Limosin was born around 1505 in Limoges where he was active until his death between 1575 and 1577. Although he is known primarily as an enameler, eight etchings, five dated 1544 and all probably done that year, attest to his activity as a printmaker. Zerner implied they were of Limosin’s own invention and thought that they were made on a visit to Fontainebleau. The fact that they were done in one moment and that they reflect in various ways Rosso’s art so soon after his death makes it likely that they were made where the other so-called School of Fontainebleau prints were done. Their technique – etching – also associates them with this group of prints. However, Béguin questioned Limosin’s authorship of the designs and their creation at Fontainebleau.1
Zerner considered Limosin a mediocre artist, “mais très curieux par son provincialisme frotté de nouveautés bellifontaines.” What interests us here is the extent to which this artist of limited talent drew upon Rosso’s works for his etched – and enameled – compositions, compositions which in a variety of aspects are of considerable merit.
Limosin’s Annunciation (Fig.E.90) is directly dependent upon a drawing by Rosso known from an excellent copy (Fig.D.83). The etcher’s modifications of Rosso’s design are extensive, such that without the drawing one might not have identified the print as coming from a work by him. Nevertheless, a certain grandeur and dramatic force does preserve something of the character of Rosso’s original image.
No other etching by Limosin can be related so completely to a work by Rosso. But Limosin’s Last Supper (Fig.E.93) is sufficiently like a late Italian drawing by Rosso of the same subject (Fig.D.40A) to make one wonder if another French drawing by him lay behind the French etching. While there is no direct evidence that any of his Italian drawings came north with Rosso, some might have found their way in his luggage. Individual figures in Limosin’s Agony in the Garden (Fig.E.94), in his Christ Sent Away by Herod (Fig.E.96), and in his Resurrection (Fig.E.97) can be related to specific figures in Rosso’s French works.
These three etchings are stylistically quite unlike the Annunciation but are quite similar to the Entry into Jerusalem (Fig.E.92) and the Kiss of Judas (Fig.E.95), for which, however, no related figures in compositions by Rosso have been found. The etching of the Nativity (Fig.E.91) is different in style from both the Annunciation and the other six, which form a group.
Two of the etchings are related to two rectangular enamels of about the same size as the prints, the Last Supper in the Hermitage (see under E.93) and the Kiss of Judas at Écouen (see under E.95). The Hermitage plaque is dated 1545. It is probable that other rectangular enamels related to the etchings were made.2 Twelve years later, another set of enamels was made related to these etchings, but oval in format. This set does not include the Nativity, nor a separate enamel of the Agony in the Garden, which appears in the background of the Kiss of Judas. The latter enamel is in Baltimore (see under E.95), the others in the museum at Écouen (see under E.90, E.92, E.93, E.95, E.96, E.97).
There are six other oval enamels at Écouen that form a set with the others, and for which there are no related etchings: Pilate Washing His Hands (Cl 904E),3 the Flagellation (Cl 904F),4 Christ Crowned with Thorns (Cl 904G),5 Ecce Homo (Cl 904H),6 Christ Carrying the Cross (Cl 904I),7 and the Descent into Limbo (Cl 904L).8 Of these only the Christ Crowned with Thorns (Fig.Limosin) shows figures that may be derived from works by Rosso, from two of his Roman prints, or from copies of them.9 The other enamels do not seem to reflect anything specific of Rosso’s art. But in spite of their diversity, the style of these enamels has a certain homogeneity, from the slender proportions of their figures, the similarity of face types and of drapery patterns, and the handling of the medium.
Except in the case of the Annunciation, it is not possible to attribute the full compositions of any of the other etchings, the related enamels, or the Christ Crowned with Thorns to Rosso. They may all be clever pastiches based on a variety of drawings by Rosso and others to which Limosin had access, at Fontainebleau, perhaps. If this was the case then Limosin is somewhat more of an inventor than may be generally conceded, at least in 1544. Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile to leave the subject of the invention of these scenes open with the expectation that in one or more of them a lost work by Rosso may have played a more extensive role, for, as in the case of the Annunciation, the transformations of the etcher and the enameler may all too effectively mask Rosso’s compositions.10
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Laborde, Émaux, 1852, 165-196. Demartial, 1912. Lavedan, 1913, 92-107. Zerner, 1969, XXXII-XXXIII. A. Fay, in EdF, 1972, 291, no. 356. B. Jestaz, EdF, 1972, 444-447. Baratte, 1993, 22-23, 60.
9 The draped man in the foreground at the right has the pose of the nude Philyra in Caraglio’s Saturn and Philyra (Fig.E.47a), and the man in the center in the background recalls Hercules in Caraglio’s Hercules Fighting Cerberus (Fig.E.19).
10 Miles, 1970, 710, thought the etchings betrayed a knowledge of Rosso, but not necessarily a direct one. This opinion is undermined by the evidence of Limosin’s Annunciation and Rosso’s drawing related to it. In the case of the two enamel plaques showing a male and a female satyr framing the Portrait of Anne de Montmorencey, Connétable de France (Fig.Montmorency), it is possible that Limosin used lost drawings by Rosso made for the frame of the Enlightenment of Francis I in the Gallery of Francis I (see under P.22, VII South).