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Paul Grandhomme Enamel Pendant of the Allegory of Fable after Gustave Moreau


Created in the mid 1890s by the jeweler and enamelist Paul Grandhomme, after a painting by symbolist artist Gustave Moreau, this polychrome Limoges enamel plaque, painted in a free hand, depicts a figural allegory of “Fable”. The youthful nude woman with flowing golden hair holding a comedic theater mask and whisk rides a hippogriff accompanied by a peacock through a pale blue sky and wispy rose tone cloud. The plaque is outed in a stepped frame with double scrolls above and scrolling scalloped elements below, suspending three graduated natural pearls. This elegant, richly colored image by one of the most notable symbolist artists, re-created in miniature by one of the pre-eminent enamelists of the period is a wearable work of art when suspended from a period chain.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: PT-19896
Artist: Paul Grandhomme, Paris, after a painting by Gustave Moreau
Country: France
Circa: 1895
Size:  3.25” length x 2.50” width
Materials: Limoges enamel on copper plaque, Silver gilt frame; 3 freshwater pearls
Signed: Enamel plaque: Paul Grandhomme (after Gustave Moreau); Frame: with French assay mark
Literature: For a discussion on Moreau and his watercolors for the Fables, see Carey, Juliet Gustave Moreau: The Fables, Paul Holberton, 2020. Several of Grandhomme’s works for Falize in the Renaissance Revival style are illustrated in French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century by Henri Vever.

Paul Grandhomme initially trained as an apprentice jeweler but developed a strong interest in enamels after reading Claudius Popelin's history of enameling while working as a librarian during the Franco-Prussian war. His enamel creations were at first unsuccessful, though he later found an audience and supplied Parisian jeweler Boucheron small enamel plaques to be inserted into exquisite jewelry. Grandhomme also collaborated with jeweler Lucien Falize, and silversmith Jules Brateau with whom he made the celebrated gold and enamel 'Secret' casket now in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (inv. 17461). 

An enamelist of great significance, Grandhomme appears several times in Henri Vever’s authoritative compendium of his contemporaries, French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century. Grandhomme was among “the most talented craftsmen” in Paris, one whom Alexis Falize enlisted in his celebrated project reviving the art of enamel. The production of Falize’s celebrated enamel jewelry involved the collaboration of up to forty craftsmen; they were among the most expensive jewels ever made, and Grandhomme was a valued contributor. The royal suppliers Bapst and Falize turned to Grandhomme to create enameled jewels for their award winning showcase at the 1889 Paris Exposition. Vever mentions that he would have liked to devote a special chapter to Parisian enamelists in his history, mentioning Grandhomme as first among them.. 

From 1877, Grandhomme worked with his ex-pupil Alfred Garnier, and together they produced enamels, winning a gold medal at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. They created approximately fourteen works after paintings by symbolist Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), two of these, Sapho, 1895, and Hélène, 1893, are in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris (OAO 1169 and OAO 192); another, Hercules and the Twelve Labors, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2011.257). 

The present work is after Moreau's watercolor Allegory of Fable, painted between 1879-1885 as part of a series commissioned by art collector Antony Roux to illustrate a new edition of Jean de la Fontaine's fables. Roux originally commissioned several fashionable artists of the period, including Doré, Lami, Baudry, Derôme, Ziem, and Moreau, and exhibited over 150 watercolors at the Cercle des Aquarellistes, held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1881. When Moreau's paintings were the most admired, Roux decided to commission a further thirty-nine illustrations, thus assigning Moreau the task of illustrating the entire work. Allegory of Fable was intended as the frontispiece to the publication. It shows a partially-draped nude female personification of Fable, a whisk in her hand, and holding a comedy mask, carried by a hippogriff, symbols that might allude to Moreau's attitude towards fables - the didactic function disguised by comedy. The use of nude females and mythological creatures is not uncommon in Moreau's work, and this particular subject would have been pleasing to Grandhomme who is known to have drawn inspiration from the female nude. 

Roux's edition of Fontaine's Fables was never published, and Moreau's paintings were subsequently acquired by Miriam Alexandrine de Rothschild (1884-1965), though almost half of them were lost during the Nazi era. The remaining paintings are featured as the exhibition, Gustave Moreau: The Fables, displayed at Waddesdon Manor, and at the Musee National de Gustave Moreau, Paris, both in 2020.