Jun 15, 2010

Rapid Rhetoric: REPOUSSÉ

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word or phrase I came across that I have never previously used.

repoussé (reh-poo-SAY) n. a metalworking technique whereby a malleable metal is embossed, shaped, or ornamented by punching or hammering from the reverse side.

Derived most recently from the French language, the word repoussé means "pushed up," and earlier the word has origins from Latin verb pulsare, which means "to push." These days Gold and silver are most commonly used for repoussé efforts, while copper, tin, and bronze have been used in the more distant past.

I came across the term repoussé while thumbing through a copy of Gardner's Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective. In the book I noticed a famous example of classical repoussé techinques that might be familiar to readers:

Left: Mask of Agamemnon

Depicted in the image is a Mycenaean funerary mask that dates back to approxiamtely 1600 CE. The so-called Mask of Agamemnon is an artifact discovered at Mycenae by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1876.

While Schliemann's skills as an archaeologist left much to be desired, he certainly knew quality when he laid his eyes upon it, and the Mask of Agamemnon is among the world's finest treasures, repoussé or otherwise.

1 comment:

microdot said...

I had a design teacher at Cass Tech in Detroit in the 60's who taught us the basics of this technique. I did a pretty banal piece of wild ducks in sheet copper, based on a photo.
Interestingly enough, we see a lot of "trench art" here in France. Art that was done by soldiers during the first world war and one of the most common media is repousse designs tapped into brass artillery shells.
Some are quite striking. Real art nouveau compositions which alter the shape of the shell as well as it's original intent.
I just picked up some trench art candle sticks made of the base of shells, metal shrapnel and bayonets. The bayonets had been artfully coiled....
Unless you really checked out the objects, you would never know what you were looking at.