The Masterpiece lock marked the high point of the Renaissance locksmith's art and the end of his apprenticeship. The pride invested in these showpieces, which demonstrated the locksmith's skill and qualification as a master, is evidenced from the mid-16th century by the inclusion of signatures, such as that inscribed on the present lock. Locks made between the end of the medieval period and the 19th century are characterised by increasingly rich and intricate decoration, including the use of classicising motifs such as grotesques and caryatids, as seen on several examples in this sale. The drive to adorn locks with such decorative schemes, which were taken from contemporary pattern books, bears testament to the desire of locksmith's to display their virtuosity, and it confirms the growing association between locks and keys and the notion of preciousness. Despite the elaborate ornamentation of many of the locks from this period, lock mechanisms remained relatively uncomplicated. Instead, locksmiths often attempted to hide the keyhole so as to deter would-be lock pickers. This resulted in the creation of locks with secret buttons and levers, such as the padlocks included in this sale, which, whilst being charming and playful, are also surprisingly effective.
See sothebys.com for complete measurements and related literature for the other lots from the collection.
M. Campbell, Decorative Ironwork, London, 1997, fig. 171, p. 104-5; V. Eras, Sloten en sleutels door de eeuwen heen, Amsterdam, 1941, p.69
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