Born circa 1506, Léonard Limousin (Limosin in Limoges dialect) was the first of the Limoges enamelers to copy engravings of Raphael's followers and to diffuse compositions by the early Italian mannerists. Jean de Langeac (1533-1541), the bishop of Limoges and counselor and ambassador-at-large of Francis I, introduced him to the court of Fontainebleau. His work there, after cartoons by Il Rosso, has disappeared. Henry II named him official "esmaileur peintre," painter and enameler, in 1548. The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1551) is the only surviving painting by Limousin.
The considerable production of Limousin's workshop (more than one thousand pieces) includes twelve large plaques of the Apostles after drawings by Primaticcio for the castle at Anet, various articles for the table and display dresser, mirror frames, caskets, a hunting horn of 1536, a tricktrack board of 1537, and about 132 portraits, a production in which Limousin may have been assisted by his brother Martin (d. 1575). The earliest of these portraits were incorporated into the wainscoating of the Gallery at Fontainebleau. No trace of them remains. Others were integrated into the decoration of the hôtel of Catherine de' Medici in Paris, according to an inventory drawn up after her death in 1589. Limousin's enameled art objects were highly valued, as evidenced by their being treasured in the "Cabinet des Bagues" at the top of the donjon at the palace at Fontainebleau, where they were intermingled with cameos, intaglios, and the goldwork of Benvenuto Cellini and Matteo del Nassaro. Limousin died sometime between 1575 and 1577. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Bourdery, Louis. "Léonard Limosin et son oeuvre." Bulletin spécial du cinquantenaire de la société archéologique et historique du Limousins (1895): cixii-cixxiv. 163-174.
Edited by Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 23:230-232.
Verdier 1967, xxi-xxii.
Distelberger, Rudolf, Alison Luchs, Philippe Verdier, and Timonthy H. Wilson. Western Decorative Arts, Part I: Medieval, Renaissance, and Historicizing Styles including Metalwork, Enamels, and Ceramics. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1993: 90.