MUSEUM SPECIMENS.

After a long closure the museums of the Continent and those of this country have been reopened and the public are free once more to admire the beauty of the grand pieces of medioeval plate among which are many fine masterpieces. The great works of artists who flourished centuries ago and forged and wrought their plate and other art treasures are scattered far and wide, a very small proportion are to be found in their first homes. After much rivalry for possession, these pieces have found their resting places in national museums and not a few have crossed the Atlantic and are now in American museums and in the private collections of wealthy American collectors of ancient art. Paris is very rich in silversmiths' work, and the collections are much admired by those who have learned to appreciate the art of early days. In the Cluny Museum there is the gold altar front given by Henry II of France to the cathedral of Basle ; its conventional statuesque figures and scroll ornament being typical of perfected eleventh century work. In the Victoria and Albert Museum, there are many splendid replicas of famous silver pieces, the originals of which are in many instances on the Continent and in royal collections. Replicas are not always appreciated as they should be ; it must be remembered, however, that many of the most attractive pieces were never duplicated, and early artists worked long years upon their masterpieces. It is only by the reproduction of these works by modern methods of manufacture that they can be seen by the art loving public in many countries. Such exhibitions are of great value for comparative purposes and their educational value is incalculable to mechanic, master designer and collector. They instruct the public in the peculiar features of the fine old plate of the Middle Ages which must indeed have added to the grandeur of the great feast days. Even the wooden bowls and cups used in early mediaeval days had a charm all their own, but they were gradually enriched and mounted by the silversmiths. Authentic pieces (not reproductions) are few indeed, although as mentioned in another chapter the old guilds and some few civic authorities have still in their possession good examples of silver work supplementing the wood turner's craft. The mazer bowl shown in Figure 8, which is in the Victoria and Albert ( Museum, is of maple wood mounted in silver-gilt, the boss being engraved with the figures of the Virgin and Child, enthroned. This grand old piece of fifteenth century workmanship is sometimes called the " Cromwell " bowl or mazer, having at one time been in the possession of the Lambert family who were directly descended from Oliver Cromwell.