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Post Lot Text
A PAIR OF CIRCULAR PARCEL-GILT GRISAILLE ENAMEL PLAQUES OF KINGS ARTHUR AND JOSHUA ON HORSEBACK
BY MARTIAL YDEUX, MID 16TH CENTURY
The former depicted facing to dexter and inscribed around the edge 'ARTVS. ROY. DE. .BRETAIGNE'; the latter facing to sinister and inscribed along the edge '.IOSUE. ROY.'; each signed with initials 'MD', and each in a later gilt-metal frame with enameled plaques to the corners decorated with gilt scrolls; each on a later red-velvet covered wooden ground and with paper labels extensively inscribed in ink, the latter plaque with an additional paper label inscribed in ink 'Collection Spitzer'; minor scratches and wear to gilding
These beautifully painted enamels depict two of the Nine Worthies, historical figures who were celebrated in literature for their chivalry and a favourite subject for the artists of Limoges. The Worthies were divided into three groups: three figures from the 'Pagan' era (Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar), three from the Old Testament era (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus) and three from the Christian era (King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon). Their heroic deeds meant that they were thought to embody the ideals of knighthood.
The present plaques are part of a number of extant enamels bearing different signatures including MD, MDI, MD PP and MD Pape. They were long associated with an artist named Martin Didier, enameller to the king between 1599 and 1609. However, art historians were puzzled by the fact that, stylistically, the artist's work appeared to date from the middle of the century and not the period Didier was known to have been active. It was only in 1990 that the various combinations of monograms were connected with a reference to an enameller named 'Martial Ydeux dit le Pape', who owned a house in the rue Manigne by 1553 (Baratte, op. cit., p. 113). His work, of which several examples are in the Louvre, is almost exclusively executed in grisaille, and is of an extremely high standard.