The unique, 16th century, Moresque blackwork “schweifwerk” of the German goldsmith, silversmith and engraver, Esaias van Hulsen.

Information is sketchy on the German goldsmith, silversmith and engraver, Esaias von Hulsen (1520-1625) who created and published designs in blackwork at the beginning of the 17th century. He was born in Middleburg, a Dutch city located on Walcheren Island and he died in Stuttgart, Germany at 55 years old.

The blackwork technique and style was derived from embroidery patterns in black thread on a white ground. These patterns when incorporated in artwork, provided 15th century art lovers with a popular alternative to coloured patterns. It was used by many goldsmiths in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands to produce printed designs for and related to goldsmithery. Von Hulsen however, added something else to his blackwork, something that makes his blackwork distinctively different. He drew his blackwork in “Moresque” style, meaning he chanelled Islamic design for his ornaments and decorative motifs. He was influenced by Moorish art and architecture. 

These blackworks of his aren’t really about what’s in them; the peacocks, the dogs, the birds in the air, the horses, the dragons, cockerels, lizards or the goats. What they are all about is showcasing his style in a fusion of 16th-century scrollwork & strapwork with arabesque motifs to create an ornamental hybrid known as a Schweifwerk.

Thus, the unique Moresque blackwork Schweifwerk of Mr. Esaias van Hulsen.

Schweifwerk with animals. Esaias van Hulsen. 1617.
Trophies of arms among herons. Esaias van Hulsen. c.1616 – 1617.
Schweifwerk with a jug in the middle. Esaias van Hulsen. 1617
Leaves with Flowers and Birds. Esaias van Hulsen. 1616.
Black ornament consisting of two planes. Esaias van Hulsen. 1609.
Schweifwerk with birds and vase with flowers in the middle. Esaias van Hulsen. 1617
Horizontal oval with Schweifwerk. Esaias van Hulsen. 1606.
Apollo sits with his lyre against a bare tree. Esaias van Hulsen. 1617.
Birds. Esaias van Hulsen. 1617.
Ornament Print with Schweifwerk and Two Figures. Esaias van Hulsen. ca. 1615–20

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