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Casket

Casket

  • Place of origin:

    Limoges (made)

  • Date:

    1540-1545 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Master 'KIP' (maker)
    Raimondi, Marcantonio (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wooden core; gilt metal set with embossed silver foil bands and painted enamel copper plaques

  • Museum number:

    C.49-1982

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118a, case 6

Object Type
The earliest enamel caskets from Limoges, a city in south-west France, were made in the 12th to 14th centuries by the 'champlevé' technique. Cells created by gouging into the metal were filled with enamel. Such caskets were usually reliquaries bearing religious imagery often relating to the relics they contained. This casket, in contrast, is formed of plaques painted with enamel on the surface of the metal, a technique practised in Limoges workshops from about 1470. Its subject matter, based on engravings from Renaissance Italy, indicate that this luxury item was made for secular use.

Materials & Making
The casket is set with copper plaques, enamelled 'en grisaille'. White enamel was added to the underlying black or very dark blue ground, then successive layers of white enamel painted on and fired. The more white layers added, the less the black ground showed through, achieving the astonishing range of tones typical of the work of Limoges.

Place
Walpole displayed this casket in a glass case near the window of the room he called the Tribune in his house, Strawberry Hill. Despite the essentially non-ecclesiastical nature of this casket, the room had, paradoxically, the air of a chapel or cathedral treasury, with Gothic niches and stained glass.

Physical description

Casket of gilt metal set with embossed silver foil bands and five painted enamel plaques depicting cavalry battles partly after elements of battle scene engravings (Bartsch XIV no.111) by Marcantonio Raimondi (about 1470-1527).

Place of Origin

Limoges (made)

Date

1540-1545 (made)

Artist/maker

Master 'KIP' (maker)
Raimondi, Marcantonio (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Wooden core; gilt metal set with embossed silver foil bands and painted enamel copper plaques

Marks and inscriptions

Signed 'I.P.' on two of the plaques, initials sometimes used by Master 'K.I.P.'

Dimensions

Height: 16 cm, Width: 17 cm, Depth: 13.2 cm

Object history note

Town and Emanuel of Bond Street, London, bought the casket for £47.10 at the 15th day of the Strawberry Hill Sale, 11th May 1842, lot 91, probably on behalf of J. Hollingworth Magniac. Durlacher bought it for £630 at the Magniac sale on 6th July 1892, lot 401. Durlacher bought it again, this time for £199-10s at the Edward Steinkopff (ex-47 Berkeley Square) sale, 22nd May 1935, lot 40. It was sold for £21,000 at Christies ('Fine Renaissance bronzes... sale) on 31st May 1977, lot 43 ('property of a Gentleman'). Export licence applied for 16th September 1981 but did not proceed. The Victoria and Albert Museum bought it from Sothebys by private treaty sale in 1982.

Historical significance: This casket was owned by Horace Walpole by at least 1774 as it appeared in the 1774 published Description of the contents of Walpole's house, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. Walpole displayed the casket in a glass case near the window of the room he called the Tribune. Despite the essentially non-ecclesiastical nature of this casket, the room had, paradoxically, the air of a chapel or cathedral treasury, with Gothic niches and stained glass.

Historical context note

The earliest enamel caskets from Limoges, a city in south-west France, were made in the 12th to 14th centuries by the 'champlevé' technique. Cells created by gouging into the metal were filled with enamel. Such caskets were usually reliquaries bearing religious imagery often relating to the relics they contained. This casket, in contrast, is formed of plaques painted with enamel on the surface of the metal, a technique practised in Limoges workshops from about 1470. Its subject matter, based on engravings from Renaissance Italy, indicates that this luxury item was made for secular use.

The casket is set with copper plaques, enamelled 'en grisaille'. White enamel was added to the underlying black or very dark blue ground, then successive layers of white enamel painted on and fired. The more white layers added, the less the black ground showed through, achieving the astonishing range of tones typical of the work of Limoges.

The enamels were painted by Master 'KIP', who also used the monograms 'KI', 'IPK', or in this case 'IP'. His identity remains uncertain. He stamped some of his plaques with a punch bearing a lion passant and initials 'IK'. It has been suggested he could be the goldsmith and enameller Jean I Poylevé or Poillevé who is mentioned in a document of 1537 as owner of a house in the suburb of Montjovis, and in a document of 1555. Poillevé is listed as a Limoges consul in 1542, 1548 and possibly it is he who is listed again in 1554. H.P Mitchell suggested that the inscription 'KARE TERA' (Greek: 'monstrous head') on an altar shown on a plaque in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, might equate to 'Poil levé' i.e. (bristling hair). Three heads with bristling hair are shown on the arms of 'Jehan Poyllevé curé de sainct Gence' on a silver-gilt and enamelled chalice of 1555 belonging to the hospital of Limoges. However it was another goldsmith who signed the translucent enamels on silver and chased reliefs of the chalice and the connection between the enameller Poillevé and the curé are only presumed.

Descriptive line

Casket of gilt metal set with embossed silver foil bands and five painted enamel plaques depicting cavalry battles, Master 'KIP', Limoges, France, about 1540-45

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

1784 ed. The Description of the Villa (Strawberry Hill)
1842 Walpole sale catalogue
Catalogue of the special exhibition of works of art of the mediæval, renaissance, and more recent periods, on loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862 ed. J.C. Robinson.
Sir Charles Robinson, Description of the Colworth Collection, Bedfordshire, 1862
1892, July 6, Magniac sale catalogue, lot 401
Clive Wainwright, 'The Romantic Interior', 1989
Charles Truman, 'Acquisitions in the Department of Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum 1981-82 in Burlington Magazine vol. CXXV, May 1983
Snodin, Michael (ed.) Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill London and New Haven, 2009, cat.163, p.315.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
In the guide to Strawberry Hill, this casket was described as 'A coffer enamelled on all sides with battles and set in silver gilt'. Walpole displayed it in the 'Tribune', the room that housed his most precious objects. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

This anonymous Master was active in the second third of the 16th century

Categories

Containers

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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