr Howard Nixon has shown, the superb bindings tooled And thereafter at every crux and point of emergency he not only
in gold with a host of little Chinese figures, birds, animals and made himself available but brought resolution and reinforcement
rococo forms, and signed with the initials I. B., were executed by and a witness for the highest intellectual standards. And when it
a German bookbinder, John Baumgarten. He migrated from his was a matter of mundane administrativedecisions his judgement
native country to London in the I76O'sand lived there until his was sensible and charitable; his sense of practicality was remark-
death in 1782. His skill was renowned and he specialized in able in someone so committed to the freedom of the imagination.
He was indeed an ideal Trustee, which makes it the more regret-
elegant bindings in the 'Chinese taste' in vogue at the time. This
volume (Fig.58) was bound at the order of Charles Watson- table that the Tate Gallery had only so recently chosen to employ
second Marquis of Rockingham (1730-I782), a him in this role.
in His contribution to English artistic life in this way - and how
Whig who was outspoken in support of the American colonies
George III's day. The book is an excessively rare work - Mari- many more institutions did he serve - would alone have deserved
ette's 1757 publication of engravings after the seventeenth- honour, but of course his influence was made vastly more exten-
century water-colours of Roman frescoes made by Pietro Santi sive by other means. In the 193o's, 40's and 50's he did more than
Bartoli. The engravings were skilfully painted to imitate the any other man to transformthe local conditions in which art was
water-colours and the plates were destroyed after only thirty presented, received, and appreciated. The Meaningof Art was
copies had been produced. This, together with two volumes of through most of this period the most effective primer of appreci-
Hamilton's Antiquitiesalso bound by Baumgarten and now in the ation in English and has, I suspect, had no successor.Art nowwas
Pierpont Morgan Library, comes from Major J. R. Abbey's the first genuine defence and explanation of modern art which
collection. was comprehensive, wholehearted and intellectually refined.


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58. Bookbinding, by John Baumgarten, on a book of 1757. (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.) 59. Byzantine Dish, decorated with leopard rampant. M
cm. (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.)
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60. Byzantine Dish, incised with design of a tree-of-life motif within a concen- 61. Byzantine Dish, decorated with hawk or kite. Mid-twelfth century
tric design of a star, rosette and circle. Mid-twelfth century A.D. Diameter, A.D. Diameter, c.23-5 cm. (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.)
c.23'5 cm. (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.)


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62. Bookbinding, attributed to Antoine-Michel Padeloup, on a book of 1723. 63. Bookbinding, by Master H. B., Breslau. Dated 1529. (Walters Art Gallery,
(Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.) Baltimore.)

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