Date Made/Found: around 1790
Material and Medium: engraving on paper
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2004.1284
This engraving depicts a French cutler's workshop and showroom. It dates from around 1760-1790. The image was originally a bookplate. At the top of the page are the captions 'Plate XLIX' and 'Facing Cutler'. At the bottom of the page is the name 'J. Lodge Sculp.', the artist who had engraved the image.
This image is very similar to those in a series of fourteen books edited by Denis Diderot and Jean d'Alembert, 'Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers' (Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Professions). These were published between 1751 and 1765. This bookplate appears to be based on an image from this publication, though slight changes have been made. The main difference is that the grinder in this image is sitting upright. In the original illustration the cutler is pictured lying face down over the grinding wheel, as was the French custom.
The series of books by Diderot and d'Alembert depicted the tools and instruments used in a diverse range of different trades in France during the mid 1700s. This included the processes and tools involved in, for example, the manufacture of cutlery and pewter. A number of medical procedures such as bloodletting and eye surgery were also illustrated.
The image illustrates a number of different processes being carried out by six cutlers within the workshop. In the far left of the image stands a forge. Above this are a large pair of bellows, which can be activated by pulling the chain attached to the uppermost handle. A man is turning a wheel by hand, which is powering the grinder's wheel.
At the back of the workshop, two men appear to be polishing a large blade, which has yet to be hafted. One of the workers is holding the blade by the tang (the rod of iron onto which the handle or haft would be later attached) and pressing it against a polishing disc (known in Sheffield as a dolly). A young boy is wrapping the finished product to be stored in a glass fronted cabinet.
The lower part of the image illustrates a number of tools used by the cutler. This includes a hand drill, pliers, a clamp, a saw, hammers, a file, a large vice and an anvil.
This image provides an idealised image of a cutler's workshop, rather than giving a realistic impression of working conditions. It is highly unlikely that all these processes would have taken place in such a confined space. The noisy, dirty conditions in a cutler's workshop were certainly very different to the pristine interior depicted on this bookplate.
This work forms part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.Display Location: