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Post Lot Text
A RECTANGULAR PARCEL-GILT POLYCHROME ENAMEL PLAQUE OF PARIS
BY LEONARD LIMOUSIN (DIED CIRCA 1575), CIRCA 1540
Depicted in three quarter profile facing to sinister and wearing a laurel wreath, a cloak pinned to his right shoulder, on a blue ground and inscribed to the left side '+ PARIS +'; the reverse with two paper labels inscribed 'BLUMKA/GALLERY.' and 'FOGG ART MUSEUM/LOAN/68.1955'; in gilt-copper frame surmounted by a suspension loop
This beautifully executed portrait of the mythological hero, Paris, forms part of a series of fifteen known portraits which almost certainly once formed part of a single interior decorative scheme. The series has now been largely dispersed, however in his detailed article on the enamels Thierry Crepin-Leblond records the locations of the other portraits: one was in a Paris sale in the late 19th century, two were offered on the London art market in 1981, two are in the collection of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, and the others all exist in French museums apart from the present example (op. cit., p. 25, no. 18).
The series comprises portraits of pairs of ill-fated lovers from mythology including Aeneas and Dido, and Hippolytus and Phaedra. Paris was presumably paired at one point with Helen of Troy, over whom the Trojan War was launched. Stylistically, they have been dated to circa 1540, on the basis of the similarity of the portrait of Deianira to an enamel portrait of Anne of Austria which is signed by Limousin and dated 1536 (Verdier, op. cit., p. 172). The present enamel of Paris is stylistically closest to the portrait of Hippolytus mentioned above (Musée Crozatier on loan to the Louvre, Paris). The youthful, beardless features, short, curly hair and three-quarter pose are all directly comparable.
The dimensions of the plaques are all identical and Crepin-Leblond suggests that they must originally have been set into the panelled woodwork of a room such as the Cabinet des Emaux of Catherine de Medici. This fashion for a room of small dimensions, richly decorated following an iconographical scheme, was imported from Italy, where the notion of a studiolo had long been popular. The series of enamel portraits to which the present lot belongs is certainly based upon a literary source from classical antiquity. As an ensemble, they would have provided a sumptuous surrounding for a cultivated member of French renaissance society, as well as being a reflection of their intellectual credentials.