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Plaque

  • Place of origin:

    Limoges (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1530 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Polychrome painted enamels on copper, with translucent enamels and gilt highlights on a large silver-foil ground

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.2385-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case 10

This panel with a scene from the Passion may have been one of a series showing the significant events of the arrest, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It may have formed part of an altarpiece in a private chapel or been an "image de chevet" above the owner's bed. Many Limoges enamels with devotional subjects were exported to Spain. The plaque shows Christ bearing the cross on which He was shortly to be crucified, led by two tormentors. His mother Mary follows on behind, accompanied by St. Mary Magdalene and St. John. In the background is the green hill of Golgotha, with the gates of Jerusalem on the left. The design source for this scene is probably an amalgam of elements, at least some of which stem from prints by German Masters Schongauer and Israhel von Meckenem.
Limoges, central France, was famous for the production of champleve enamels from the late 12th century until the town was destroyed by the Black Prince in 1370. The enamel industry began to revive about a century later but the technique of painted enamels produced from 1460s/70s was quite different from the earlier medieval work. The copper, probably from Spanish mines, was first of all hammered to thin sheets which were then worked on by the skillful enamellers. It was a long and careful process, with several firings to achieve the finished result.

Physical description

Rectangular plaque painted in opaque and translucent polychrome enamels with gilt highlights, on a silver-foil ground (large 'paillon') on copper. The counter-enamel consists of a transparent flux. Jesus Christ, bearing the cross on which He was shortly to be crucified, is shown walking towards the right, led by two tormentors. The one in the foreground leads Christ by a cord tied around His waist, while the one behind the cross holds a club in his left hand while he pulls at Christ's hair with his right. Jesus turns his head back from the direction in which he is going towards his mother Mary who follows on behind, accompanied by St. Mary Magdalene and St. John, who, with one hand on Mary's sleeve, looks at Jesus over Mary's head. In the background is the green hill of Golgotha, with the gates of Jerusalem on the left. In the foreground, small plants grow from the earth. There is black hatching in some areas which imitates the method of shading on the engraving(s) from which the scene is copied.
The design source for this scene is probably an amalgam of elements, at least some of which stem from prints by Schongauer (in particular the tormentor leading Christ by the cord) and Israhel von Meckenem (pulling of hair). The figure of Christ is in the same pose as that on a Road to Calvary scene forming the left wing of a triptych in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (inv. no. F 275). Both may stem from a print or illuminated manuscript source, or the enameller of this plaque may have seen the Hermitage triptych which is by the so-called Master of the Orleans Triptych.

Place of Origin

Limoges (made)

Date

ca. 1530 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Polychrome painted enamels on copper, with translucent enamels and gilt highlights on a large silver-foil ground

Dimensions

Height: 15 cm, Width: 12.5 cm

Object history note

The plaque comes from the collection of George Salting, bequeathed to the Museum in 1909. The enamel was was part of the large bequest of 1910 which George Salting left to the V&A. Born in Australia in 1836 where his father was a wealthy sugar producer, he was a prolific but very careful collector, driving a hard bargain over prices. He lent objects to the South Kensington Museum, as the V&A was then called, from 1874, when his collection had outgrown his residence in St James’ Street. Salting died in 1909 and the majority of his collection came to the Museum in 1910 to be displayed in its own galleries in the Museum.

Historical significance: New Testament scenes predominated in the early polychrome repertoire of the Limoges enamellers. This plaque is one of the enamels loosely in the style of the workshop of Jean I Penicaud which the author Marquet de Vasselot in 'Les Emaux Limousins' (published 1921) named 'Groupe de la Passion de Londres'. He acknowledged that the enamels in this group were not necessarily by the same hand as one another, and that they are rather different from and less accomplished than the works of Jean I Penicaud. However, he linked them as they are all depict subjects concerning the Passion of Christ, and half the group (of eight plaques) are in museums in London!
Limoges, central France, was famous for the production of champleve enamels from the late 12th century until the town was destroyed by the Black Prince in 1370. The enamel industry began to revive about a century later but the technique of painted enamels produced from 1460s/70s was quite different from the earlier medieval work. The copper, probably from Spanish mines, was first of all hammered to thin sheets which were then worked on by the skillful enamellers. It was a long and careful process, with several firings to achieve the finished result.

Historical context note

This panel with a scene from the Passion may have been one of a series showing the significant events of the arrest, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It may have formed part of an altarpiece in a private chapel or been an "image de chevet" above the owner's bed. Many Limoges enamels with devotional subjects were exported to Spain.

Descriptive line

Copper plaque painted with polychrome painted enamels, with translucent enamels and gilt highlights on a large silver-foil ground, depicting the Road to Calvary, France, Limoges, ca.1530

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Marquet de Vasselot, Les Emaux Limousins

Categories

Enamels

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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