Lot 290: PHOEBE ANNA TRAQUAIR (1852-1936) ''SEEK YE MY FACE'' ENAMEL TRIPTYCH, DATED 1906 overall height 16.8cm, central enamel panel 3.5cm x 5.
October 26, 2016
Edinburgh, United KingdomLive Auction
PHOEBE ANNA TRAQUAIR (1852-1936)
''SEEK YE MY FACE'' ENAMEL TRIPTYCH, DATED 1906
enamel with foil on copper, within a patinated copper frame and stand, probably designed by Ramsay Traquair (1874-1952) and made by J.M Talbot, with facetted column and spreading circular base, inscribed in gilt to the front in the enamel SEEK YE MY FACE/ THY FACE LORD WILL I SEEK, signed twice with artist''s monogram and dated 190*, inscribed verso in the copper I WILL LAY ME DOWN/ IN PEACE, AND TAKE/ MY REST, FOR IT IS THOU,/ LORD, ONLY, THAT MAKEST/ ME TO DWELL IN SAFETY with artist''s monogram and date, 1906
overall height 16.8cm, central enamel panel 3.5cm x 5.3cm, side panels 3.5cm x 2.4cm
Literature: Cumming, Elizabeth ''Phoebe Anna Traquair 1852-1936'', 1993
Note: Phoebe Anna Traquair (1873-1936) was an Edinburgh-based artist who was an important member Arts and Crafts Movement. She was one of few late Victorian women who managed to balance her traditional family responsibilities with a successful, internationally recognised artistic career. This is emphasised in the fact that she was the first woman to be given honorary membership of the Scottish Royal Academy, in 1920. Her specialities included mural painting, manuscript illumination and enamelling.
This triptych is almost identical to one in the collection of the V&A Museum (V&A M.189-1976.). They have identified the enamelled scenes as showing ''Love, Comforter of the Night'', flanked by ''Evening'' and ''Morning''. The reverse of the central panel has an engraved message taken from the Bible: ''I will lay me down in peace and take my rest for it is thou, Lord, only, that makest me to dwell in safety'' (Psalm 4:8). The exterior surface of the side-panels is also enamelled and shows a quotation from Psalm 27:8, ''Seek ye my face; They Face Lord will I seek''.
The triptych is dated 1906, when Traquair was at the height of her enamelling career. It is estimated that she produced around 150 enamels over the course of her career, with at least 80 made between 1901 and 1906. She was particularly attracted to enamel work because of the bright colours that it created, which she further heightened through the use of metal foil fragments.
The form, subject and style of this triptych are entirely typical of Traquair''s work. They indicate her belief in the moralising purpose of art and her love of Italian Renaissance artists such as Fra Angelico. The central panel''s red flowers against a green ground and the rainbow sky, indicating dawn or dusk, are features repeatedly used by Traquair and can be seen another of her triptychs, The Red Cross Knight, of which there are also two known versions. The copper mount for this triptych, like her others, would have been designed by her son, Ramsay, based on Renaissance metalwork forms that they researched together.