Evidence seems to confirm that Louis senior was the goldsmith shaping the objects, while Philippe was the chaser; so together they were able to create beautiful objects. The most iconic piece is a gold wedding cup, superbly chased with putti and allegorical wedding scenes within rocaille scrollwork and ornament, struck with the maker’s mark of Louis and signed ‘Ph. Metayer in. & fec. 1754’.3 Other surviving works by Louis Metayer include a cane handle (Amsterdam, 1750, in the Rijsksmuseum, BK-VBR-395), and snuff boxes (for example, one of 1739, in the Gilbert Collection, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, Loan:Gilbert. 322-2008). Even though they are not signed by Philippe, the quality evidently confirms his authorship.
Interestingly, Philippe Metayer also developed a business in tobacco, as seen on a trade card where he clearly callss himself as a ‘marchand de tabac dans le Kalverstraat, vis a vis le Gaper steeg, Amsterdam’ (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-OB-26.604). Furthermore, Philipe Metayer is known to have commissioned drawings from external sources, such as the fellow Huguenot Louis-Fabrice Dubourg, also from Rouen, from whom he commissioned 16 drawings between 1731 and 1735. The series, together with the bills, was acquired by the Rijksprentenkabinet in 1981 The theme of this group of drawings and of further drawings from the Metayers was marriage, just as in the present plaque. According to J.W.H.J.M. Nolius, in his study of the group, it was not surprising given that a snuff or tobacco box was an important wedding gift.4 They often portrayed a classical wedding, as in the present case, or famous biblical or mythological weddings. Unfortunately the design source for this plaque has not so far been found.
The medallions enclosing devices flanking the wedding scene on the plaque could be interpreted as the coat of arms of the bride and groom. The beehive was for example taken as a charge by the Leheup family, a wealthy family of Huguenot merchants from Normandy who settled in England. They could also symbolise the activities of the bride and groom’s families, industry on land or sea. On a more allegorical level, the beehive was seen as a symbol of purity and chastity since a bee was rather charmingly thought to reproduce spontaneously, while a fisherman was seen as a seeker of truth.
1. Jacques Le Mestayer (or Metayer) was received master of the Goldsmiths’ corporation of Rouen in 1610.
2. Rijksmuseum – Ref. RP-T-1904-40 - SK-A-2139 - RP-T-1904-16
3. Rijksmuseum, Ref. BK-1981-51.
4. J.W.H.J.M. Nolius, ‘De edelsmid Philippe Metayer en zijn ontwerper Louis Fabrice Dubourg…’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 33, nr. 4, 1985, pp. 226-232.
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