James Tassie

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James Tassie (1735–1799) was a Scottish gem engraver and modeller.He was born of humble parentage at Pollokshaws, in Glasgow. During his earlier years he worked as a stonemason, but, having seen the collection of paintings brought together in Glasgow by Robert Foulis and Andrew Foulis, the printers, he removed to Glasgow, attended the academy which had been established there by the brothers Foulis, and became one of the most distinguished pupils of the school.

Subsequently he visited Dublin in search of commissions, and there became acquainted with Dr Quin, who had been experimenting, as an amateur, in imitating antique engraved gems in coloured pastes. He engaged Tassie as an assistant, and together they perfected the discovery of an enamel, admirably adapted by its hardness and beauty of texture for the formation of gems and medallions. Dr Quin encouraged his assistant to try his fortune in London, and thither he repaired in 1766. At first he had a hard struggle to make his way. But he worked on steadily with the greatest care and accuracy, scrupulously destroying all impressions of his gems which were in the slightest degree inferior or defective.

Gradually the beauty and artistic character of his productions came to be known. He received a commission from the empress of Russia for a collection of about 15,000 examples; all the richest cabinets in Europe were thrown open to him for purposes of study and reproduction; and his copies were frequently sold by fraudulent...
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