Two Byzantine craftsmen in fifteenth-century London

  • Harris J
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Abstract

It is generally thought, largely on the basis of a letter of Cardinal Bessarion, that, by the 1440s, the Byzantine Empire had been completely overtaken by the West in all spheres of technical expertise. This idea is challenged the evidence of some documents the Public Record Office in London which show that, between at least 1441 and 1483, two gold wire drawers from Constantinople, named Andronicus and Alexius Effomatos, lived and worked in the English capital. It is argued that these craftsmen were welcomed because they specialised in making gold thread of a type which had long been manufactured in Byzantium but was superior in strength and economy to that produced in England. Indeed, since the earliest evidence for native English production of this type of gold thread dates from the period of their residence in London, there is at least the possibility that they actually introduced their craft into England, reversing the relative balance of technology as it is usually portrayed. © 1995.

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  • Jonathan Harris

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