Portrait of Étienne François, comte de Stainville, duc de Choiseul

Portrait of Étienne François, comte de Stainville, duc de Choiseul

mid to late 1700s

Jacques Thouron

(Swiss, 1740-1789)

Enamel in a gilt metal and enamel frame

Diameter: 6.4 cm (2 1/2 in.); Diameter of frame: 8.4 cm (3 5/16 in.)

Gift of J. H. Wade 1921.912

Description

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. This process made it difficult to produce a faithful portrait likeness, though masters of the medium like Jacques Thouron were able create portraits of remarkable subtlety imbued with the sitter's personality.

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