How miniatures were created on enamel in the 17-18 centuries. Enamel.
What is a miniature on enamel, or enamel? How did these charming little images appear and spread in Russia, most often portraits that conveyed to us the breath of their time? How were miniatures created, usually not exceeding 3-6 centimeters in diameter and preserving for centuries the pristine brightness and transparency of colors, the durability of a shiny surface, the beauty of the color range?
Creating miniatures on enamel requires a lot of preparation, excellent knowledge of the laws of the combination of different colors, their variability during firing. The slightest deviation from a strict sequence in the work, even a minute overexposure in the firing process can lead to the deterioration of the miniature, sometimes at the very last stage, when it is almost ready.
What and how do enamel paints, what is their feature? The main composition of enamel is a special white or gray glassy alloy in powder form, the so-called flux (burned tin and lead mixed with crushed glass and other components – part of potash, sodium, sulfur), to which various metal oxides are added, which give or a different color.
Portrait of Tsar Peter I
Unknown Artist Early 1700s
Copper, enamel. 3.7 × 3.2 (oval)
A Russian poet of the 18th century, Vasily Kirillovich Trediakovsky, wrote in his article on mosaic in 1758: “Enamel is a kind of glass, with water-dyed paint … Its main matter is tin and lead, mixed in equal parts and previously reduced to ashes, which are added to especially such metallic flowers as it is desired to be in enamel. ”
So, for example, adding to a smooth copper oxide gives blue-green and turquoise colors. “Copper ash,” wrote the inventor of Russian porcelain, D.I. Vinogradov – produces a fair amount of emerald green. ” Blue and azure tones are obtained by adding cobalt oxide or safra – burned cobalt; various shades of pink, purple, carmine, intense violet – with the addition of gold; violet and cherry – silver; purple – magnesia; green – chromium oxides; gray, black, steel – iridium; white and yellowish – tin oxide. The so-called “Mars paint” – red, as well as brown and yellowish tones were obtained with the introduction of various amounts of iron oxide or cuprous oxide. Each master, usually a component of the paint, carefully kept the secrets of their composition. True, in the beginning of the 18th century, and even more so in the 19th century, it was easy to buy ready-made bars or plates of enamel paints, which were sold in trade rows and special shops. They were brought by foreign merchants from Western Europe and the East, but they were also made in Russia.
Portrait of Tsar Peter Alekseevich
The enamel artist BARBETTE (BARBETTE), JOSIAS (1657–1732)
The end of the seventeenth century. Copper, enamel. 5.5 × 4.7 (oval)
Enamel was usually sold for pounds and pounds. At the end of the 17th century, for example, craftsmen in Moscow paid approximately 96 rubles per pood of enamel (or 2 rubles 40 kopecks per pound) – a price that was considered very high.
And in 1718, one of the most famous miniaturists of the time of Peter the Great, Grigory Musikiy, requested the Armory Chancellery, where he worked, for the performance of “persons of His Royal Majesty … enum white pound, blue half pound”, and also a number of different colors – azure, green, nettle- green, brown, black, scarlet and others.
Portrait of Empress Anna Ioannovna
The enameller SILVER
(first half of the 18th century)
1730s Copper, enamel. 3.6 × 3 (oval)
A bar of paint was crushed, then carefully ground in a special stone, often agate, mortar into the smallest powder, mixing with a small amount of pure water or turpentine or essential oils (usually lavender oil) to obtain a thick mass. Only after that the paint was considered ready for work.
Then the master had to make blanks for miniatures — gold or copper plates with a slightly convex surface of the desired size so that they would not warp during subsequent firing. Silver was almost never used, as it has a lower melting point and does not combine well when fired with enamel.
Portrait of Emperor Peter I
Musik Grigoriy Semenovich
(1670 or 1671 – after 1739)
1720th Copper, enamel. 4.2 × 3.4 (oval)
On the back of the medallion there is an image of a two-headed eagle with a monogram of two Latin letters P.
Carefully cleaned the plate with a small spatula or a spoon covered on the front side with several layers of monochrome – white or light gray enamel, burning each time for one or two minutes at a very high temperature (up to 750?) For better fusion of the enamel with metal. For greater strength and stability, as well as for uniform heating, the back side of the plate was also covered with an even, but thinner layer of enamel, the so-called counter enamel. As a result, the plate received a hard, very smooth shiny surface – a primer on which an image could be painted after grinding and polishing.The painting was applied with small strokes and dotted touches with fine special brushes, usually made of ermine tails or squirrels. Until one paint had dried, it was impossible to apply another; it was also possible to burn only well-dried paints. Since the metal oxides in the paint have a different melting point, they first wrote with paints that required a very high temperature – up to 850 ?, then by those that are sufficiently lower.
Enamel was usually burned in a muffle – a small, special-shaped box made of refractory clay. The muffle was inserted into a special oven, where it was possible to maintain a high temperature for a long time. The requests of masters of the beginning of the 18th century testify that they usually heated such a furnace with coal, less often with short dry birch or spruce wood, because they did not produce a sufficiently uniform temperature. Before you put the muffle in the oven, it was tightly closed so that dirt, dust, soot did not get onto the enamel. and burned again. And so several times, until the paints did not get the desired brightness, gloss and gloss, that is, they completely did not fuse with the primer. This moment had to be caught very precisely, because the slightest overexposure on the fire in the muffle could lead to the fact that the capricious enamel cracked, and then all the work went to waste.
And finally, the last operation – polishing. To prevent painting from erasing, a transparent layer of a colorless glassy mass was applied to the enamel before polishing.
There were secrets of the composition of paints and methods of applying them over the years. Each master had his own “empiric” – a plate with numerous samples of burned paint, a peculiar visual enamel palette, showing how each paint changes its color at different temperatures and firing times. The increase in heating by only a few degrees gives a different shade, therefore, the color conceived by the author changes.
The masters worked in the 18th century by candlelight, in small rooms where daylight barely penetrated, as the windows were closed with mica or tightened with a bull bubble (window glass was very expensive and was used primarily in palaces). There were no instruments to measure the temperature in the furnace – it was necessary to determine it “by eye”, and the accuracy was achieved by many years of experience.
The work of the painter on the enamel was laborious and complex. He had to have the right eye and the right hand, masterfully master the technological side of this art in order to complete the work and create a true work of art.