Alexander the Great

Colin Nouailher (French, active 1539, d. after 1571)
Based on a woodcut by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (Netherlandish, Oostsanen ca. 1470–1533 Amsterdam)
ca. 1541
French, Limoges
Painted and partly gilded enamel on copper
Diameter: 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, John H. and Susan Gutfreund Gift, 1993
Accession Number:
Not on view
Alexander is one of the Nine Heroes celebrated in French literary tradition who were popularized by Jacques de Longuyon in his early fourteenth-century romance Les Voeux du Paon. Longuyon's poem was greatly admired at the courts of France and Burgundy, and its subject inspired poets and artists throughout western Europe. Jan de Clerks's poem Leken Spieghel introduced the Nine Heroes to the Netherlands shortly after Longuyon's work appeared, and the subject was still current in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, when several Flemish and Dutch printmakers illustrated the Heroes as mounted warriors wearing flamboyant headgear. A woodcut by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (before 1470–1533) provided the model for our enamel, but the painter transformed the image in a style that is unmistakably his own. He was the second member of a family of enamel painters at Limoges to use the sobriquets Couly and Colin, short for Nicolas. More than thirty medallions belonging to several Heroes series are known to have been painted either by Couly II or members of his workshop. One of the medallions, now in the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, is signed with the painter's initials, C.N. Another, in the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Angers, is dated 1541.
Inscription: In gold along the top edge: ALEXAN / DER•MACEDO
Baronne de Nervaux-Loys , Château de Courson, Ile-de-France ; [ sale, Ader Picard Tajan, Paris , June 23, 1976, lot 93 ] ; Private Collection, Lille, France ; [ Alain Moatti , until 1993; sold to MMA ]