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Pair of Limoges Enameled Copper Plaques Attributed to Leonard Limousin, which sold for $410,000 ($537,100 with buyer's premium) at Freeman's Hindman.

Limoges enameled copper plaques attributed to Leonard Limousin top $537K at Freeman’s Hindman

PALM BEACH, FL — An exceptional pair of 16th-century Limoges enamels emerged for sale in Florida on May 22. Freeman’s Hindman’s Palm Beach Furniture and Decorative Arts sale included large-scale oval portraits of two scions of a French noble family, attributed to the royal enameler Leonard Limosin (circa 1505-circa 1577). They hammered for $410,000 ($537,100 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000. Full results for the sale can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

As titled to the frames, the subjects of these impressive 20 by 13in (50 by 33cm) panels are Jacques d’Escars and Francois Comte de-Escars, the two sons of Jacques de Pérusse (circa 1490-1545), the head of the house of Pérusse des Cars. Based in Les Cars, just 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Limoges, he was an advisor and chamberlain to Francis I.

His eldest son Francois Comte de-Escars (1528-1595), shown here dressed in the modest black robes of a Catholic cleric at a time of great religious tension in France, acquired additional family lands in the 1550 and 1560s as he rose to become advisor and chamberlain to Antoine de Bourbon, the king of Navarre. He was later appointed governor of Bordeaux.

His younger brother Jacques de Pérusse II (1540-1580) is shown in a domestic interior kneeling in prayer, but he is dressed in the full regalia of a knight, wearing a tunic embroidered with the family coat of arms.

Dated to circa 1560-1570, both panels had some losses of enamel, but only to the peripheries. The black-and-gilt decorated frames require restoration to shrinkage splits and paint loss.

Although apparently unsigned, they are very much in the style of Leonard Limosin, the artist who entered the service of Francis I as painter and valet de chambre in the 1530s and continued to hold the position under Henri II.  Although only one fully attributed oil painting by him survives — The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1551) in the Musee Municipal de l’Eveche, Limoges — more than 1,000 enamels from his workshop are known. Alongside typical devotional, mythological, and allegorical scenes, he specialized in these exceptionally large and finely characterized portraits made for the royal family and members of the French court. An indication of their value is that at Fontainebleau, Limosin enamels were kept in the famed Cabinet des Bagues at the top of the donjon (keep) alongside cameos, intaglios, and the goldwork of Benvenuto Cellini and Matteo del Nassaro.

The recent provenance for this pair of enamels includes a little American royalty. They were part of the Dallas collection of Norma Hunt (1938-2023), the wife of the American businessman Lamar Hunt, who was the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and an influential figure in the birth of both the American Football League (AFL) and Major League Soccer (MLS). Famously in 1966, Lamar Hunt proposed a championship game between the winners of the two American football leagues. “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon”, he wrote at the time.

When she died at the age of 85, Norma Hunt was celebrated in the US as the only woman member of the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club, having attended all 57 Super Bowls until 2023.