Collecting 13.01.2016
This painted enamel portrait miniature in a gilt metal frame bears a bust portrait of a lady of the French court. She has green eyes and light brown hair and wears white mourning dress. Opinion differs as to her precise identity. The decorative border of interlinked knotted blue S-scrolls surrounding her may give a clue as to who she might be, as may the choice of subject depicted on the back of the medallion. The back is delicately painted in gold with the subject of Moses receiving the tablets of the law from the Old Testament book of Exodus. Sixteenth-century portrait miniatures had their origins in the art of manuscript illumination and were usually painted in watercolour on vellum. The earliest extant painted enamel medallion is probably Netherlandish and can be dated to about 1425. This miniature was however made in Limoges, central France, a town already famed for its earlier champlevé enamel production. Painted enamels, made in Limoges from 1460s, reached an artistic and technical high-point during the sixteenth century. The work was highly-skilled and time-consuming which means that a well-executed portrait medallion such as this was an expensive luxury item made to commission. Though unsigned, the miniature is now considered to have been painted by the skilled Limoges artist Leonard Limosin (c.1505 to c.1575/77) in about 1530-40, at the start of his long career. Limosin is thought to have trained in the Penicaud workshop, and the medallion has previously been attributed to Jean II Penicaud, a known exponent of detailed gold painting. In about 1534, Limosin was invited to the court of Francois I and subsequently divided his time between the court at Fontainebleau and his workshop in Limoges. He later also served Henri II, Francois II and Charles IX. Before 1842, this enamel was owned by the well-known collector, Horace Walpole who claimed that it had once belonged to the mother of King George I, Princess Sophia Maria, Duchess of Hanover (d.1714).

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