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Roundel

Roundel

  • Place of origin:

    Limoges (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500-1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Master of the Louis XII Triptych (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted enamel on copper with paillons (foil-backed translucent enamel areas) and gilding, in later gilt wood frame

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.2377-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case 10

This roundel depicts Herod Antipas and his wife Herodias with the head of John the Baptist (cousin, proclaimer and baptiser of Jesus Christ) on a platter. Herod has an ermine collar over his robes and wears a jewelled crown over a pointed hat, a Byzantine fashion adopted in fifteenth century Italy. Herodias has a jewel-bordered gown and cap over a loose dark hood or veil. She scars John the Baptist's forehead with the point of a knife. The inspiration for the scene comes from Mark 6:28, where Salome hands her mother John's head, and the Legenda Aurea which says that Herodias mutilated the head after it had been presented to her. The pictorial source is possibly after Israhel Van Meckenem, whose engravings of 1480 and 1500 show Herodias scarring John the Baptist's head. The original use of the enamelled roundel is unclear but it was probably displayed among other treasures in a cabinet of a wealthy owner. The subject-matter lends itself less to devotional contemplation than that of some other enamels of the period - at first sight it appears to be a secular dining scene, if it were not for the head on the platter.
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 1371. 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. The anonymous Master of the Louis XII Triptych was so-named after the Annunciation triptych depicting Louis XII and Anne of Brittany in the V&A and a number of other works attributed to this artist are found in other public collections. He was active from the late 15th century to about 1515 and was highly-regarded by the French court as is seen from his commissions. The earliest painted enamels of the sixteenth century bear much similarity to images in contemporary illuminated manuscripts. The subject matter is similar and they employ the same stylistic techniques as illuminations, such as the use of gold highlights, especially for the clothes and drops of enamel to suggest jewels. It is thought that some artists were able to work in both art forms.

Physical description

Roundel of polychrome enamel with paillons (foil-backed enamel) depicting Herod Antipas and Herodias with the head of John the Baptist (cousin, proclaimer and baptiser of Jesus Christ) in a later gilt wood frame. The blue background with gilt stars and the border of paillons surrounded by droplets of white enamel to resemble 'flowers' are characteristic of the earliest painted enamels of Limoges. Herod, with long grey hair and beard, sits near his wife Herodias at a table on which lies the head of John the Baptist (with brown hair, beard, moustache and closed eyes) on an embossed metal charger flanked by a pair of salts and with an implement, possible a knife, in the foreground. The table is covered by a white diapered damask cloth. Herod has an ermine collar over his robes and wears a jewelled crown over a pointed hat, a Byzantine fashion adopted in fifteenth century Italy. Herodias has a jewel-bordered gown and cap over a loose dark hood or veil. She scars John the Baptist's forehead with the point of a long slim knife. The inspiration for the scene comes from Mark 6:28, where Salome hands her mother John's head, and the Legenda Aurea which says that Herodias mutilated the head after it had been presented to her. The pictorial source is possibly after Israhel Van Meckenem, whose engravings of 1480 and 1500 show Herodias scarring John the Baptist's head. A small medallion attributed to Nardon Penicaud of about the same date as this piece and from the same printed source is also in the collections of the V&A (inv. no.219-1874). A bronze plaquette showing Herod facing Herodias is also similar in appearance to this enamel plaque (Emile Molinier, Plaquettes II, 1886, no.731). The counter-enamel has become granular and brown-red and spotted.

Place of Origin

Limoges (made)

Date

ca. 1500-1520 (made)

Artist/maker

Master of the Louis XII Triptych (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted enamel on copper with paillons (foil-backed translucent enamel areas) and gilding, in later gilt wood frame

Dimensions

Diameter: 18.7 cm, Weight: .26 kg

Object history note

Magniac Collection sale, lot 812; then George Salting Collection, bequeathed to the V&A in 1910. 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: The anonymous Master of the Louis XII Triptych was so-named after the Annunciation triptych depicting Louis XII and Anne of Brittany in the V&A and a number of other works attributed to this artist are found in other public collections. He was active from the late 15th century to about 1515 and was clearly highly-regarded by the French court as he was also commissioned to paint Pierre II Duke of Bourbon (1439-1503) and his wife, Anne of France (ca.1460-1522), eldest daughter of Louis XI, on two wings of a triptych (formerly in the collection of Baroness Edouard de Rothschild in Paris). At about the same time, Jean Hey (fl. ca.1475-ca.1505), formerly known as the Master of Moulins, painted the same couple on the back of the triptych which they had commissioned for the collegiate church of Moulins (now the Cathedral). The style of the Master of the Louis XII Triptych reflects the paintings of the Loire School - at first the style of Jean Hey and then after ca.1508, the style of Jean Bourdichon. The earliest painted enamels of the sixteenth century bear much similarity to images in contemporary illuminated manuscripts. The subject matter is similar and they employ the same stylistic techniques as illuminations, such as the use of gold highlights, especially for the clothes and drops of enamel to suggest jewels. It is thought that some artists were able to work in both art forms.

Historical context note

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 1371. 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.
The original use of this enamelled medallion is unclear but it was probably displayed among other treasures in a cabinet of a wealthy owner. The subject-matter lends itself less to devotional contemplation than that of some other enamels of the period - at first sight it appears to be a secular dining scene, if it were not for the head on the platter.

Descriptive line

Framed roundel of polychrome enamel on copper with translucent enamels over foil, painted with a scene of Herod and Herodias with the head of St. John the Baptist on a platter, France, Limoges, ca.1500-20

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

Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1887, no. 147
Marquet de Vasselot, Les Emaux L,
J.D. Le Couteur, Ancient Glass in Winchester
Emile Molinier, Plaquettes II, 1886

Categories

Enamels

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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