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).

Mourning Fashion in White

The affectation of white in mourning is ubiquitous, and appears throughout the world in funerary and mourning customs. White, the…

Rings 29.07.2015
Micromosaic mourning ring, c.1800, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cameo & Micromosaic Influences in Mourning Jewels

Culturally, the values of Europe differ across small geographic regions. Values in religion, politics, and language all have an impact on the styles of…

Textiles 16.11.2014
Object Type  Painted panels depicting family members with the symbols of birth, death and marriage were a common way of commemorating significant rites of passage. They acted as reminders to the living of their own mortality and were often handed down through later generations as heirlooms. The folding panels in this example emphasise the intimate nature of the object.  Subjects Depicted  The panels include several references to the passing of time and the fragility of life, as well as the events of marriage and death. On the left exterior panel are figures representing youth and age. On the right are two inscriptions, each incorporating a visual pun or 'rebus', in which a picture or figure represents a name, word or phrase. Here Christ is represented by a painted figure and the clock dial completes the inscription 'We Must' by representing the words 'Die All'.  Dress  Henry and Dorothy Holme are dressed in the style of the well-to-do merchant class rather than the height of fashion. While their garments are quite plain they could clearly afford the luxury of lace accessories. Henry's ruff and cuffs are trimmed with fine imported needle lace. His wife's are trimmed with bobbin lace of a typically English pattern. Broad-brimmed beaver hats, such as Dorothy wears, were popular with country gentlewomen and women of the merchant class.  Costume provides a clue to the sex of the children in this portrait. Boys up to the age of about 7 were dressed like little girls, wearing skirts known as petticoats. To differentiate them from girls the bodice part of their costume took the form of a man's doublet. Little girls typically wore an embroidered cap, or 'coif', and an apron with a bib. Long narrow strips of fabric known as leading strings are attached to both the children's sleeves. These were used to guide children as they learned to walk.

A Mourning Tour: Children in Mourning

A child in mourning is the ultimate symbol of family grief. The child is what carries forward a memory and…

Textiles 08.09.2014
Object Type  Painted panels depicting family members with the symbols of birth, death and marriage were a common way of commemorating significant rites of passage. They acted as reminders to the living of their own mortality and were often handed down through later generations as heirlooms. The folding panels in this example emphasise the intimate nature of the object.  Subjects Depicted  The panels include several references to the passing of time and the fragility of life, as well as the events of marriage and death. On the left exterior panel are figures representing youth and age. On the right are two inscriptions, each incorporating a visual pun or 'rebus', in which a picture or figure represents a name, word or phrase. Here Christ is represented by a painted figure and the clock dial completes the inscription 'We Must' by representing the words 'Die All'.  Dress  Henry and Dorothy Holme are dressed in the style of the well-to-do merchant class rather than the height of fashion. While their garments are quite plain they could clearly afford the luxury of lace accessories. Henry's ruff and cuffs are trimmed with fine imported needle lace. His wife's are trimmed with bobbin lace of a typically English pattern. Broad-brimmed beaver hats, such as Dorothy wears, were popular with country gentlewomen and women of the merchant class.  Costume provides a clue to the sex of the children in this portrait. Boys up to the age of about 7 were dressed like little girls, wearing skirts known as petticoats. To differentiate them from girls the bodice part of their costume took the form of a man's doublet. Little girls typically wore an embroidered cap, or 'coif', and an apron with a bib. Long narrow strips of fabric known as leading strings are attached to both the children's sleeves. These were used to guide children as they learned to walk.

Children in Mourning

A child in mourning is the ultimate symbol of family grief. The child is what carries forward a memory and…

Rings 27.03.2014
Green Enamel Mourning Ring 1803

1803 Green Enamel Mourning Ring: Part 2

In the first part of this article, the elements that created a green enamel mourning ring have been discovered. The…

Rings 24.04.2012
There is But a Step Between Me and Death

There is But a Step Between Me and Death in This 1789 Ring

Here is a ring that is in particularly unique. This ring shows all the markings of being something that defies…