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BILLARD BALL

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Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 98 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BILLARD BALL SCRIVELLO They rutty give nwe stun 5 Bl lu vwnausm-,teond vMbut col ••Shed or"Mille Too&' No..1.. acid. Celluloid is familiar to us nowadays. In the form of bonzoline, into which it is said to enter, it is used largely for billiard balls; and a new French substitute—a caseine made from milk, called gallalithhas begun to be much used for piano keys in the cheaper sorts of instrument. Odontolite is mammoth ivory, which through lapse of time and from surroundings becomes converted into a substance known as fossil or blue ivory, and is used occasionally in jewelry as turquoise, which it very much resembles. It results from the tusks of antediluvian mammoths buried in the earth for thousands of years, during which time under certain conditions the ivory becomes slowly penetrated with the metallic salts which give it the peculiar vivid blue colour of turquoise. Ivory Sculpture and the Decorative Arts.—The use of ivory as a material peculiarly adapted for sculpture and decoration has been universal in the history of civilization. The earliest examples which have come down to us take us back to pre-historic times, when, so far as our knowledge goes, civilization as we understand it had attained no higher degree than that of the dwellers in caves, or of the most primitive races. Throughout succeeding ages there is continued evidence that no other substance—except perhaps wood, of which we have even fewer ancient examples—has been so consistently connected with man's art-craftsmanship. It is hardly too much to say that to follow properly the history of ivory sculpture involves the study of the whole world's art in all ages. It will take us back to the most remote antiquity, for we have examples of the earliest dynasties of Egypt and Assyria. Nor is there entire default when we come to the periods of the highest civilization of Greece and Rome. It has held an honoured place in all ages for the adornment of the palaces of the great, not only in sculpture proper but in the rich inlay of panelling, of furniture, chariots and other costly articles. The Bible teems with references to its beauty and value. And when, in the days of 'Pheidias, Greek sculpture had reached the highest perfection, we learn from ancient writers that colossal statues were constructed—notably the " Zeus of Olympia " and the " Athena of the Parthenon." The faces, hands and other exposed portions of these figures were of ivory, and the question, therefore, of the method of production of such extremely large slabs as perhaps were used has been often debated. A similar difficulty arises with regard to other pieces of considerable size, found, for example, amongst consular diptychs. It has been conjectured that some means of softening and moulding ivory was known to the ancients, but as a matter of fact though it may be softened it cannot be again restored to its original condition. If up to the 4th century we are unable to point to a large number of examples of sculpture in ivory, from that date onwards the chain is unbroken, and during the five or six hundred years of unrest and strife from the decline of the Roman empire in the 5th century to the dawn of the Gothic revival of art in the 11th or 12th, ivory sculpture alone of the sculptural arts carries on the preservation of types and traditions of classic times in central Europe. Most import-ant indeed is the role which existing examples of ivory carving play in the history of the last two centuries of the consulates of the Western and Eastern empires. Though the evidences of decadence in art may be marked, the close of that period brings us down to the end of the reign of Justinian (527-563). Two centuries later the iconoclastic persecutions in the Eastern empire drive westward and compel to settle there numerous colonies of monks and artificers. Throughout the Carlovingian period, the examples of ivory sculpture which we possess in not inconsiderable quantity are of extreme importance in the history of the early development of Byzantine art in Europe. And when the Western world of art arose from its torpor, freed itself from Byzantine shackles and traditions, and began to think for itself, it is to the sculptures in ivory of the Gothic art of the 13th and 14th centuries that we turn with admiration of their exquisite beauty of expression. Up to about the 14th century the influence of the church was everywhere predominant in all matters relating to art. In ivories, as in mosaics, enamels or miniature painting it would be difficult to find a dozen examples, from the age of Constantine onwards, other than sacred ones or of sacred symbolism. But as the period of the Renaissance approached, the influence of romantic literature began to assert itself, and a feeling and style similar to those which are characteristic of the charming series of religious art in ivory, so touchingly conceived and executed, meet us in many objects in ivory destined for ordinary domestic uses and ornament. Mirror cases, caskets for jewelry or toilet purposes, combs, the decoration of arms, or of saddlery or of weapons of the chase, are carved and chased with scenes of real life or illustrations of the romances, which bring home to us in a vivid manner details of the manners and customs, amusements, dresses and domestic life of the times. With the Renaissance and a return to classical ideas, joined with a love of display and of gorgeous magnificence, art in ivory takes a secondary place. There is a want of simplicity and of originality. It is the period of the commencement of decadence. Then comes the period nicknamed rococo, which persisted so long. Ivory carving follows the vulgar fashion, is content with copying or adapting, and until the revival in our own times is, except in rare instances, no longer to be classed as a fine art. It becomes a trade and is in the hands of the mechanic of the workshop. In this necessarily brief and condensed sketch we have been concerned mainly with ivory carving in Europe. It will be necessary to give also, presently, some indications enabling the inquirer to follow the history—or at least to put him on the track of it—not only in the different countries of the West but also in India, China and Japan. Prehistoric Ivory Carvings.—These are the result of investigations made about the middle of the 19th century in the cave dwellings of the Dordogne in France and also of the lake dwellings of Switzerland. As records they are unique in the history of art. Further than this our wonderment is excited at finding these engravings or sculptures in the round, these chiselled examples of the art of the uncultivated savage, conceived and executed with a feeling of delicacy and restraint which the most modern artist might envy. Who they were who executed them must be left to the palaeontologist and geologist to decide. We can only be certain that they were contemporary with the period when the mammoth and the reindeer still roved freely in southern France. The most important examples are the sketch of the mammoth (see PAINTING, Plate I.), on a slab of ivory now in the museum of the Jardin des Plantes, the head and shoulders of an ibex carved in the round on a piece of reindeer horn, and the figure of a woman (instances of representations of the human form are most rare) naked and wearing a necklace and bracelet. Many of the originals are in the museum at St Germain-en-Laye, and casts of a considerable number are in the British Museum. Ancient Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman Ivories.—We know from ancient writers that the Egyptians were skilled in ivory carving and that they procured ivory in large quantities from Ethiopia. The Louvre possesses examples of a kind of flat castanets or clappers, in the form of the curve of the tusks themselves, engraved in outline, beautifully modelled hands forming the tapering points; and large quantities of small objects, including a box of plain form and simple decoration identified from the inscribed praenomen as the fifth dynasty, about 4000 B.C. The British Museum and the museum at Cairo are also comparatively rich. But no other collection in the world contains such an interesting collection of ancient Assyrian ivories as that in the British Museum. Those exhibited number some fifty important pieces, and many other fragments are, on account of their fragility .or state of decay, stowed away. The collection is the result of the excavations by Layard about 1840 on the supposed site of Nineveh opposite the modern city of Mosul. When found they were so decomposed from the lapse of time as scarcely to bear touching or the contact of the external air. Layard hit upon the ingenious plan of boiling in a solution of gelatine and thus restoring to them the animal matter which had dried up in the course of centuries. Later, the explorations of Flinders Petrie and others at Abydos brought to light a considerable number of sculptured fragments which may be even two thousand years older than those of Nineveh. They have been exhibited in London and since distributed amongst various museums at home and abroad. Consular and Official and Private Diptychs.—About fifty of the remarkable plaques called " consular diptychs," of the time of the three last centuries of the consulates of the Roman and Greek empire have been preserved. They range in date from perhaps mid-fourth to mid-sixth cen- turies, and as with two or three exceptions the dates are certain it would be diffi- cult to overestimate their historic or intrinsic value. The earliest of absolutely certain date is the diptych of Aosta (A.D. 408); the first after the recognition of Christianity; or, if the Monza diptych represents, as some think, the Consul Stilicon, then we may refer back six years earlier. At any rate the edict of Theo- dosius in A.D. 384, concern- ing the restriction of the use of ivory to the diptychs of the regular consuls, is evi- dence that the custom must have been long estab- lished. According to some authorities the beautiful leaf of diptych in the Liverpool Museum (fig. 4) is a consular one and to be ascribed to Marcus Julius Philippus (A.D. 248). Similarly the Gherardesca leaf in the British Museum may be accepted as of the Consul Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 308). But the whole question of the half dozen earliest examples is conjectural. With a few notable exceptions they show decadence in art. Amongst the finest may be cited the leaf with the combats with stags at Liverpool, the dip- tych of Probianus at Berlin and the two leaves, one of Anas- tasius, the other of Orestes, in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The literature concerning these diptychs is voluminous, from the time of the erudite treatise by Gori published in 1759 to the present day. The latest of certain date is that of Basilius, consul of the East in 541, the last of the consuls. The diptychs of private individuals or of officials number about sixteen, and in the case of the private ones have a far greater artistic value. Of these the Victoria and Albert Museum possesses the most beautiful leaf of perhaps the finest example of ancient ivory sculpture which has come down to us, diptychon Meleretense, representing a Bacchante (fig. 5). The other half, which is much injured, is in the Cluny Museum. Other important pieces are the Aesculapius and Hygeia at Liverpool, the Hippolytus and Phaedra at Brescia, the Barberini in the Bargello and at Vienna and the Rufius Probianus•at Berlin. Besides the diptychs ancient Greek and Roman ivories before the recognition of Christianity are comparatively small in number and are mostly in the great museums of the Vatican, Naples, the British Museum, the Louvre and the Cluny Museum. Amongst them are the statuette of Penthea, perhaps of the 3rd century (Cluny), a large head of a woman (museum of Vienna) and the Bellerophon (British Museum), nor must those of the Roman occupation in England and other countries be forgotten. Notable instances are the plaque and ivory mask found at Caerleon. Others are now in the Guildhall and British Museums, and most continental European museums have examples connected with their own history. Early Christian and Early Byzantine Ivories.—The few examples we possess of Christian ivories previous to the time of Constantine are not of great importance from the point of view of the history of art. But after that date the ivories which FIG. 5.-Leaf of Roman dip-we may ascribe to the cen- tych, representing a Bacchante; tunes from the end of the to the Victoria and Albert tur Museum. 4th to at least the end of the 9th become of considerable interest, on account of their connexion with the development of Byzantine art in western Europe. With regard to exact origins and dates opinions are largely divergent. In great part they are due to the carrying on of traditions and styles by which the makers of the sarcophagi were inspired, and the difficulties of ascription are increased when in addition to the primitive elements the influence of Byzantine systems introduced many new ideas derived from many extraneous sources. The questions involved are of no small archaeological, iconographical and artistic importance, but it must be admitted that we are reduced to conjecture in many cases, and compelled to theorize. And it would seem to be impossible to be more precise as to dates than within a margin of sometimes three centuries. Then, again, we are met by the, question how far these ivories are connected with Byzantine art; whether they were made in the West by immigrant Greeks, or indigenous works, or purely imported productions. Some German critics have endeavoured to construct a system of schools, and to form definite groups, assigning them to Rome, Ravenna, Milan and Monza. Not only so, but they claim to be precise in dating even to a certain decade of a century. But it is certainly more than doubtful whether there is sufficient evidence on which to found such assumptions. It is at least probable that a considerable number of the ivories whose dates are given by such a number of critics so wide a range as from . the 4th to the loth century are nothing more than the work of the monks of the numerous monasteries founded throughout the Carlovingian empire, copying and adapting from whatever From photo by W. A. ManseU & Co. came into their hands. Many of them were Greek immigrants exiled at the time of the iconoclastic persecutions. To these must be added the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon missionaries, who brought with them and disseminated their own national feeling and technique. We have to take into account also the relations which existed not only with Constantinople but also with the great governing provinces of Syria and Egypt. Where all our information is so vague, and in the face of so much conflicting opinion amongst authorities, it is not unreasonable to hold with regard to very many of these ivories that instead of assigning them to the age of Justinian or even the preceding century we ought rather to postpone their dating from one to perhaps three centuries later and to admit that we cannot be precise even within these limits. It would be impossible to follow here the whole of the arguments relating to this most important period of the development of ivory sculpture or to mention a tithe of the examples which illustrate it. Amongst the most striking the earliest is the very celebrated leaf of a diptych in the British Museum representing an archangel (fig. 6). It is generally admitted that we have no ivory of the 5th or 6th centuries or in fact of any early medieval period which can compare with it in excellence of design and workmanship. There is no record (it is believed) from whence the museum obtained the ivory. There are at least plausible grounds for surmising that it is identical with the " Angelus longus eburneus " of a book-cover among the books brought to England by St Augustine which is mentioned in a list of things belonging to Christchurch, Canterbury (see Dart, App. p. xviii.). The dating of the four Passion plaques, also in the British Museum, varies from the sth to the 7th century. But although most recent authorities accept the earlier date, the present writer holds strongly that they are not anterior to, at earliest, the 7th century. Even then they will remain, with the exception of the Monza oil flask and perhaps the St Sabina doors, the earliest known representation of the crucifixion. The ivory vase, with cover, in the British Museum, appears to possess de-fined elements of the farther East, due perhaps to the relations between Syria and Christian India or Ceylon. Other important early Christian ivories are the series of pyxes, the diptych in the treasury of St Ambrogio at Milan, the chair of Maximian at Ravenna (most important as a type piece), the panel with the " Ascension " in the Bavarian National Museum, the Brescia casket, the " Lorsch "bookcovers of the Vatican and Victoria and Albert Museum, the Bodleian and other bookcovers, the St Paul diptych in the Bargello at Florence and the " Annunciation " plaque in the Trivulzio collection. So far as unquestionably oriental specimens of Byzantine art are concerned they are few in number, but we have in the famous Harbaville triptych in the Louvre a super-excellent example. Gothic Ivories.—The most generally charming period of ivory sculpture is unquestionably that which, coincident with the Gothic revival in art, marked the beginning of a great and lasting change. The formalism imposed by Byzantine traditions gave place to a brighter, more delicate and tenderer conception. XV. 4This golden age of the ivory carver—at its best in the 13th century—was still in evidence during the 14th, and although there is the beginning of a transition in style in the 15th century, the period of neglect and decadence which set in about the beginning of the 16th hardly reached the acute stage until well on into the 17th. To review the various developments both of religious art which reigned almost alone until the 14th century, or of the secular side as exemplified in the delightful mirror cases and caskets carved with subjects from the romantic stories which were so popular, would be impossible here. Almost every great museum and famous private collection abounds in examples of the well-known diptychs and triptychs and little portable oratories of this period. Some, as in a famous panel in the British Museum, are marvels of minute workmanship, others of delicate openwork and tracery. Others, again, are remarkable for the wonderful way in which, in the compass of a few inches, whole histories and episodes of the scriptural narratives are expressed in the most vivid and telling manner. Charming above all are the statuettes of the Virgin and Child which French and Flemish art, especially, have handed down to us. Of these the Victoria and Albert Museum possesses a representative collec- tion. Another series of interest is that of the croziers or pastoral staves, the development of which the student of ivories will be careful to study in connexion with the earlier ones and the tau-headed staves. In addition there are shrines, reliquaries, bookcovers, liturgical combs, portable altars, pyxes, holy water buckets and sprinklers, flabella or liturgical fans, rosaries, memento mori, paxes, small figures and groups, and almost every conceivable adjunct of the sanctuary or for private devotion. It is to French or Flemish art that the greater number and the most beautiful must be referred. At the same time, to take one example only—the diptych and triptych of Bishop Grandison in the British Museum—we have evidence that English ivory carvers were capable of rare excellence of design and workman-ship. Nor can crucifixes be forgotten, though they are of extreme rarity before the 17th century. A most beautiful 13th-century figure for one—though only a fragment—is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Amongst secular objects of this period, besides the mirror cases (fig. 7) and caskets, there are hunting horns (the earlier ones probably oriental, or more or less faith-fully copied from oriental models), chess and draughtsmen (especially the curious set from the isle of Lewis), combs, marriage coffers (at one period remarkable Italian ones of bone), mernorandum tablets, seals, the pommels and cantles of saddles and a II P. • aitut 'eJ GiW1YW11YWl ,', wr 4iUWU1~,wU!Wl ! uwWY UUU 55 111101WIffilUMIUNIW From photo by W. A. Mansell & Co. unique harp now in the Louvre. The above enumeration will alone suffice to show that the inquirer must be referred for details to the numerous works which treat of medieval ivory sculpture. Ivory Sculpture from the 16th to the zgth Century.—Compared with the wealth of ivory carving of the two preceding centuries, the 15th, and especially the 16th, centuries are singularly poor in really fine work. But before we arrive at the period of real decadence we shall come across such things as the knife of Diana of Poitiers in the Louvre, the sceptre of Louis XIII., the Rothschild hunting horn, many Italian powder horns, the German Psyche in the Louvre, or the " Young Girl and Death " in the Munich Museum, in which there is undoubtedly originality and talent of the first order. The practice of ivory carving became extremely popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in the Netherlands and in Germany, and the amount of ivory consumed must have been very great. But, with rare exceptions, and these for the most part Flemish, it is art of an inferior kind, which seems to have been abandoned to second-rate sculptors and the artisans of the workshop. There is little originality, the rococo styles run riot, and we seem to be condemned to wade through an interminable series of gods and goddesses, bacchanalians and satyrs, pseudo-classical copies from the antique and imitations of the schools of Rubens. As a matter of fact few great museums, except the German ones, care to include in their collections examples of these periods. Some exceptions are made in the case of Flemish sculptors of such talent as Francois Duquesnoy (Fiammingo), Gerard van Obstal or Lucas Fayd'herbe. In a lesser degree, in Germany, Christoph Angermair, Leonhard Kern, Bernhard Strauss, Elhaf en, Kruger and Rauchmiller; and, in France, Jean Guillermin, David le Marchand and Jean Cavalier. Crucifixes were turned out in enormous numbers, some of not inconsiderable merit, but, for the most part, they represent anatomical exercises varying but slightly from a pattern of which a celebrated one atributed to Faistenberger may be taken as a type. Tankards abound, and some, notably the one in the Jones collection, than which perhaps no finer example exists, are also of a high standard. Duquesnoy's work is well illustrated by the charming series of six plaques in the Victoria and Albert Museum known as the " Fiammingo boys." Amongst the crowd of objects in ivory of all descriptions of the early 18th century, the many examples of the curious implements known as rappoirs, or tobacco graters, should be noticed. It may perhaps be necessary to add that although the character of art in ivory in these periods is not of the highest, the subject is not one entirely unworthy of attention and study, and there are a certain number of remarkable and even admirable examples. Ivory Sculpture of Spain, Portugal, India, China and Japan.—Generally speaking, with regard to Spain and Portugal, there is little reason to do otherwise than confine our attention to a certain class of important Moorish or Hispano-Moresque ivories of the time of the Arab occupation of the Peninsula, from the 8th to the 15th centuries. Some fine examples are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Of Portuguese work there is little except the hybrid productions of Goa and the Portuguese settlements in the East. Some mention must be made also of the remarkable examples of mixed Portuguese and savage art from Benin, now in the British Museum. Of Indian ivory carving the India Museum at Kensington supplies a very large and varied collection which has no equal elsewhere. But there is little older than the 17th century, nor can it be said that Indian art in ivory can occupy a very high place in the history of the art. What we know of Chinese carving in ivory is confined to those examples which are turned out for the European market, and can hardly be considered as appealing very strongly to cultivated tastes. A brief reference to the well-known delightful netsukes and the characteristic inlaid work must suffice here for the ivories of Japan (see JAPAN: Art). Ivory Sculpture in the 19th Century and of the Present Day.—Few people are aware of the extent to which modern ivory sculpture is practised by distinguished artists. Year by year, however,a certain amount is exhibited in the Royal Academy and in most foreign salons, but in England the works—necessarily not very numerous—are soon absorbed in private collections. On the European continent, on the contrary, in such galleries as the Belgian state collections or the Luxembourg, examples are frequently acquired and exhibited. In Belgium the acquisition of the Congo and the considerable import of ivory therefrom gave encouragement to a definite revival of the art. Important exhibitions have been held in Belgium, and a notable one in Paris in 1904. Though ivory carving is as expensive as marble sculpture, all sculptors delight in following it, and the material entails no special knowledge or training. Of 19th-century artists there were in France amongst the best known, besides numerous minor workers of Dieppe and St Claude, Augustin Moreau, Vautier, Soitoux, Belleteste, Meugniot, Pradier, Triqueti and Ger&me; and in the first decade of the loth century, besides such distinguished names in the first rank as Jean Dampt and Theodore Riviere, there were Vever, Gardet, Caron, Barrias, Allouard, Ferrary and many others. Nor must the decorative work of Rene Lalique be omitted. No less than forty Belgian sculptors exhibited work in ivory at the Brussels exhibition of 1887. The list included artists of such distinction as J. Dillens, Constantin Meunier, van der Stappen, Khnopff, P. Wolfers, Samuel and Paul de Vigne, and amongst contemporary Belgian sculptors are also van Beurden, G. Devreese, Vincotte, de Tombay and Lagae. In England the most notable work includes the " Lamia " of George Frampton, the " St Elizabeth " of Alfred Gilbert, the " Mors Janua Vitae " of Harry Bates, the " Launcelot " of W. Reynolds-Stephens and the use of ivory in the applied arts by Lynn Jenkins, A. G. Walker, Alexander Fisher and others. AuntoiuTIEs.—See generally A. Maskell, Ivories (1906), and the bibliography there given. On Early Christian and Early Byzantine ivories, the following works may be mentioned: Abbe Cabrol, Dictionnaire de l'archeologie chretienne (in progress) ; O. M. Dalton, Catalogue of Early Christian Antiquities in British Museum (1902) ; E. Dobbert, Zur Geschichte der Elfenbeinsculptur (1885); H. Graeven, Antike Schnitzereien (1903); R. Kanzlcr, Gli avori . Valicana (1903); Kondakov, L'Art byzantin; A. Maskell, Cantor Lectures, Soc. of Arts (1906) (lecture II., " Early Christian and Early Byzantine Ivories ") ; Strzygowski, Byzantinische Denkmaler (1891); V. Schulze, Archaologie der altchristlichen Kunst (1895); G. Stuhlfauth, Die altchristl. Elfenbeinplastik (1896). On the consular diptychs, see H. F. Clinton, Fasti Romani (1845–185o) ; A. Gori, Thesaurus veterum diptychorum (1759) ; C. Lenormant, Tresor de numismatique et de glyptique (1834–1846) ; F. Pulszky, Catalogue of the Fejervdry Ivories (1856). On the artistic interest generally, see also C. Alabaster, Catalogue of Chinese Objects in the South Kensington Museum; Sir R. Alcock, Art and Art Industries in Japan (1878) ; Barraud et Martin, Le Baton pastoral (1856); Bouchot, Les Reliures d'art a la Bibliotheque Nationale; Bretagne, Sur les Deigns liturgiques; H. Cole, Indian Art at Delhi (1904); R. Garrucci, Storia dell' arte Christiana (1881); A. Jacquemart, Histoire du mobilier (1876); J. Labarte, Histoire des arts industriels (1864); C. Lind, Uber den Krummstab (1863); Sir F. Madden, " Lewis Chessmen " (in Archaeologia, vol. xxiv. 1832) ; W. Maskell, Ivories, Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum (1872); A. Michel, Histoire de l'art; E. Molinier, Histoire generale des arts (1896); E. Oldfield, Catalogue of Fictile Ivories sold by the Arundel Society (1855) ; A. H. Pitt Rivers, Antique Works of Art from Benin (1900); A. C. Quatremere de Quincy, Le Jupiter Olympien (1815) ; Charles Scherer, Elfenbeinplastik seit der Renaissance (1903); E. du Sommerard, Les Arts au moyen age (1838–1846); G. Stephens, Runic Caskets (1866–1868) ; A. Venturi, Storia dell' arte Italiana (19or); Sir G. Watt, Indian Art at Delhi (1904); J. O. Westwood, Fictile Ivories in the South Kensington Museum (1876). Sir M. D. Wyatt, Notices of Scul pture in Ivory (1856). (A. ML.)
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