Very much the highest price in an auction of furniture, paintings and works of art held by Coutau-Bégarie & Associés (24% buyer’s premium) at Drouot in Paris on May 28 was the multi-estimate €920,000 (£800,000) paid for a 16th century Limoges enamel copper plaque.
It was one of a group of superbly painted plaques executed c.1525-30 by an anonymous Limoges enameller decorated with scenes taken from Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid, giving the artist the title of ‘Master of the Aeneid’. Many of these are now in major institutions.
The source for these scenes is the set of engravings printed by Grüninger of Strasbourg to illustrate the Virgil published by Sebastian Brandt in 1502.
The 9 x 8in (22.5 x 20cm) plaque offered at Coutau-Bégarie is painted in polychrome enamel on silver foil over copper with gold highlights and comes in a 17th century gilt leather and velvet case.
It depicts a scene from book VI of the Aeneid covering the descent into Hell showing the point at which Aeneas, having searched for the golden branch to give him access to the underworld, reaches the blessed groves of the Elysian fields, where the shades of the dead wander around in peace.
The plaque last appeared on the market in 1892 as part of a group sold in London at the dispersal of the Magnac collection. These were acquired by the dealership Goldschmidt which sold them to the French collector Jules Porgès.
A photo of Porgès’ Paris town house shows the plaque alongside three other examples from the same series. Porgès’ widow sold the other plaques (the other three in the photo are now in the Met in New York) but the family retained this sole example.
Offered for sale at the Couteau-Bégarie auction with a €200,000-300,000 estimate, bidding sailed far above that level with the hammer finally falling at €920,000 (£800,000) or €1,184,960 including premium.
£1 = €1.15