France, second half of the 18th century
Attributed to Thomas Compigné
Gold leaf and tortoiseshell
This small tortoiseshell medallion, engraved and gilt with leaves, represents a view of Florence animated by characters surrounded by a gold edging. The singularities of the tortoiseshell and the gold are highlighted by a delicate work of engraving giving relief to the composition.
The scene represents at the foreground the Arno, on which navigate four boats. The view is taken from the rim, embroidered of greeneries and a ruin on the left part. The left boat is embellished with a hoist, moved by a with a paddle behind. A man walking on a board pass on the right from a boat to another.
On the second plan, a consequent inclined wall forms the docks, interrupted by three arches by which the river continues.
In the background, an important construction, open by a large portal in the central part, surmounted by a railing, dominates the city where we two bells can be seen in the distance.
In front of the building, outlines are represented on the quay. An engraved ribbon runs in the upper surface of the medallion with inscribed “View of Florence surroundings made on the tour.”
Paintings in Compigné
Of great preciousity and variety of materials, the paintings in Compigné were made according to a mysterious process starting from a sheet of tortoiseshell or cardboard to which a pewter or gold leaf was applied. The surface could then be decorated with gold, silver, gouache and coloured varnishes. These “miniatures”, known today under the name of Compigné, had a great success in the 1760s.The small format, characteristic of this production, required to work in extreme precision, probably with the help of a magnifying glass, to develop the perfection of these technical details and colours.
Arrived from Italy, probably around 1750, Thomas Compigni took the name Compigné when he settled under the sign of Roi David, rue Greneta, in Paris. As an ivory turner, he specialised in the manufacture and sale of boxes, knitting sets, draughts and chess sets, snuffboxes and other cane handles of blond tortoiseshell inlaid with gold. Renowned for the quality of his objects, he passed on to posterity through the production of precious paintings whose technique remains mysterious today. In 1773, he presented two views of the Château de Saint-Hubert to the King and obtained the title of “tabletier privilégié du Roi” under Louis XV and Louis XVI. His themes of predilection are most often views of towns, monuments and castles from the perspective of parks or landscapes animated by small characters.
Plaisir de France, « Les Compignés et leurs créateurs, ces délicats chefs-d’œuvre de la tabletterie au XVIIIe siècle », n° 427, March 1975.
Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, exhibition catalogue, Grasse, Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard (June-July 1991).