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The Adoration of the Magi: M.45-1904

An image of Plaques in frame

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Adoration of the Magi


Enameller: Robillard, Julien (Possibly)
Frame maker: Unidentified




Carved and gilt wood frame enclosing fifteeen copper plaques enamelled in polychrome enamels over foil paillons, and gilt

Carved and gilt wood frame with scrolled edges set with fifteen (orginally seventeen) copper plaques, enamelled partly over foils in royal blue, pale and dark turquoise, pale green, greyish-green, bright pink, dark red, purple, buff, several shades of brown, black and white enamel, and profusely gilded. The counter enamel on the central plaque is thick and uneven dark brown; the reverses of the other plaques are not visible. The central oval plaque is enamelled with the Adoration of the Magi taking place outside a building of which the door and an external archway above a wall are visible. Joseph stands on the left bending towards the Virgin who sits on the ground holding the Christ Child on her lap. One of the kings kneels before her, and the other two approach from behind him, the first carrying a casket and the next a column-shaped vase. In the foreground there is a covered vase, and standing dish with flames in its bowl. The sky is scattered with gold stars and at the top of the plaque there is a comet.
In the frame above there is a smaller horizontal convex oval plaque of God the Father surrounded by a gold background and pale purple cloud scrolls. He has outstretched arms and wears a red gown and a swirling blue drape. The details of his hair and beard are gold, and his garments and striated and dotted in gold.
Above there are two small curved plaques decorated with gold stars on a black ground. On either side are circular plaques bearing the symbols of St Luke (angel) and St John (eagle) and below, attached to the top of the oval frame, on the right St Matthew (an ox). St Mark on the left (a lion) is missing.
In the frame below the central plaque there is a small oval horizontal oval plaque bearing a chalice and instruments of the Passion, flanked by five-sided plaques decorated with gold stars on a black ground. There are four smaller similarly-decorated four-sided plaques below. Signed and dated on the reverse of the central plaque painted in gold


History note: Unknown before donor

Legal notes

F. MacClean Bequest

Place(s) associated

  • Paris ⪼ France

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1904) by McClean, Frank


19th Century, second half#
Circa 1860 CE - 1885 CE


The date 1539 (or perhaps 1537) is inconsistent with the polychrome enamelling technique which suggests a date in the late 16th or early 17th century. The initials I.R could be those of either of two Jehan/Jean Reymonds, one who died in 1603 and another who died c. 1631-2. But the date, the very bright pink and turquoise enamels, and the treatment of the faces, suggest that the plaques were made in the 19th century. The initials IR coincide with those of Julien Robillard, an enameller who was recorded at the Manufacture Royale at Sèvres in 1845-6 as an aide-émailleur, in the enamelling studio established there between 1845 to 1872. He sent up his own business in rue Montmorency, Paris, c. 1850 and displayed enamels in Renaissance and other styles in exhibitions held in Paris during the 1860s. His address is given on an oval plaque decorated in polychrome with Mercury and Argus, signed ‘J.Robillard/rue Montmorency 44/PARIS’, now in the Hermitage, St Petersburg. The last record of him exhibiting enamels was at Limoges in 1886.

School or Style

Renaissance Revival

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Frame composed of gold ( or gold paint) wood Height 63.5 cm Width 39 cm
Decoration composed of silver ( probably silver foil for the paillons) enamel gold
Plaques composed of copper
Central Plaque Height 30.5 cm Width 23.7 cm

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: I.R./L
  • Location: On the reverse of the central plaque
  • Method of creation: Painted in gold
  • Type: Signature
  • Text: I.R. 15
  • Location: On the curved plaque
  • Method of creation: Painted in gold
  • Type: Signature
  • Text: I.R.1539
  • Location: On right plaque
  • Method of creation: Painted in gold
  • Type: Signature

Inscription present: rectangular white paper lable

  • Text: BEQUEATHED BY/FRANK McCLEAN/M.A.: F.R.S.:/of Trinity College/November MDCCCCIV
  • Location: On back
  • Method of creation: Printed in black
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.45-1904
Primary reference Number: 162103
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 3 July 2018 Last processed: Thursday 7 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2023) "The Adoration of the Magi" Web page available at: Accessed: 2023-12-10 14:56:20

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{{cite web|url= |title=The Adoration of the Magi |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2023-12-10 14:56:20|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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