Seventeenth Century Finishing Tools - France

Atelier du Maitre Doreur

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Small Spirals, md-11a, md-12a, md-13a are shown in red, md-11b, md-12b, md-13b are coloured blue (click to enlarge)

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Comparative Diagram 1 - Imprints from the binding of Alonso Chacon's Historia utriusque belli Dacici a Traiano Cesare gesti, Rome, 1616. vs Raphaël Esmerian's imprint models (Annexe A, Tableau III - LE MAITRE DOREUR vers 1622-1638)

In Comparative Diagram 1, I have assembled most of the important imprints found on the Chacon binding which Raphaël Esmerian has attributed to the Atelier du Maitre Doreur, with a date of execution sometime near 1623.
Esmerian does not illustrate all the tools, nor does he number or attempt to classify them. I have taken this work a few steps further by numbering the Esmerian imprint models, as well as including samples of most of the remaining tool imprints not included in Tableau III. These additional imprints have been given numbers that relate only to the order in which they were found and are not to be considered as definitions of types i.e. Type 19. I have made no attempt at typology however a certain ordering does indeed seem possible. The advantage of at least numbering the Esmerian models is that it allows us to refer to an exact imprint. On the previous pages we have examined only a few of the imprints found on the Chacon binding which may prove to be an early work. Here I would like to present the remainder before we move on to a 1630 binding on which we see the use of some additional tools

Small Spiral Tools (600dpi enlargements, white square = 1mm x 1mm).

small spirals 600dpismall spirals 600dpismall spirals 600dpi
Perhaps the most important tool imprints not illustrated by Esmerian are the smaller spiral forms, md-11a and b have been used extensively as filler in conjunction with md-12b and md-13b, These small spirals are found in areas not covered by the larger spirals, mainly in the tight compartment corners where a larger spiral would not fit. some attempt can be seen to link these imprints to give a more unified and harmonious coverage.

1623 detail

One can spend many hours searching through these imprints, even with the aid of magnification, before actually finding one good whole unencumbered specimen, the examples shown above are actually composites made from a selection of samples. I had collected quite a number of small spiral samples before realizing that they all have a tiny curl attached to their backs, while md-13b, also has an accompanying interior dot. I did not find many md-13a examples and finally opted for a composite image from a black and white photo, thus this is a approximate bead model only. These small spiral forms seem particularly important as they eventually find use as attachments that transform fleurons like md-2 and md-4 into insect like creatures. This tendency to transform fleurons by attaching smaller details appears to have created popular motifs which then were later redesigned as complete tools as per the Caumartin example in Comparative Diagram 2.

tool progression

Comparative Diagram 2 - Maitre Doreur imprint md-4 with added spirals md-13a and b circa. 1634 - Florimond Badier has added small spirals to his fb-2, 1655 - Atelier Caumartin imprint ac-7-3 circa. 1685.


Next we need to look at the small center tool md-15, a tool of this general form is found on most strapwork designed bindings. If we could get high resolution scans of all the various examples from different binders our comparative research would soar ahead. Each is quite different and they range from very crude fabrications to subtly elegant forms such as this Maitre Doreur example, finely detailed to resemble a small six petaled flower... even though barely 2 mm in diameter. Below is the central portion of a 1630 Maitre Doreur binding (Esmerian example No. 15), here we see the use of md-15 and md-16 as well as the introduction of another tool, very similar to md-16. The form of this imprint became very popular and it can be seen in some exotic variations.

detail from a 1630 binding

Detail from a 1630 Maitre Doreur binding (Esmerian example No. 15).

Comparative Diagram

Comparative Diagram 3 - Imprints following the pattern of md-16, note that although Badier's example closely imitates the Maitre Doreur model, the cuts that were made to segment the tool are different. The upper lobes of Badier's tool has been segmented by parallel cuts as opposed to all the other examples which are approximate radial cuts.

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