Work The Sorrowful Virgin
Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century
Plaque: Stabat Mater
© 2010 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
This large oval medallion has a pendant, Ecce Homo, at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. A devotional object in the late medieval tradition, it has a border treated in the Renaissance spirit. This masterpiece was the work of the greatest Limoges enamel painter, an anonymous artist named after a triptych at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
A tearful Virgin
On her head the Virgin wears a white veil, part of which falls across the black bodice decorated with tiny drops of translucent enamel on silver foil. She clasps her hands in an attitude of prayer; her face is worn, and her eyes are reddened by tears, some clearly visible. The whole figure is surrounded by an aureole of golden rays, shining forth against the blue background. The image has a double border, outlined in white, the first bearing traces in gold of a prayer to the Virgin, the second adorned with putti bearing cornucopias filled with fruit and foliage. On the reverse, the counterenamel is dark blue.
Early painted enamel
With the exception of Nardon Penicaud, the names of those responsible for the earliest works of painted enamel at Limoges at the end of the fifteenth century are unknown. A triptych in London shows the close relations which existed between the artist of the present work and the royal court, which spent much of its time on the Loire. The artist possessed a perfect mastery of the technique of painted enameling, which he employed in works which show his ties with court painters such as Jean Bourdichon, artist of the Hours of Anne of Brittany. The historical figures depicted on the wings of the triptych make it possible to date his work to the period around 1500.
This medallion was unknown until it appeared at an exhibition in New York in 1927, although its pendant, the Ecce Homo, had figured in a Paris sale in 1903. Their earlier history is unknown.
The enamels have a dark outline and are painted on a white gound, giving the colors a certain luminosity. Some of the colors, like the blue, are showing signs of deterioration, due to their high potassium content.
Master of the Triptych of Louis XII
Plaque: Stabat Mater
Painted enamel on copper
H. 30 cm; W. 21 cm
Acquired in 1989 , 1989
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