The Becket Casket and Champlevé enamelling

Dating from 1180, the Becket casket is one of the V&A's finest medieval treasures. This film looks at the meticulous Champlevé enamelling technique used to make it

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Video Transcript

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In this film, enameller Phil Barnes produces a specially commissioned plaque based on a detail from the 1180 Becket casket.One of the treasures of the Medieval & Renaissance collection, the Becket casket is a fine example of a 900 year-old craft, Champlevé enamelling. The enamelling industry thrived in the region around Cologne between 1100 and 1250, as specialist metalworkers found huge demand for beautifully embellished religious caskets and vessels. The word champlevé means literally 'raised fields’, referring to the creation of  beds painstakingly dug-out of copper plates, so that brightly coloured, decorative enamel could be embedded.


The V&A has some of the few remaining examples of world-class Champlevé enamel.  Many champlevé objects have been lost during centuries of religious war and revolution.