The Azure and Gold of Limoges.
Twelfth - to Fourteenth - Century Enamels
The exhibition in the Blue Bedroom of the Winter Palace is dedicated
to Limoges champleve enamels. The main part of the exhibits (there were
more than 70 of them at the exhibition) dates back to the end
Limoges is one of those small provincial towns that gained world fame
due to articles of local production. As Delft became famous for its
In XII - XIV centuries the whole world of Christianity knew ‘Opus Lemovicense’
(‘Limoges work’) that is how Limoges enamels were called back then. But Limoges
was famous not only for its enamels.
Articles were made from ordinary materials. Copper plate served as the basis. Hollows were made in the plate and that gave the name for the technique. Hollows were filled with vitreous mass with addition of metallic oxide. During burning that mass alloyed firmly with the basis. Upon that enamels were performed at the level of jewellery works. Such exchange seemed of rather equal value since in the Middle Ages gold and silver were mainly valued for their capacity to interact with light. Copper in Limoges enamels was completely covered with vermeil and colourful enamels that enriched surface by effects of colours to some extent had the advantage over articles from precious materials. Cabochons from glass paste or clear glass with bottom layer made from foil were like precious stones. High aesthetic features and low cost made Limoges manufactured articles affordable and attractive for any church.
Church utensils make up the main part of exhibits of the exhibition.
These are liturgical vessels: pyxes or ciboriums where sacred wafers (wafers
for communion) were kept, book binders, procession crosses, candleholders,
bishop’s croziers. One of the most interesting types of Limoges production
Earlier monuments (the second half of XII century) differed by their
engraving on golden background. From the end of XII century production
was increasing gradually till it became of mass scale. The first step
was transition from golden to blue backgrounds by switching places of those
two colour categories. At first backgrounds were covered with thin
engraved ornament and gilded. From the end of XII century figures were
kept in reserve while background, on the contrary, was completely enamelled
and decorated with various ornaments - rosettes, discs, stars,
If before it was mostly church utensils that were manufactured in Limoges now craftsmen also go by tastes of a new customer - nobility. New types of articles appear: gemellions - pair bowls for lavabo, folding field candleholders, as well as other topics - courtly scenes and heraldry.
Exhibition curator is Ekaterina Nekrasova, junior research assistant
of the Department