Jean Pénicaud II (attributed), Pentecost, c. 1550
This work, made of enamel and gold on copper, is of very small size. The background of the scene resembles an engraving, but the people are wearing clothes of intense colors, such as blue and yellow. The image tells the story of the Feast of the Pentecost, fifty days (or seven Sundays) after Easter. On that date, the Holy Spirit appeared to Christ’s Apostles. The Holy Spirit is represented here as a dove, above the head of the Virgin Mary.
During the Renaissance, the subjects of religious art were extremely varied. This scene in particular was a good subject for contemplation, because it tells how the Apostles received the gift of renewed faith. A person looking at this image could hope to be reinspired in the same way.
Miniature art of this quality was reserved for the very wealthiest people. Its small size indicates that the work was displayed in a private room, intended to be seen only by the man or woman who owned it.
The presumed artist of this work is Jean Pénicaud II (c. 1515-before 1588), an enamel artist and painter in Limoges, in the Limousin region of central France. The region was famous for the artistic production of enamels, and later became famous for porcelain.