A pair of Still Life enamel plaques depicting birds with fruit, vegetables, flowers and a glass of wine

GBP 3,500.00

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Object Description

Enamel plaques. Gilt-metal frame, the reverse with label.

The production of enamel in the miniature form in Germany was encouraged in the 18th century following the reign of Frederick the Great (1712-86). In order to encourage local production, he introduced restrictions to the imports of French snuff boxes, which had become an increasingly popular import. The resulting growth of industry is reflected in the production of German porcelain factories like Messien (established 1710), and Frankenthal (1755-1799). This pair of miniatures has certain stylistic elements, like the leaves, that are reminiscent of porcelain designs from the Frankenthal factory.

The bright colours within the leaves and fruit in these still lives also reflect a wider development in the style of enamel in the 18th century. Other examples of enamelling show a move away from more delicate French pastels, something done specifically by the Huaud family, from Switzerland, known for their enamel watches[1]. Subjects also became bolder, not only of pastoral scenes but of still lives, like in this pair, or even more daring erotic scenes, seen on examples of snuff boxes[2]. There could be messages behind these scenes; the bird depicted three times over the pair may be a European Goldfinch, a signifier of the Passion, often depicted next to symbols of vice, here represented by the glass of wine.

A similar miniature was previously held in the collection of Lord and Lady Fairhaven, known for their donation of a large amount of botanic art to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The fruit featured, as well as the birds and the composition of these on top of a stone slab and next to piece of leaning wood, suggest the same hand, if not the same inspiration, of an exciting move away from the traditions of enamels.

[1] Christie’s, ‘‘Beautiful pieces can be found for relatively modest prices’: how to collect enamel pocket watches’, 29th April 2021, https://www.christies.com/en/stories/how-to-collect-enamel-pocket-watches-658a78b18b664560b92075cb8a8961b5, accessed 27th March 2024.

[2] Bonhams, London, 21 November 2012, lot 25.

Object History

Provenance: Private Collection, UK

Object Details

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