- Museum number
A circular, painted Limoges enamelled copper roundel set in a metal frame that is possibly contemporary with the plaque. The scene depicts a cavalry skirmish and is painted en grisaille on a black ground with highlights in gilding. This may have originally been intended as a hat-ornament.
- Production date
- 1540 (circa;?)
Diameter: 3.71 centimetres (including frame)
Diameter: 2.80 centimetres
Weight: 0.011 kilograms
- Curator's comments
- Hat ornaments were worn by men in their caps from the end of the fifteenth century and could be either purely decorative or symbolic. Those of the latter type are traditionally termed enseignes, since they either conveyed the personal intent of the wearer or carried a visible message. This type of jewel finds its origins in the medieval pilgrim badge, an object that was mostly mass-produced and often in base metal. It has been suggested that the transition from this type to a fashionable male ornament is attributable to the arrival of the French king, Charles VIII, into Naples in February 1495. On his cap, the king wore a gold circular jewel and his men had similar jewels (though not of gold) on their caps or sleeves. The Italians soon adopted this fashion and it then spread north reaching most of the European courts. The fashion lasted only until the late-sixteenth/early-seventeenth century, when the wearing of aigrettes became more popular.
The hat ornament was usually commissioned of gold, and was enamelled or jewelled, or both. A group of gilt-bronze plaquettes in the British Museum’s collection, with the characteristic loops or pierced holes for attachment to a cap or garment, suggests that this was a fashion that trickled down to lower classes of society. The majority of these plaquettes show scenes from classical mythology, allowing for the meaning to be understood by a larger audience. This category of objects has been mostly cast, which was a much cheaper and quicker mode of production than those that were commissioned. One of these plaquettes (1915,1216.133) has visible traces of enamel. This combined with the gilded decoration and placed at the apex of the body would have deceived any casual passer-by that this was a costly piece.
Gentlemen, in imitation of courtly practice, may have also worn hat ornaments painted with Limoges enamel. Although it is often very hard to determine a definitive use for Limoges enamelled plaques, since they could assume a variety of roles, there are four similar hat ornaments recorded in Hackenbroch, Enseignes (1996), figs. 95-6, 98-9. Bernard Palissy commented on the wearing of Limoges enamel badges in his treatises: "Je m'assure avoir vu donner pur trois sols la douzaine des figures d'enseignes que l'en portoit aux bonnets, lasquelles enseignes estoyent si bieng labourées et leurs esmaux si bien parfondus sur le cuivre, qu'il n'y avoit nulle peinture si plaisante." (cited in Hackenbroch, p.82).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1997 10 May-5 Oct, Germany, Pforzheim, Schmuchkmuseum Pforzheim, Idol and Ideal - Human Imagery in Jewellery of the 16th Century
- Quite good
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: BL.1501