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Styles in gold and silver craft

The Baroque is a fascination with movement in all its forms; it is movement in action projected outwards. Dynamism is a resource used to express moods. Figures are foreshortened; lines are opened up, escaping frontality, and leaving an important legacy. Diagonal, more dynamic lines dominate the compositions. There is a tendency towards expressive naturalism, a reaction to the previous idealism, searching for the more human qualities of naturalism versus idealism. The interest is in man as an individual, with his most exalted passions and feelings. The artist delights in representing the misery of life, the horror of the cruelty of martyrdoms, the ascetic and mystical states, to move the viewer. It attempts to capture the appearance of forms rather than their reality. Baroque masters became so skilful with their materials that we sometimes forget that the object we are looking at is made of silver. It is very influenced by the historical context of the religious Reform and Counter-reform in Europe. This style was predominant in gold and silver craft during the 17 th and 18 th centuries.

Towards the mid twelfth century, a new cultural movement was born in Christian Europe influenced by the birth of new cities, trade and the rise of new religious orders. The origins of the gothic style can be traced through the evolution of the Romanic style, especially the Norman school. The emblematic Gothic building is the cathedral, which would become the symbol of cities. Its main distinctive elements are the pointed arch and the cross vault, which let the light flow into the interior -hence their luminosity. In sculpture, the naturalism which had been introduced in the last phase of the Romanic style finds its true place within the Gothic style, accentuating an ingenuous narrative trend, and the search for archetypal ideals of beauty. The figures are endowed with serenity and majesty; the folds in robes are kept simple, and there is a great sense of rhythm. There are numerous pieces of gold and silver craft, mainly related to ecclesiastical life. Technical perfection and the beauty of forms are coupled with the fine quality of the materials used.

The Renaissance was an attempt to bring back the canons of classical antiquity during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was an attempt to endow the Christian spirit which had flourished in the Western world during the Middle Ages with classical forms. Florence is the prototype of a Renaissance city. Florentine artists not only copy antiquity, but recreate it with complete liberty. Art serves to cultivate man and his family. Art serves as a means of expression for the human spirit. The expression of beauty based on harmony is the ideal behind Renaissance artworks. There is a trend towards "miniature" decoration, in the form of grotesques inspired in classical monuments. There is an increase in decorative sculpture, and a proliferation of mythological representations. Symbolism is abandoned to a great extent, being replaced by reality, albeit idealised. That is, an idealising tendency which was realistic in nature.

The Rococo period covers, broadly, the first half of the 18th century and is mainly represented in the decoration of interiors and of civil and religious spaces. Baroque columns almost disappeared to give way to extended walls, covered with adornments. It also influenced sculpture and painting. The impact on gold and silver craft was especially significant, it being integrated into the architecture and decoration of interiors and surfaces to form a whole. Rocaille was the name given to a type of decoration used in fountains and grottoes during the 17 th century. With Rococo, decoration ceases to be merely that, in order to become real architecture, with a value of its own, as it is decoration which articulates the whole. The lack of plasticity and complex spatial effects is one of the characteristics of the Rococo period. Heroic mythology is swept aside by an Olympus of minor gods, headed by Venus and Pan. The figure of the shepherd becomes the symbol of union between eroticism and nature.

One of the features of the Romanic, whose splendour was at its peak during the 12th century -although in some countries it extended to the 13 th century-, is the creation of monumental sculpture integrated within artworks as part of a whole. Romanic sculptors make use of the sacred scriptures, extending their references to apocryphal texts. Images of saints inspired in martyrologies emerge. Sculpture and gold and silver craft are essentially governed by the principle of content, that is, the supremacy of expressive force over the beauty of formal appearance -hence the visible deformities. Given the intellectual character of the Romanic period, it is a means of accessing the thoughts and ideas of the time.

For many Spanish art critics and historians, filigree is not a gold and silver craft style, but rather a type of adornment used in jewellery. Filigree is gold and silver craftwork made with silver or gold thread, producing thin gold or silver curlicues, obtained by cutting a previously hammered precious metal sheet into strips. The strips are arranged forming arabesques and are then discreetly soldered, a technique that was, for a long time, a true enigma for Western silver- and goldsmiths. These metal thread arabesques can protrude or be set into a background of the same precious metal.

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