Damascus Work

The southern countries have all felt the influence of the Damascus art-workers. It is in and around Damascus that the collectors will find the richest store of both old and new brasses.

The business still thrives. Hundreds of trays, arguers, and various other articles are sent all over Europe and to this country. These brasses are beaten, hammered, cut in low and high relief, and cut through. The character- istic Damascus brass is heavy and dark in color.

The figures are cut in low relief, and the lines filled up either with a species of black enamel called ”niello” or with other metal, either silver or gold. The process is called damascening.

It was a favorite method of decorating metals during the Middle Ages throughout Persia, Syria, and some European countries. The designs are very fine, either Arabian leaf forms, mythological figures, or inscriptions.

The name of the owner and the date were often engraved, thus adding greatly to the value of the old pieces. The Benares ware is of the yellow brass and hammered into more flowing de- signs than the Damascus ware, although a little cruder. The chief difference between old and new articles is that the former are made of thicker brass, and the patterns quainter and more carefully executed. Many of these brasses are enameled in brilliant colors.

That which we find in this country is known as the Moradabad ware and cloisonne. The older enamels were much softer and richer in color than those used now. Certain colors have entirely disap- peared. Large platters from Damascus have wrought upon them Old Testament scriptural subjects — the story of Adam and Eve and the transmigration of souls.

These must be the work of the Jews. Oval platters, round and oval trays and plaques, are often found. Often the trays are mounted on small feet and decorated with archaic figures of silver hammered into the brass. The old enameled ones are supposed to have originally come from Constantinople. These are very rare.

There are square trays with perforated edges and conventionalized designs or figures of Arabs on horseback, supposed to come from Tunis. The trays called Algerine are always beaten out on thin brass, but their color is peculiarly golden. Persian trays are covered with numerous small figures, often representing a whole drama.

There is a countless variety of Damascus lamps, mostly all perforated, all equally graceful and fascinating. There is the thistle shape, peculiarly Arabian; the beehive, made especially by the Jews ; the fiat, expanding lamp ; and the Arabian country lamp which alone is tall and rather awk- ward. This last is intended to stand on the floor in the midst of a group of story -telling Arabs.

Many of the hanging-lamps give the dim religious light appropriate to the synagogue, for which they were originally intended.

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