brasses, ornamental

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

brasses, ornamental

ornamental brasses: Brass, a copper-zinc alloy produced since imperial Roman times, is closely associated in art with bronze, a copper-tin alloy (see bronze sculpture). Brass was generally fashioned into utilitarian objects such as bowls, pots, and jugs. In the Middle East, China, and Japan, brass was beaten and hollow-cast, and in India an excellent decorated brass known as Benares ware is still produced. In Europe, the Meuse valley became the center of ornamental work in copper and its alloys during the 11th cent. Although production spread to most of Western Europe, the work was known well into the 16th cent. as dinanderie, after Dinant, a Belgian town long the leader in this work. Early dinanderie included ecclesiastical objects such as fonts, tabernacles, and lecterns, and domestic articles such as the distinctive aquamanile, a vessel, often in the form of an animal, used for pouring water. The brass chandeliers of Norway, Sweden, and Holland were widely exported. In the 17th and 18th cent. small objects for domestic use, such as candlesticks, utensils, and hearth equipment were produced. Ormolu, a gilded or varnished brass or bronze, was often used in the fashioning of these objects and later for covering the wooden parts of furniture. Machine production killed the brass and bronze art industries in the late 19th cent.

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