The certificate reads: "We certify that this Placque, subject, the trial scene from "The Merchant of Venice," executed entirely by hand in repousse iron and silver, by M. Morel-Ladeuil one of the principal artists to Elkington & Co. Ld in the year 1885 is the original work. Elkington & Co. Ld. W. B. Read. Secretary."
Leonard Morel-Ladeuil (1820-1888) was one of the foremost metalwork artists of the nineteenth century, and this plaque represents one of his finest works at the close of an illustrious career. Morel-Ladeuil studied chasing and damascening from the master chaser, Antoine Vechte and learned sculptural techniques from J. Feucheres. In 1859 he moved to England, where he worked for Elkington & Co. for nearly 30 years. Morel-Ladeuil excelled at figural repouss work, and his commissions for international exhibitions enhanced his reputation and were integral to raising the profile of Elkington & Co. He received considerable acclaim during his own lifetime, and was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1878. Yet, it was not until a year after his death that Morel-Ladeuil's work was the subject of a retrospective at the Union des Arts Dcoratifs, and later, a monograph entitled L'Oeuvre de Morel-Ladeuil Sculpteur-Ciseleur 1820-1888.
Literature was the inspiration for much of Morel-Laudeuil's best repouss work. His Milton Shield, taking the sixth book of Paradise Lost as its subject matter, was awarded the gold medal at the 1867 Paris Exhibition and is now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The Helicon Vase, now in the Royal Collection, took music and poetry as its subject matter and was exhibited to great acclaim at the Vienna exhibition in 1873. In 1878, the Pilgrim Shield, a companion piece to the Milton Shield, based on Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, was exhibited in Paris.
Toward the end of his career in England, Morel-Ladeuil created an important series of plaques, taking the works of Shakespeare as inspiration. The first, entitled The Merry Wives of Windsor was commissioned, circa 1880, by Sir Albert Sassoon as a wedding present for the Duke of Albany, a pun on the marriage of the Queen's son, then living at Windsor. The present lot and another, entitled Much Ado about Nothing, likely were inspired by the celebrated Shakespearean productions starring Henry Irving and Miss Ellen Terry. In keeping with the esteem in which Morel-Ladeuil's work was regarded, these plaques were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885, and the 1889 retrospective of Morel-Ladeuil's work. While a number of Morel-Ladeuil's plaques served as models for mass-produced electrotype reprodctions, both plaques are highly significant as they are the original work of art, remaining with Elkington & Co. until the firm was liquidated in 1973. The companion plaque, Much Ado about Nothing, is now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.