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Platter: Esther and Ahasuerus

© Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Baratte Sophie

The name of the enameler is written in full in a white cartouche, on the bottom of this polychrome dish. The color scheme on both sides of the dish is quite subdued, despite the use of translucent colored enamels placed on silver strips and the figures of putti decorating the rim.

The enameler

Jean Limosin is mentioned in the archives of the Limoges factory in 1628 and 1635, and at the time of his death in 1646. Whether he dated his works himself remains uncertain. The color scheme and type of decorative motifs are characteristic of Limoges ware from the first half of the seventeenth century, when numerous polychrome oval plates were produced.

A Biblical subject

In a spacious hall, a woman kneels before a king seated on a throne. The Jewess Esther is pleading with her husband, Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to spare the Jews from persecution by his vizier, Haman. The King grants her request and appoints her uncle, Mordecai, to a position of authority. The latter is seen through the doors opening off the hall, in the background: first on the threshold of the palace, then clad in sumptuous garments on a horse led by his enemy the vizier Haman. On the right, the insomniac Ahasuerus listens to a reading of the story of his reign, and recalls how Mordecai saved his life. The scene is based on an engraving by Gérard de Jode, published in 1585.

The reverse decoration

The reverse of the plate features a lavish decoration of gold motifs on a black ground, with a four-looped garland of leaves and four clusters of three gold balls on the rim. Two female terms clad in blue, green and violet are depicted on a ground scattered with tiny gold plant motifs. The cartouche pattern, also worked in blue and violet, encloses an oval containing a nude male bust sporting a beard and a headdress of foliage. The same decorative scheme is often seen in grisaille on sixteenth-century plates; the use of muted colors here produces an entirely different effect.
The decorative motif of the pea pod has recently been studied. It first appeared in 1610-20, introduced by engravers at the Galerie du Louvre, whose prints were an important source of decorative models for jewelers and goldsmiths. The inclusion of the pea-pod motif can help to establish more accurate dates for works often cited by nineteenth and twentieth-century experts has having been produced in the second half of the sixteenth century.

Technical description

  • Jean LIMOSIN

    Platter: Esther and Ahasuerus

    First half of 17th century

    Limoges

  • Painted enamel on copper

    H. 39.90 cm; W. 48.90 cm

  • Former Brunswick collection; confiscated in 1806 , 1806

    N 1389

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Bernard Palissy
    Room 521
    Display case 2

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