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Jean Petitot (1607-91)

Box mounted with miniature of Jean Petitot (1607-1691) c. 1674-75

Box: tortoiseshell, gold; miniature: enamel | 2.5 x 8.1 x 8.1 cm (whole object) | RCIN 43888

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  • This important enamel is one of two known self-portraits by Jean Petitot, the most distinguished enamellist of the seventeenth century. Jean Petitot's career, which spanned seven decades, involved periods of notable success at the courts of Charles I in London and of Louis XIV in Paris. Born in Geneva, he is thought to have trained with Henri Toutin in Paris before spending several years in England from 1637 onwards, receiving instruction from Van Dyck and and engaging the patronage and interest of Charles I. He was forced to flee to France by the onset of the Civil War in either 1643 or 1644 and may have received an introduction at the court of Louis XIV from the king's aunt, Queen Henrietta Maria, who also returned to exile in France after the execution of Charles I in 1649. Petitot was appointed Court Painter in Enamel to Louis XIV and worked with great success in Paris until the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) when, as a Protestant, he was forced to return to Geneva where he eventually died in 1691.

    Over fifty enamels by Jean Petitot were acquired by George IV during the period 1799-1827, many of them set in snuff-boxes. After George IV's death, many of these works of art were dismantled and the settings sold, leaving only the enamel portraits in the Royal Collection; this self-portrait is unusual in that it remains set in a circular tortoiseshell box. The inside of the lid is inscribed around the monogram G.R. enclosed by the Garter: 'The Portrait of THE ELDER PETITOT by himself'. The royal accounts record the purchase in 1817 of a 'very fine enamelled ' picture by Petitot 'Himself in his first state' which may refer to this miniature. If that is the case, it must subsequently have left the Royal Collection at an unknown date as it was re-acquired when Lady Mount Stephen gave it to Queen Mary in 1915.

    Given to Queen Mary by Lady Mount Stephen in 1915

  • Medium and techniques

    Box: tortoiseshell, gold; miniature: enamel


    2.5 x 8.1 x 8.1 cm (whole object)

    8.1 cm (frame diameter)

    3.3 x 2.5 cm (sight)