Laure and Marguerite
Charles Lepec (1830–1890)
Enamel on copper (?), with original ebonised wood and velvet-lined frames, and silver-gilt borders
Each enamel approximately 8 cm (diameter); frame 25.6 x 37.7 cm
French (Paris), 1860
Signed and inscribed
‘LAURE’ and ‘CHARLES LEPEC I.P.V. 1860’ and ‘MARGUERITE’ and ‘1860 CHARLES LEPEC I.P.V.’ ‘No 40 / a / W [?]’ (on back of Marguerite) and ‘No 41 / a’ on back of Laure. Hand-written paper label to reverse of frame: ‘£40 /No 4’
The artist, from whom presumably acquired by Robert Phillips, Cockspur Street, London, through whom acquired by Alfred Morrison (1821–1897), by 1863; sold by Mabel Morrison, Christie’s, 25 January 1899 and following two days, day three, lot 393 (part), see cat. no. 4, below, bt Giuliano; […]; private collection, Cadogan Square, London, and by descent; Cheffins, Cambridge, 9 December 2020, lot 55, bt Sinai & Sons
Paris Exposition Universelle, 1867 (lent by Morrison)
Olivier Hurstel and Martin Levy, ‘Charles Lepec and the Patronage of Alfred Morrison’, Metropolitan Journal, 50 (2015), pp. 195–223, n. 159
Olivier Hurstel and Martin Levy, ‘The Apotheosis of Charles Lepec: his participation at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867’ The Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1850 – the Present, 41 (2017), pp. 34–49, p. 40
The numbers on the back of the enamels, 40 & 41, make their creation almost contemporary with Audaces Fortuna Juvat, which is numbered 34; see H. Blairman & Sons, Furniture and Works of Art (2011), no. 6.
On 18 December 1863, the goldsmith Robert Phillips (d. 1881) of Cockspur Street, London, charged Morrison for ‘Mounting Two Enamels ‘Laura and Margarette [sic]’ / Silver Gilt pierced mounts fitted on to a velvet ground / Framed and glazed / 15. 7. 6.’ (Account from Phillips Brothers to Alfred Morrison, dated Christmas 1863 (Fonthill Estate Archive); cited in Hurstel and Levy (2015), n. 159.) The same mounting (reminiscent of nineteenth-century necklaces in the Archaeological taste) and framing, certainly also by Phillips, can be seen on other Lepec enamels from Morrison’s collection; see Hurstel and Levy (2015), fig. 5 and (2017), figs 7 & 8.
As has been established, Charles Lepec’s most significant patron was the collector Alfred Morrison; see Hurstel and Levy (2015). He was also a major lender to Lepec’s award-winning display at the Paris Exposition Universelle, 1867. A document in the Fonthill Estate Archive list the pieces lent by Morrison; the first two items on the list are: ‘1 Deux profils de femmes: Laure’ and ‘2 Margueritte [sic]’; see Hurstel and Levy (2017), p. 40.
There are frequent references to literary and historic sources in Lepec’s work; see, for example, Hurstel and Levy (2015), figs. 10 & 21. Thus the subjects of the two enamels, Laure and Marguerite, might conceivably represent Laura de Noves (1310–1348), the wife of Count Hugues de Sade, probably the Laura who was Francesco Petrarch’s muse; and Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549) who was married to Henry II of Navarre.
The buyer Giuliano in 1899 may have been the firm of Carlo and Arthur Giuliano of 115 Piccadilly. Carlo (1831–1895) is thought to have been encouraged to move from Naples to London in the mid-nineteenth century by Robert Phillips; see Geoffrey Munn, ‘The Giuliano Family: Art Jewellers’, The Connoisseur (1975, pp. 173–76). It was Phillips who introduced Lepec to Morrison, and who acted as their go-between.