Welcome to the Kellogg & Sons Blacksmith Shop

Our traditional Blacksmith shop located in Northern New York. We do custom Blacksmithing work focused upon traditional 18th and 19th century hardware and tools.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blacksmith's Book Review: d'Allemagne's Decorative Antique Ironwork, published by Dover Books.

Where can a modern Blacksmith or Artist find inspiration?  As a historic Blacksmith I find great inspiration in not just the ordinary work of the past but also from the exceptional.  Everyone knows Blacksmiths made nails and horseshoes.  But some smiths made tools and hardware that are exceptional works of art as well.

Most have forgotten that they made incredible masterworks in the form of amazing sculptural armour, intricate locking coffers, astounding and complex weapons, and items that were purely artistic.  But unless you go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, National Ornamental Metals Museum in Memphis, or the spectacular museum in Rouen, France you may never see examples of this work.  I can't afford to travel Europe looking at artifacts.

Dover Books does all smiths a service with their reprint of Decorative Antique Ironwork.

The book was written by scholar and collector of ironwork Henry Rene d'Allemagne. It is a catalog of his spectacular collection at Le Secq des Tournelles Museum at  Rouen.   Featured is Ironwork in the Decorative Arts.

The collection was amassed in the late 19th and early 20th century.  It features European work from before 1,000am to the late 1800's as well as items from England to Istanbul.  Henry traveled widely to study and collect.  Architectural iron is shown, but also every kind of lock, key, chest, coffer, corkscrew, and hinge.

Many of the items pictured were from the homes and castles of nobility, or were made for the upper class.  Much of the decorative work is chiseled, carved, or whitesmithed.  These examples are of interest because they do not represent the everyday 90% of ironwork.  These are the rare, beautiful, or unusual.

Published in 1924 the Dover reprint dates from 1968.  The book is black and white photographs with captions telling any dates and history of the pieces shown.  The reprinted photos are a little dark, but the work shown still inspires.

An example on plate 59 would be an ornate chest lock made in the 18th century by a Parisian locksmith know as Merlin.  What appears to be a decorative metal moulding on the lock is actually part of a hidden trap called a "Thief Catcher".  Anyone guilty of trying to pick the lock may set off the trap.  Like a twin jawed animal trap it will snap outward to grab the thief by the hand or arm!

Decorative Antique Ironwork is not a how-to book, or a modern guide to art.  It is a pictorial record of the collection of what may still be the best collection of European Ironwork in the world.  I'd love to see the book reprinted with better copies of the photos, but it is still a great book for inspiration and ideas.

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