Plaque with two figures thumbnail 1
Plaque with two figures thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery

Plaque with two figures

Plaque
1160-1180 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This plaque shows the full-length figures of St Matthew, and of the prophet Isaiah. Both hold scrolls with texts from their biblical books. St Matthew's text - 'Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear [a son]' - is in itself a quote from Isaiah, and this would be have been a deliberate link between the two.

The original function of this plaque is not known, but it must have been part of a larger set decorating perhaps an altarpiece or shrine. Another very similar plaque showing Sts Simeon and Peter, survives in the Louvre in Paris. Like the V&A plaque, the Paris plaque shows two full-length figures with inscriptions, set within an angled frame with dragons and foliage - it is also of similar dimensions.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Copper-gilt, with champlevé enamel
Brief Description
Rectangular copper plaque, gilt and engraved, and decorated with champlevé enamel, depicting two prophets
Physical Description
Rectangular copper plaque, gilt and engraved, and decorated with champlevé enamel, with integral chamfered copper-gilt engraved frame.



Central panel:

In the central panel are two standing male figures, both bearded with haloes, facing towards each other. The left hand figure (St Matthew) holds a double-lined, gilded scroll in his right hand, reading downwards: 'ECCE VIRGO CONCIPIET ET PARI', and a green and yellow halo. His robe is green and yellow enamel, with a blue and white cloak. The right hand figure (Isaiah) holds a vertical scroll in both hands, reading: 'HIC ES ENIM DEUS NOSTER', and his halo is green and yellow, and blue and white. His robe is white and yellow enamel, with a green and yellow cloak. The faces, feet and hands of both figures are reserved in the copper-gilt.



The upper part of the background has vermiculated decoration, while the lower part has a diagonal hatching engraved pattern. Around the edge of the central panel is an enamelled border onto which the feet of the figures protrude: the upper and lower sides are reddish brown, while the left and right sides are green and yellow.



Frame:

The border frame on either side has engraved foliage decoration. The top edge has a stylised, upside-down dragon, with its head to the left, while the bottom edge has a similar beast (the right way up) with its head to the right. The background of the frame has been engraved with a cross-hatching pattern. There are eight holes around the edge, presumably originally intended for pinning the plaque against a wooden core.



Reverse:

The reverse is plain copper, with hammering marks visible. There is a V scratched towards the upper left, and the painted figures 4845.
Dimensions
  • Height: 13.1cm
  • Width: 10cm
  • Depth: 1cm
  • Weight: 0.24kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'ECCE VIRGO CONCIPIET ET PARI' (Matthew I:23, quoting from Isaiah VII:14)
  • 'HIC ES ENIM DEUS NOSTER'. (Isaiah XXV:9)
Object history
Bought from Dr W L Hildburgh FSA in 1938.
Historical context
Another plaque showing Sts Simeon and Peter, survives in the Louvre in Paris (OA7810). Like the V&A plaque, the Paris plaque shows two full-length figures with insriptions, set within a chamferred frame with dragons and foliage - it is also of similar dimensions. Its background is totally vermiculated (as opposed to the cross-hatched lower part of the V&A plaque). The original function of the plaques is unknown, but they must have been part of a larger set.
Production
The vermiculated background of the upper part of this plaque places it in the decades between the 1160s and the 1180s. The enamelled clothing of the figures, and the form of the vermiculation is similar to those on the Chasse of St Martial, dated approx. 1165-75 (Musée du Louvre, OA 8101, illus. in Enamels of Limoges 1100-1350, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995, cat. 17 (illus. p.111)).

Gauthier 1987 sees this and the Paris plaque as being distinct from mainstream Limoges production.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This plaque shows the full-length figures of St Matthew, and of the prophet Isaiah. Both hold scrolls with texts from their biblical books. St Matthew's text - 'Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear [a son]' - is in itself a quote from Isaiah, and this would be have been a deliberate link between the two.



The original function of this plaque is not known, but it must have been part of a larger set decorating perhaps an altarpiece or shrine. Another very similar plaque showing Sts Simeon and Peter, survives in the Louvre in Paris. Like the V&A plaque, the Paris plaque shows two full-length figures with inscriptions, set within an angled frame with dragons and foliage - it is also of similar dimensions.
Bibliographic References
  • Enamels of Limoges 1100-1350, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995, cat. 17 (illus. p.111)
  • M-M Gauthier, Catalogue International de L'Oeuvre de Limoges, vol. I, Paris, 1987, cat. 123, pl. XCII, fig. 354
Collection
Accession Number
M.207-1938

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record createdFebruary 6, 2006
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