This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
This charming work by Mr. Alexander Fisher may fairly be considered not only the best thing of the kind that he has done, but perhaps the best piece of original jewellery that has been publicly exhibited in England since the movement in the genre was started. The belt was shown in parts at the Royal Academy, and when completed, at the New Gallery. It owes its name to the fact that it is composed of links on which are enamelled representations of scenes from the whole of Wagner's operas, there being one illustration to each piece. The links between are in chiselled steel and are set with precious stones. The Wagner Belt was the first belt of its kind, and set a fashion in jewellery which has since had a great vogue. Next month we shall show an example of another kind of artistic-metal work by Mr. Fisher, which will be found hardly less worthy of his reputation as a master designer and" master craftsman.
Clasp of the Wagner Belt (full size) shown on the opposite page. By Alexander Fisher.
Stiffs And Tissues are not to be classified by their designs alone, and he who attempts to do so will find himself constantly in error. It is known, for instance, that the stuffs of the Italian Renaissance were copied extensively in France under Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. The magnificent tissues manufactured for the use of the Catholic Church are generally of old design, even at the present clay. It is necessary, therefore, to have some knowledge of the technique of weaving, dying, and spinning to he able to tell at a glance the products of the spinning-jenny and the Jacquard loom from those of more primitive machinery, and to know what reagents to apply to determine the chemical composition of a dye. It does not fall within the province of this magazine to teach chemistry or give diagrams of machinery; but luckily this knowledge is easily acquired elsewhere; and armed with it the collector is proof against attempts to palm off on him modern reproductions for old stuffs. Besides which, the latter have a certain aspect easily recognised but difficult to imitate, so that on the whole there are perhaps fewer frauds committed in this department of art than in any other.
The lampas, brocatelles, satins, brocades, and damasks of our days are not made to last long. Though copied on the old styles, vet the styles succeed one another too quickly in the fashions for it to be worth while to manufacture durable goods. It is the same with velvets, cut 01 uncut, stamped or raised, flowered, reticulated, diapered, or branched - all can readily be distinguished from the old models. These stulls cannot be "aged" by any known process. Acids discolour them frightfully; the sun completely bleaches away some of their aniline dyes and hardly affects the others, producing an inharmonious look quite the opposite of that of a piece of a softly tinted old textile.
Belt in Steel and Enamels: Subjects from Wagner's Operas. By Alexander Fisher.
A valuable test by which to distinguish ancient tissues from modern consists simply in noticing the repetitions of the design. At the point or along the line where a repetition begins, in work done on the hand loom, there is always a good deal of irregularity. It is this irregularity that gives life to the old stuffs. It can be reproduced from place to place on the Jacquard loom, but of course at a heavy cost. Still, there always recurs in a length of stuff a place where the design is repeated line for line, thread for thread, with absolute correctness. Such repetitions never occur in old work. They are the distinctive sign of modern work.