Hand Wrought Metal Hardware 1914
featuring the work of Samuel Yellin
Yellin Handmade Wrought Iron Hardware
Much of the Beauty and Feeling of the ancient handicraft of metal work is being revived in modern door furnishings and some delightfully artistic thumb latches, key escutcheons, bolts, door pulls, strap hinges, knockers and locks are being placed in recently built houses. As in the olden days it was to architects that metal work owed much of its beauty, so to-day it is in a great measure to the influence of this profession, we owe its re-introduction into the home.
Wrought Iron Door Knocker
Lovers of the craft are joyfully heralding its return and are looking forward to the time when hand wrought metal work will take its place once more among the fine arts and enjoy the deserved popularity it did in the Middle Ages, when buildings owed much of their strength and beauty to the hand wrought iron ornamenting them. The cathedrals of Amiens, Liege, Rheims, Evreux and Notre Dame in this respect represent the height which the art reached in the decoration of public buildings, while the royal palaces of England show the most beautiful illustrations of domestic interior fittings.
The history of metal work reads like a fascinating romance, allied as it is with the growth of the race, spiritually and artistically, and the progress of a nation can be read in its development of the handicraft of metal work. France contributed generously to this art and the French smiths were noted for their rare beauty of design and skilful treatment of this metal.
Elaborate Door Hardware
Germany, too, has many wonderful examples to show the world to-day of the supremacy it reached in this craft, though the Thirty Years' War, which ruined both art and commerce, stopped all progress for that time. In recent years there has been evidenced a great revival in the use of hand wrought metal work and the architectural profession as well as that of civil engineering had contributed largely to it.
Italy had produced some wonderful examples of iron work, though its supremacy in other metals which resulted in such rarely beautiful decorations as the silver altar of the Florence baptistry and the magnificent bronze baptistry gates of Ghiberti has detracted somewhat from the works done in the more humble material.
To Spain, of course, we look for the most charming examples of ornamental iron work in the shape of balcony rails, gates, fences and lanterns, while England has supplied us with the most notable examples of domestic fittings in the metal craft. Among them are the balustrade at Northumberland House, the candelabra at Windsor and Buckingham palaces and the gates of Sandringham. The latter were designed by Thomas Jeckyll, whose influence on English craftsmen is said to have been almost equal to that of Michael Angelo on his native contemporaries.
During Queen Victoria's reign the Prince Consort took a deep interest in the handicraft of metal work and he is credited with some very beautiful designs still to be seen in the royal palaces of Buckingham and Sandringham. Owen Jones and Digby Wyatt, the latter the author of a very valuable work on the subject, did much to keep alive the interest in metal work and the influence of Norman Shaw and Ernest George, both architects, who designed and superintended the making of every detail for their interiors, were responsible for keeping up the standard.
It may take time to bring about a general Renaissance of feeling for hand wrought hardware in this country, but there is a marked trend in this direction and a small band of hand workers and their sympathizers are working to that end.
About the most insignificant of hand made hardware done by the old-time craftsman there clung a beauty that not even the simplicity nor the crudity of design could take away. So now the public, wearied by the fad for "art metal work" that has been thrust upon it in recent years, is turning very willingly and joyfully toward the hand wrought specimens because they bear the loving touch of the artist-craftsman and so possess a beauty and sympathy that the machine made product can never afford.
Those who have had the opportunity of comparing the two will never again be satisfied with the latter, for the very beautiful mediaeval designs, hammered out by hand, with the marks of the tool still visible, together with the loving attention to detail must invariably appeal to even the least tutored heart.
At the recent exhibition of the Architectural League in New York, there was no contribution that attracted more attention from artist and layman alike, than that of Samuel Yellin, of Philadelphia, craft-worker in metal. Like the iron workers of old, he draws and shapes his metal by hand flattening and curving it under powerful heat, splitting it and reuniting it in fluorescent scrolls or beating the unyielding material, until he produces an article that bears all the artistic beauty peculiar to those of the early masters. This artist leans in his work toward the Gothic, with a strong feeling for German ideals, though he makes use of both French and Italian motifs as the case seems to require.
Particularly effective among the examples of metal work for door furnishings illustrated on pages 336 and 337, are some massive locks in which the trefoil of the conventionalized fleur-de-lis are applied to the surface. The French rosette acts as the plate for the attachment of a door pull of ornate design. In both locks, the keys show the Gothic feeling; the design in both being perforated through a solid piece of metal, in one instance the outer edge being circular and the other pentagonal.
Handmade Iron Hardware
Among the objects in this group are door pulls which may also be easily adapted for knockers. One of these is a shield of iron pierced into tracery and then decorated with rosettes and studded octagonal nail heads. A ring of twisted metal furnishes the manual attachment.
In lesser door furnishings, such as key escutcheons, bolts, push buttons, thumb latches, there is a set ornamented with a simple French pierced design in a Renaissance motif. Strap hinges and T hinges in a variety of designs are shown, some of which are quite as elaborate as those of the Fifteenth Century, when they spread over the entire door, In these the fine and fleur-de-lis are the themes.
Source: Gillespie, Harriet Sisson. "Hand Wrought Metal Door Furnishings," American Homes and Gardens Vol. 11 No. 10, (October 1914): 336, 337, 357.
The company founded by Yellin is still in business as Samuel Yellin Metalworkers Co. and controlled by the family.
BooksSamuel Yellin: Metalworker
The Golden Age of Ironwork
Wrought Iron in Architecture: An Illustrated Survey
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