Lot 142
  • 142

THE MONVAERNI MASTER (active in Limoges 1461-at least 1485) France, Limoges, circa 1475

180,000 - 250,000 USD
372,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • the Crucifixion
  • enameled copper, parcel gilt
  • 8 1/4  by 9in.; 21 by 22.8cm.


William Thomas Brownlow Cecil, 5th Marquess of Exeter, known as Lord Burghley from 1895 to 1898
His sale, Sotheby's London, 8 July 1960, lot 34
Private collection, England


S. Caroselli, The Painted Enamels of Limoges. A catalogue of the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1993, p. 66


Catalogue Note

This dramatic and moving image of the Crucifixion was made by the anonymous artist known as the 'Monvaerni' Master, the rarest and earliest of the Limoges enamel painters to be recognized as a specific artistic personality. Limoges served as the primary center of champlevé enamel production for all of Europe from the early twelfth century to the end of the fourteenth. It rose again to prominence as a center of enamel production with the development and refinement of the technique of painting on enamel during the reigns of the last Valois kings, from Louis XI (r. 1461-1483) to Henri III (r. 1574-1589).

The Monvaerni Master’s name derives from a partial inscription on a triptych now in the Taft Museum in Cincinnati (inv. no. 1931.268). His oeuvre is comprised of more than fifty plaques, all depicting religious subjects, which have been grouped together on the basis of his distinctive style. Because his work displays a knowledge of perspective and a preference for painted contours, it has been suggested that he was originally an illuminator of manuscripts, as Caroselli (op. cit., p. 59) observed, his style closely resembles that on a leaf from a late fifteenth-century French book of hours that is now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (inv. no. M.53.9). His compositions derive from many sources, including German prints, and French and Flemish illuminated manuscripts and panel paintings, which were frequently influenced by Italian models. 

The Crucifixion was one of the most popular subjects represented in early Limoges painted enamels, and at least twelve plaques showing this subject are attributed to the Monvaerni Master or his workshop. The present example is known in three other variants: one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 17.190.1642); one formerly in the collection of Henri Lehman, Paris; and one in the Taft Museum, Cincinnati (inv. no. 1931.268), which forms the center of the aforementioned triptych. The large number of characters included in these four variants suggests that the composition ultimately derives from an Italian model, although no specific source has been identified.

Painted enamel plaques with religious scenes were objects of private devotion, most likely commissioned primarily by French nobles and clergymen, whose coats of arms have been identified on a number of examples.

The first Lord Burghley (1521-1598) was a notable collector, and a close advisor to Queen Elizabeth the first. This enamel plaque has not been on the market since 1960 when it was sold at Sotheby's and since that time no other comparable work by the Monvaerni master has appeared at auction.

S. Baratte, Les Émaux Peints de Limoges, Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2000, pp. 30-37