Gothic Metalwork

Gothic Metalwork and Ivory Carvings

In France, metal and ivory pieces took on a diminutive but ornate characteristic, and required great skill to create.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate metal and ivory art work in late medieval France

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Metalworkers and sculptors working in ivory made an impact on the the art, architecture, craft, and interior design world of France during the period. While that work was often more diminutive, metal and ivory art was still quite striking.
  • In France the dominant trend was towards the ornate, especially decorative pieces used as components in doors. These included door knockers, locks, and even hinges with elaborate adornment.
  • Paris was a center of production for ivory sculptures of various forms . In addition to various small figures and talismans, there was a fashion for narrative panels in groups of two or three (diptychs and tryptychs), or multi-panel polytychs.

Key Terms

  • diptych: A picture or series of pictures painted on two tablets, usually connected by hinges.
  • talisman: A magical object worn for protection against ill will or the supernatural, or to confer the wearer with a boon such as good luck, good health, or power(s).

France is credited with exporting the Gothic style of architecture during this period. Compared to Gothic architecture , which was better known for its large dramatic features such as flying buttresses and elaborate stained glass, metal and ivory art work was often more diminutive—but it was still quite striking. Metalworkers and sculptors working in ivory made an impact on the the art, architecture, craft, and interior design world of France during the period.

Metalwork

Iron work during the Gothic period took on various styles and trends, from large rough wrought-iron works to more delicate items. In France the dominant trend was towards the ornate, especially decorative pieces used as components in doors. These included door knockers, locks, and even hinges with elaborate adornment. These works required high levels of skill and craftsmanship.

The door to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a key example. Notre Dame is one of the first buildings to use a flying buttress, which became characteristic of Gothic architecture. It is also well known for its sculptures, stained glass, and gargoyles. But the door of the cathedral is, in and of itself, a work of art, particularly when one takes into account the limited smithing techniques of the time.

Close up of elaborate door knocker featuring a lion's head.

Notre Dame de Paris—Door knocker: The elaborate door knocker is just one of the details worked into the door of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Image of an elaborately decorated door, featuring a lion's head door knocker in the center.

Norte Dame de Paris—Door: The elaborate decoration of the door to Notre Dame Cathedral is a strong example of the ornate metalwork of this period.

Ivory

Ivory became available once again in Europe in the Middle Ages and created a trend for ivory sculptures of various forms. In addition to small figures and talismans, there was a fashion for narrative panels in groups of two or three (diptychs and tryptychs), or multi-panel polytychs. Paris became a center for the creation of these works. Additionally, their popularity spread beyond church art, and these pieces could be found in homes and used for decorative furnishing. These works were considered luxury items; ivory work could often be found on the backs of hairbrushes, mirrors, and other luxury items. The works often portrayed scenes of romance and love rather than the religious scenes more typical of Gothic art.

An elaborate, lively scene of armed men on horses, women in windows, and other figures inside a circle.

Siege of the Castle of Love—Mirror: This mirror casing is an example of the ornate ivory work that became part of everyday objects in the Middle Ages.