Lectures/Oct 30, 2017

The Craft of Noble Metals

The Craft of Noble Metals lead image

The Craft of Noble Metals: Production of Silverware and Golden Jewellery in Crete (14th-17th Centuries), lecture by Maria Constantoudaki-Kitromilidou (University of Athens), King’s College London, November 7, 2017, 5:30–7:00 pm

A rather neglected branch of art production in Venetian Crete, the activities and products of the silversmiths and goldsmiths’ craft, will be discussed on the basis of documents discovered in the State Archives in Venice. A great number of those masters were active especially in the capital, the city of Candia, and its vicinity, and are documented from the beginning of the thirteenth century through the end of Venetian rule in the island. The paper will investigate some aspects of their professional behaviour such as apprenticeship, the organization and function of workshops and forms of relationships between fellow-artists; the presence in Crete of silversmiths-goldsmiths from outside the island; patrons and commissions; the conditions of production of objects in this highly specialised craft; various uses of valuable silver and golden art works; but also the regulations set by the Venetian administration which determined the framework of a profession having to do with noble metals and other precious materials.

Consequently, the study of documents can throw light on a remarkable artistic activity with economic and social implications in Venetian Crete, at the same time allowing some glimpses into the role of the Byzantine heritage in this craft. Documentary evidence can be complemented to a certain extent by visual sources, such as frescoes and portable icons or other paintings. The objects created represented the high level of material culture of the place and time, as it can also be deduced from a restricted but representative number of surviving specimens.

Maria Constantoudaki-Kitromilidou is Professor of Byzantine archaeology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, where she has also been director of the university’s Museum of Archaeology and Art History since 2012. She has conducted research in Venice, London, Harvard and elsewhere on late and post-Byzantine art and its links with western art, on which she has published extensively, including several essays and studies on El Greco.