Vespasian's white horse by Jean Limosin

On 16 July 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Jean Limosin, a Renaissance enameller from a prominent Limoges family, produced this plate, whose magnificent workmanship on gold jeweller's foil with a midnight blue background will fire the bidding in the new autumn season.

Jean Limosin (around 1528-1610), Limoges, late 16th century, The Emperor Vespasian on horseback, plate in polychrome painted enamel and translucent enamels on jewellers' foil with gold highlights, signed "I.L.", diam. 20.8 cm.
Estimate: €15,000/20,000

Represented with youthful features and wreathed with the palm of victory, Roman Emperor Vespasian stands out splendidly on his spotless white horse. Identified by the inscription on the inner rim – "Caes. Vespasian. Imp" –, he is the central figure of a painted enamel plate produced by one of the leading names in this artistic discipline, Jean Limosin (c. 1528-1610). Enamel in Limoges underwent a revival that started in the last third of the 15th century with the arrival of painted enamels. This new technique, practiced elsewhere in France as well as in Italy and Flanders, was quickly mastered in this region. Plaques designed to be mounted as triptychs, altarpieces or paxes, always based on religious iconography, accounted for most of the initial pieces produced. They were soon joined by decorative and profane objects, and master enamellers set to work to design pieces for dinner services. Although the extremely fragile results were not at all suited to practical use, they provided evidence of their owners' wealth and refinement. The iconographic repertory developed at the same time. Antique and mythological themes appeared, with some craftsmen taking their subjects from the engravings now beginning to circulate with the development of printing. One of these was Jean Limosin, the grandson of Léonard (c. 1505-1577), recognized as the leading master by specialists. Here he was inspired by the works of Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), published in 1596 in the collection XII Caesares in equistri forma ellegantissime efficti. No one could deny the elegance of this plate and its brilliantly executed decoration. It is accompanied by a twin (with the same estimate) showing Emperor Vitellius. Originally, there were very probably twelve plates with this theme of Caesars on horseback. Making their debut at auction, these two come from a French aristocratic collection dating back to the late 19th century.

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