Invented in Limoges in the late 15th century, the technique of painted enamel experienced remarkable growth there in the following century.
This delicate work consists of superimposing layers of enamel (a silica-based product similar to glass) on a copper plaque, working them with paintbrush and spatula like in painting, or with a needle (to scratch away the surface and reveal an underlying layer which is lighter or darker). The most prized forms are display items without any practical use – ewers, bowls, plates and saltcellars.
The iconography of this ewer is inspired by illustrations from the Livre de la Conqueste de la Toison d'or [The book of the quest for the Golden Fleece], published in Paris in 1563 and engraved by René Boyvin based on drawings by Léonard Thiry. Jason, the famous hero of antiquity, sets off on a quest to find the Golden Fleece which leads him to meet Medea with whom he has a love affair ending in tragedy.
The ewer displays the rich palette of colours used circa 1600 by the enamellers of Limoges.