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A type of small decorative relief in metal (usually bronze or lead, sometimes silver) made in multiple copies. Plaquettes originated in Italy in the 1440s, flourished there for about a century, and were popular in France, Germany, and the Netherlands into the 17th century. They were almost always cast by the cire-perdue process and new editions could be made from the wax image of an existing plaquette; if this wax were altered a new ‘state’ would result. A very few were struck like coins. After casting, the best plaquettes were usually chiselled and chased, and finished with a patina or gilding. They were used to decorate such objects as sword-hilts, inkwells, or caskets; small ones served as buttons. Because they were easily transportable they helped to disseminate the taste of the Renaissance—like the engravings of which they are the three-dimensional counterpart. Flötner's plaquettes, for example, helped to make his designs common property among German artists. Donatello is the greatest name connected with the art (there are several plaquettes attributed to him or his workshop), but most examples are of unknown authorship.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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