Skip to main content

The Crucifixion: M.112-1961

An image of Plaque

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Alternative views

Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Crucifixion


Maker: Limosin, Léonard (Probably)




Copper enamelled in polychrome and gilded. The Crucifixion, signed ‘LEONARDVS/ LEMOVICVS/.1536’.

Rectangular slightly convex copper plaque, enamelled in bright blue, dark blue, turquoise, green, yellow, tan-brown, mulberry, purple grey, black, and white, and gilded. The reverse has clear counter-enamel with slight cloudiness here and there, over scratched criss-crossed lines and small groups of horizontal lines.

Christ hangs on the Cross with a titulus inscribed ‘INRI’ in black. Blood streams from his wounds, and he wears a green crown of thorns, and a white loin cloth which billows out on either side of the Cross. Above there are four cherubs' heads, and, on the left the sun, and on the right, the crescent moon with a face. Lower down on each side there is a group of three cherubs' heads amid clouds. The blue sky is scattered with tiny gold stars. The repentant sinner, St Disma, hangs peacefully on a cross on the left. His soul is shown above his cross as a small nude figure being lifted to heaven by two angels. The urepentant sinner hangs contortedly on a rustic cross on the right. His soul is shown above being seized by a green devil.
On each side of the Cross, there is a crowd with three horsemen on the left and two on the right. One on the left, St Longinus, spears Christ’s side, and another holds a billowing flag. On the extreme left is a man holds a standard with a helmet below, and, on a panel beneath it, the date ‘1536’ in black. Closer to the Cross a youth holding a pole with a panel inscribed ‘.VENI’. On the right of the Cross a man holds a pole with a tabella ansata initialled ‘LL.’. St Mary Magdalene kneels at the foot of the Cross which has a skull on the grass in front of it. In the left foreground, the swooning Virgin Mary is supported by Mary (the mother of James?) and St John. In the foreground to right are three men fighting over Christ’s garment, and in the lower right corner, two playing cards, and three dice on the ground. A panel at bottom centre, is signed ‘LEONARDVS/ LEMOVICVS/.1536’.In the landscape background there are is a large dark blue town or palace, a column of soldiers, and on the right, bushy turquoise trees. Gilding is used to outline and shade the costume, for the poles and standards, and the graining on the wood of the central Cross.
The cast gilt-metal alloy frame, is decorated with acanthus leaves alternating with circular cabochon-like motifs, and has at top centre two winged putti holding a coronet over a ducal crown (?). The panel is held in position on the back by flat copper strips soldered to the frame.


History note: Probably Mr Spalding by whom presented to George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough in 1793; if not, before 1862, John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough(1822-1883); offered for sale Christie’s, 14 June 1883, Catalogue of the choice collection of Limoges enamels, from Blenheim Palace; comprising upwards of eighty specimens including works of Susanne de Court, Jean Courtois, J. Laudin, F. Limousin, L. Limousin, J. Penicaud, P. Reymond, and other celebrated artists; also a beautiful old Sèvres table, p. 12, lot 58; unsold at £310; uncertain; Louis C.G. Clarke, MA, LL.D., Cambridge.

Legal notes

Louis.C.G. Clarke Bequest, 1960

Place(s) associated

  • Limoges ⪼ Haute Vienne ⪼ France

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1961-04-27) by Clarke, Louis Colville Gray


16th Century, second quarter#
Production date: dated AD 1536 : the frame is probably pre 1862


The Crucifixion was one of the subjects most frequently depicted on Limoges enamels in the first half of the sixteenth century. Here the scene includes persons mentioned in the Gospels - the Virgin Mary, St John and Mary Magdelene - with St Longinus, who by tradition was the soldier who pierced the crucified Christ’s side with his lance. The scene has a rather agitated character produced by crowds of small figures and horses around the Cross, which is very different from Léonard Limosin's later plaques of religious or mythological subjects. In 1986 Madeleine Marcheix, when discussing his oval Crucifixion plaque of 1556, in the Musée de l'Évêché, Limoges (inv. 857-4426) accepted this plaque as characteristic of his work during the period 1535-40, before he adopted a more overtly Mannerist style. Details of this Crucifixion, such as the treatment of the trees, and grasses in the foreground, and the intense, almost scowling facial expressions with a dark pupil to the eye close to the nose on some figures, can be compared with those on two plaques decorated with scenes from the life of St Anthony in the British Museum, which bear the arms of Jean de Langeac, bishop of Limoges, and are initialled and dated 1536 (1913,1220.28 and 1922,0707.1). Léonard Limosin was to become enameller to Francis I in the late 1540s, and his brilliant portrait plaques, and other enamels became highly sought after by collectors in the nineteenth century. The existence of four or five almost similar Crucifixion plaques either initialled or signed and dated 1535 and or 1536 raised doubts about their authenticity. (see the bibliography for references to these) However, ion beam analysis of the composition of this plaque's enamels in 2012 indicated that their elements and impurities are closely comparable to those used on other sixteenth-century enamels. The plaque's provenance also supports an early date. The production of pastiches of Renaissance enamels was already rife when the plaque was recorded in the Duchess of Marlborough's sitting room at Blenheim in 1862, but it was almost certainly one of a collection of over sixty enamels given to the 4th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough in 1793 by a Mr Samuel Spalding, before the revival of interest in enamelling techniques in the 1820s and 1830s.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Frame composed of gilt-metal Width 22.4 cm
Decoration composed of enamel gold
Plaque composed of copper Height 24.4 cm Width 20.4 cm
Frame At Side Height 26.4 cm
Frame At Centre Height 28.4 cm

Inscription or legends present

  • Location: On front
  • Method of creation: Painted in black
  • Type: Signature
  • Text: LL
  • Location: On front, on pole with a tabella ansata
  • Method of creation: Painted in black
  • Type: Initials
  • Text: INRI
  • Location: On Cross
  • Method of creation: Painted in black
  • Type: Inscription

Inscription present: rectangular paper label printed in the centre with '1'

  • Text: 1
  • Location: On back
  • Method of creation: Printed in black
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.112-1961
Primary reference Number: 156459
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 28 February 2024 Last processed: Wednesday 28 February 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "The Crucifixion" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-19 04:40:09

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=The Crucifixion |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-19 04:40:09|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="The Crucifixion"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">The Crucifixion</figcaption>

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...