Object: Decorative box

E/1954/18/6
Decorative box
Chinese (?)
Asia
ca. 1910
Materials: metal, enamel

This small decorative box is a lovely example of cloisonné decoration. Cloisonné is a technique for decorating metal objects that dates back to at least the 13th century BCE on the island of Cyprus. This technique uses fine metal wire, bent or hammered to form complex designs on the surface of a metal container or object. The spaces enclosed by the wire are filled with a colored glass paste, or enamel. Once all the design is filled with enamel the object is heated to “melt” the paste into a solid glass-like substance. As it is heated the glass paste often shrinks and the process must be repeated several times to fill in the designs. Once all the openings, or cloisons, are completely filled with enamel the surface of the vessel is polished to ensure the metal partitions are visible. Sometimes the exposed metal work is then gilded. The cloisonné technique has been used by many cultures, and historic examples have been found in Greece, Britain, the Byzantine Empire, as well as China and Japan.

The following video shows a modern artist making a piece of cloisonné jewelry. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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