Craft industry and trades

Gold & silver work : the royal workshops

Among productions open to various influences, oriental in particular, a style specific to the Norman period is clearly identifiable in the finery of the mantle of state of Roger II (1133-1134), preserved in Vienna as one of the treasures of the old Holy Roman Empire. This style is notably characterized by the large studs adorning the garment, where the clear influences of Islamic art and the decoration of vermiculated filigree work are the technical and stylistic features of a type of plate that may be described as Italo-Norman.

The rows of pearls embroidered on gold thread on Rogerís mantle are also to be found on another key work of the period: the crown found in the sarcophagus of Constance of Aragon, the wife of Frederick II, in Palermo cathedral. Its gilt silver vermiculated filigree skull-cap is adorned with woven strips, with rows of pearls and cabochons set in enamelled plates. Inspired by the crowns of the eastern emperors, its dating to the late 12th c. is uncertain.

The use of enamel as a characteristic feature of plate from the Norman period is also found in other pieces, the most important being the Holy Cross reliquary, the reliquary of St Laurence as it is called (Naples, Chapel of the Relics), the binding of the evangelistary of Archbishop Alfanus (Capua, cathedral treasure), and the Holy Cross reliquary at Cosenza (episcopal curia). These works foreshadow how the new "Norman" trends would be taken up within the old decorative traditions.

Lastly, the enamelled plate of the ciborium of the basilica at Bari, where St Nicholas crowned King Roger, bearing the insignia of power, shows the use of one form of artistic production as a medium for Norman "propaganda".

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