Marguerite de France as Minerva
  • Plaque
  • Marguerite de France as Minerva
  • Jean de Court (died before 1583)
  • Limoges, France
  • Date: 1555
  • Medium: Enamel, flesh tones, black, silver-coloured and red details, foil, gold and copper, enamelled and gilded, with enlevage
  • Height: 20.9 cm
  • Width: 15.9 cm
  • Inv: C589
  • Location: Sixteenth Century Gallery
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Further Reading
  • This celebrated plaque is the only fully signed and dated enamel by Jean de Court, whose identity has been debated by enamel specialists since the nineteenth century. It is possible that he can be identified with Jean Court, whose prolific workshop used the maker's mark IC; with the enameller Jean Court dit Vigier, who was active between 1555 and 1558, sometimes writing his full name, sometimes using the mark ICDV; and with the court painter Jean de Court, last cited in an archival document in 1585. A possible connection with the enameller who used the mark IDC (see C594) also continues to be a subject of discussion.

    The plaque depicts Marguerite de France (1523–1574), daughter of François I, as Minerva, the goddess of war and wisdom in Classical mythology. Marguerite was known for her erudition and for her encouragement of contemporary French writers. The poet Pierre Ronsard first made the analogy between Marguerite and Pallas/Minerva in 1549. From then until 1559, when she married Emmanuel-Philibert, Duke of Savoy, and moved to his court at Turin, French writers repeatedly identified Marguerite, who in her wisdom championed their writing against ignorance, with Pallas/Minerva. This identification was highly topical in 1555, the year when this plaque was made: Ronsard repeated the analogy that year and it was extensively developed by François de Billon. As a symbol of the universe, the armillary sphere expresses the concept of the spread of Marguerite’s fame throughout the universe and may allude to her motto, ‘Rerum sapientia custos’ [Wisdom, guardian of the world].

    Marguerite’s head is after a version of a drawing of her attributed to François Clouet around 1555 (Musée Condé, Chantilly). For Marguerite’s armour, the sphere, books and owl, de Court took inspiration from René Boyvin’s engraving of Minerva after Luca Penni.