The Nuremberg Silver takes pride of place in the collections of the largest museums in the world. Nuremberg Silver is distinguished by a variety of artistic forms, where austere simplicity coexists with pretentious sophistication and rich decor. German craftsmen set the fashion in the jewelry art of Europe in the 15th – 17th centuries. Germany had the largest deposits of silver ore, so the country had many centers for the manufacture of products from precious metal.
Nuremberg as a center for medieval jewelers
For a long time, Nuremberg silver was valued above others, as skilled craftsmen with excellent technical skills and delicate taste worked in the city. Silver dishes and objects of decorative and applied art with their novelty and luxury aroused the keenest interest of the European nobility. Ancient Muscovy was one of the major buyers of the products.
Nuremberg silver became widely known at the end of the 15th century. During this period, Nuremberg became one of the largest centers of German art. Sculptors Veit Stoß and Peter Vischer der Ältere, as well as the outstanding painter Albrecht Dürer, lived and worked in the city. The works of these masters had a strong influence on the development of silversmithing and introduced into the products features and images characteristic of the Renaissance.
Albrecht Durer comes from a family of a jeweler, which is reflected in the artist’s work. He did not fulfill orders for mass production, but created many sketches and drawings of coats of arms, ornaments, lamps and utensils. In his paintings, he paid great attention to the image of jewelry and cups, carefully writing out the smallest details. Under the influence of Dürer, silver vessels in the form of an apple and a pear appeared, and special types of ornaments were fixed in the decoration.
From the beginning of the 16th century for a century and a half, the Nuremberg School held a leading position in the art of processing precious metals. Numerous workshops worked in the city limits, where more than three hundred people worked. All of them underwent fundamental professional training, were fluent in drawing skills and techniques, including enameling, engraving and finishing with precious stones.
Characteristics of Nuremberg silver
The head and driving force of the school was the jeweler Wenzel Jamnitzer. On his initiative, the shop rules of the master’s qualification examination were repeatedly complicated. The student was required to make a bell-shaped goblet, which was complex in execution, the author of which was Jamnitser himself. The candidate had to demonstrate the skills of working with chasing and impeccable mastery of artistic editing techniques, which contributed to an increase in the general level of the masters.
The works of the Nuremberg silversmiths of the sixteenth century demonstrate the final transition from the Gothic style to the Renaissance with its fundamentally new decor techniques. The central place in the work of the masters was occupied by cups, which were in high demand both within the country and abroad. During this period, the integral shape of the vessels was replaced by complex multi-tiered compositions with an abundance of details and decor. The decoration motifs traced mythical plots and antique allegories, and the engraved patterns consisted of leaf garlands, cornucopia, grotesque half masks.
Albrecht Dürer’s engravings
A distinctive feature of the art of Nuremberg jewelers is its close connection with graphics. Albrecht Dürer’s engravings served as a source of inspiration for his followers – small-format masters, which was reflected in the decorative and ornamental decoration of products. The plots of the paintings were transferred to plaques – rectangular or oval plates of lead or tin, from which ebb tides were then made to decorate dishes, vases and candelabra.
In the works of Kleinmasters, who worked on ornaments for jewelers, there is a distinct tendency towards antiquity. Hans Beham (Sebald Hans Beham) created decor with images of frolicking angels and fighting warriors. Heinrich Aldegrever’s creations were dominated by floral and floral motifs. Virgil Solis preferred grotesque scenes and compositions from antique attributes. Later, ornaments with elements of Italian architecture – caryatids, garlands of fruits, curls and spirals – came into fashion.
Common features of the “Nuremberg manner”:
- high quality metal;
- an abundance of carefully crafted details;
perfectly smooth embossed surface:
castings based on living models of the organic world.
The Nuremberg Kleinmasters introduced press bands with figures and patterns, which were used for finishing complex cylindrical elements, where alternation of dissimilar ornamental details was required.
The simple and accessible technique gave an excellent decorative effect, so it was quickly adopted by workshops in other cities in Germany. Until the late Renaissance, Nuremberg remained a metropolis and a source of role models for German jewelers.