Naturally Painted. Coloring on Goldsmiths' Works from the 16th to the 18th Centuries

“[…] adorned with bright colors”—these or similar words are used in the inventories of Dresden’s Green Vault to describe a number of goldsmiths’ works , mostly equipped with natural materials such as mollusks and ostrich eggs, or precious stones. In fact, upon closer examination one can still find remains of colors that once fully covered selected parts of these works, significantly determining their appearance. Given the precious quality of the metalworks, one would be inclined to think that the remains of color are traces of enamel. In fact, however, they are the remnants of so-called color versions which, to distinguish them from enamels, were often misleadingly designated as “cold enamel.”
Many goldsmiths’ works from the Renaissance and the Baroque periods should therefore be imagined as being far more colorful than they look today—this is the key finding of the Green Vault’s art historians and conservators who have comprehensively studied the color versions within the framework of a research project for the first time. In cooperation with scientists from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, they approached the topic in different ways. This publication summarizes the results of their research, answering many of the exciting questions about this hardly noticed compositional element and its significance.

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