SCULPTURE OF BIJOUTERIE.
Wr, were shown the other day several articles of bijonterie, the work of a French jeweller, which were so remarkable for beauty of art, both in the design and execution, that they attracted admiration independ- ently of the rich materials. They consisted of rings for the fore-finger- one composed of two angels supporting a shield, a very graceful de- sign-another of a different character, formed by two grotesque figures united by a gem ; a cameo brooch and ear-rings, boldly sculptured, and set in a tasteful style ; the head of a cane, exquisitely carved with figures of extreme minuteness, representing the adventures of Don Quixote, in compartments ornamented with precious stones ; and a brooch of dainty device, in which the pearls and diamonds, though prominently displayed, seemed subordinate to the design. The sight of these superb ornaments struck us very forcibly, by con- trast, with a sense of the utter want of elegant form and fancy in Eng- lish jewellery : though a familiar fact, it surprised like a new discovery. It is extraordinary that the most costly articles of wealth and luxury, things exclusively ornamental, should manifest such poverty of taste and fancy-those fine qualities of art which give value to the meanest substances. Lately, to be sure, the shops have exhibited some pretty varieties of trinkets,-imitations of flowers in the shape of brooches, and pins having some pretensions to heads ; ladies' wrists have been entwined by golden serpents with ruby eyes, and their necks encircled by chains of various patterns ; and gentlemen have adopted the Cardi- gan cognizance, a black bottle, or induced the supposition that they carried all the world before them by wearing a miniature globe in their stocks : but the effort requisite for such a stretch of fancy is more appa- rent than its felicitous result ; and in very splendid adornments of the person beauty of design is eclipsed by the blaze of diamonds.
The cause is easily explained : the French jeweller in question was educated for his craft as a sculptor ; while in this country we have had no artist to design jewellery, perhaps since HANS HOLBELN fashioned trinkets and wrought dagger-mountings for that sumptuous Sovereign HARRY the Eighth. With us the vulgar estimate of money value has been preferred to the refinement of skill and taste: not only in bijou-
terie, but in the larger and more solid article of plate, the richness of the material has been considered to the total disregard of graceful pro-
portions and character of ornament. Good workmanship is appre- ciated, but it is of the mechanical kind; and though FLAxstex and BAILY have modelled figures for silversmiths, the chasing of them has been committed to inferior artists. Till within these few years, indeed, there were very few chasers at all ; and now there are but a small pro- . portion who can bring out the characteristic points of the human form with precision and spirit. We have no artificers of genius, like JEAN GOUJON and BENVENCTO CELLINL Our greatest works, such as candelabra and racing-cups, are either commonplace evasions of inven- tion, or fantastic attempts at novelty : the fashion of silver salvers, dishes, and cups, is worse than that of porcelain ; while the modern pottery of the greenhouse puts to shame the taste of our wine-coolers. The silver font made for the baptism of the infant Princess is a tame, formal compromise between a tazza and an epergne : the design has no pretensions to appropriate character, and is not better, perhaps, than the old Court-font, though the Queen despised the family plate out of which her uncles and aunts were christened.
The chief cause of our inferiority in all the arts of design applied to - manufactures-the want of educated workmen-is in a way of being re- moved; though not so effectively as it might be : the study of form has yet to be methodized in our "schools of design," and made a branch of popular instruction. Meanwhile, it is to be regretted that our artists, already numerous and fast multiplying, should be mostly unqualified, either by imperfect education or erroneous notions of their own dignity, for cotiperating with manufacturers in producing a superior class of de- signs. Necessity, however, is a great quickener of invention, and in- fluential in quelling false pride.