Limoges Enamel

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Limoges Enamel


French art objects produced in the city of Limoges. They were made of copper coated with opaque enamel paints. Production flourished between the mid-15th and the mid-17th centuries. The origins of the old school of Limoges enamel (mid-15th to mid-16th century) were the local techniques of basse-taile, or translucent enamel (copper church articles of the 12th to 14th centuries), and ronde bosse, or incrusted enamel (on 14th- and 15th-century engraved objects made from precious metals), as well as the artistic principles of late Gothic stained glass (in which the painting complemented the graphic contours of figures). The masters of the old school of Limoges enamel, of whom the most prominent was Nardon Pénicaud, created reliquaries, multipaneled folding screens, triptychs, and plaques.

Originally inspired by Flemish painting, the Limoges enamelers fell under the influence of Italian painting in the early 16th century. This shift determined the school’s evolution from Gothic to Renaissance tendencies. However, Limoges painted enamels continued to exhibit a common trait—a festive and vivid radiance, which was intensified by the introduction of cabochons (raised drops of enamel on gold or silver foil) and strips and spots of gold.

The new school of Limoges enamel formed circa 1530. It is distinguished from the old school by the secular nature of its painting and by the types of articles it produced, such as boxes, ornamental vessels for tables and open buffets, decorative panels for facades, and portrait plaques. Painting in grisaille, a technique adopted from Italian and French engraving, predominated. This technique’s graphic and monochromatic character set off the background, which was frequently colored and generally had a warm earthy tone. The best-known masters of the new school of Limoges enamel were Jean II Pénicaud, C. Nouailher, P. Reymond, and L. Limousin. Limousin was particularly well known for his extensive series of portraits based on the drawings of J. Clouet and his followers. The varied ornamental compositions of the Limoges enamel of this period include effective decorative reworkings of the mannerist images of the Fontainebleau school. These compositions, often characterized by gentle golden strokes, included depictions of mythological, allegorical, and biblical scenes.

In the mid-17th century Limoges enameling passed into the hands of jewelers and miniaturists. Although their work, particularly their ornamental and floral painting, influenced ceramic decoration, the great style of Limoges enamels disappeared. Unable to compete with faience and porcelain, the production of enamel vessels went into a decline by the beginning of the 18th century.


Dobroklonskaia, O. Limozhskie raspisnye emali XV i XVI vekov: Sobranie Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha. Moscow, 1969. (Bibliography.)
Gauthier, M.-M., and M. Marcheix. Les Emaux de Limoges. Prague, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
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IIIF253), from the Wallace Collection, was examined at the Laboratory of the C2RMF in the context of a programme of study of painted Limoges enamels. This programme, which has been in operation for a number of years, has been particularly concerned with problems associated with the alteration of glass over time, but is also dedicated to arriving at a greater understanding of techniques of manufacture and materials used.
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These included Flemish and Italian Primitives, Persian manuscript illumination, early Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Limoges enamels, Byzantine mosaics, ancient Chinese bronzes, carved stone statuary from India, ancient Egypt and medieval Europe, and the occasional piece of contemporary European sculpture (George Minne) and painting (Maurice Denis).