Dec 17, 2007
Oct 7, 2008

Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Woman

c. 1670

Jean Petitot

(Swiss, 1607–1691)

Enamel in a silver gilt frame

Framed: 2.9 x 2.2 cm (1 1/8 x 7/8 in.); Unframed: 2.3 x 2.1 cm (7/8 x 13/16 in.)

The Edward B. Greene Collection 1942.1152



Unlike fragile portrait miniatures painted in watercolor on vellum or ivory, which are prone to cracking, fading, and flaking, enamels are resilient, impervious to the effects of light, and retain their striking original colors over time. Partly for this reason enamel was considered ideal for reproducing famous paintings and treasured portraits in a reduced and luminous form. The complicated and labor-intensive process of enameling required the artist to fire numerous layers of colored metal oxide at different temperatures, which made it difficult to produce a faithful portrait likeness, though masters of the medium were able create portraits of remarkable subtlety imbued with the sitter's personality. The heyday of enamel painting was the late 1600s and early 1700s. Among the enamel specialists was Petitot, who was patronized by King Charles I of England, King Louis XIV of France, and King John III Sobieski of Poland.

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