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Inventory no. 52444 - Epact entry

Epact number: 74145

Drawing Instruments

Early 16th century; Milan ?
Damascened steel; 205 x 71 x 43 mm (box)

Main text

This set of drawing instruments is covered with finely executed damascening in gold and silver, and must have been commissioned as a gift on a princely scale. Although unsigned, the quality of the decoration has suggested a Milanese origin.

The instruments include various forms of dividers, proportional dividers, pairs of compasses, folding rules and pencils, all with gilt inner surfaces. There is also an accompanying casket with ink wells and the set may originally have been completed with a damascened case to hold the instruments (the leather-covered case is probably 19th century).

Source museum: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Museum number: Inventory no. 52,444

Detailed text

This very fine set of drawing instruments is of steel extensively damascened with gold and silver, and with the inner surfaces of the instruments gilt. The set has a casket and 12 instruments.

The casket sits on four bun feet and all its visible surfaces are damascened, except for the outer face of the lid whose damascening has been obliterated and covered by a (now detached) green marble slab. Inside the casket are inkwells and a pounce-box.

The drawing instruments are: a pair of dividers; a pair of compasses with a small folded blade for ink; a pair of compasses for use with pencil or charcoal; a pencil or charcoal holder, with a sliding ring to secure the drawing material; two pairs of single-handed dividers; three proportional dividers (fixed at the ratios 1:2, 1:3 and 1:4, respectively); a folding rule with decorated units (French measure?) but no subdivisions or graduation; a pair of dividers whose legs have the same decorated divisions as the folding rule, along with some rough subdivision; and a long-stemmed grip, perhaps for holding vellum or paper.

The leather-covered case is probably 19th century. There may have originally been another case, matching the surviving casket, to hold the drawing instruments.

Provenance: Stowe Collection, Drake Collection, Arnold Collection, and Mr P. Webster, prior to purchase by Lewis Evans in 1920 (Lewis Evans Collection 2170). The set was exhibited at the Special Exhibition of Works of Art, South Kensington, June 1862 (catalogue no. 6593).

Stephen Johnston

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