Copper artisans in Barcelona city (14th-16th centuries): approached through written sources

Lluïsa Amenós

ABSTRACT

In late medieval times, Barcelona was an important centre for the manufacture and sale of metal goods. The industry involving copper was made up of distinct artisans organised into guilds which manufactured a wide variety of products. This study focuses on the work of coppersmiths who specialised in making metal parts for domestic objects, clothing accessories, furniture, kitchen and table utensils, and belts and straps.

Thanks to the numerous manuscripts and iconographic sources preserved in the archives and museums of Barcelona and the preservation of medieval technical manuals, some of which were written by Hispanic authors, it is now possible to reconstruct in detail the work of coppersmiths in Barcelona at that time. The methodology used for this study will be the same employed for an earlier study of blacksmiths.The diversity of preserved documentary sources allows us to recreate the praxis of the profession: workplace, tools, techniques, employment regulations, and guilds. Additionally, there is written proof of the professional activity of European artisans residing in Barcelona and collaborations between European and Barcelona coppersmiths. The documentary sources also provide information about intense commercial trading activity between Barcelona and several European and Mediterranean cities. Finally, the preserved inventories of assets supply specific data regarding the large assortment of metal objects for domestic use and, sometimes, even their origin—Flanders, France, Italy and Germany in Central Europe, and Egypt, Alexandria and Damascus in the Middle East.

The metal collections exhibited in our museums confirm these origins. We can find Arabic candlesticks, Flemish lamps, and a great number of bowls with Flemish and Germanic inscriptions which, according to the tradition of historiography, are related to Dinant and the Meuse region.

 

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