(b Paris, 2 Nov 1825; d Paris, 17 May 1892). French enameller, painter and writer. He began his career as a history painter, but from 1860 worked primarily in the decorative arts. He translated Cipriano di Michele Piccolpasso's Li tre libri dell’arte del vasaio (1556-9) and, though initially producing faience, he preferred the delicate technique of painting on enamel, which he learnt from Alfred Meyer (1832-1904). Working in the tradition of the 16th-century Limosin family, from 1863 he devoted the next 30 years to the art of enamelling. His first works have intense colours enhanced by the sparkle of silver foil beneath and are notable for the backgrounds coloured with a violet of his own invention. He liked to assemble several enamel plaques together within the same frame to develop a single allegorical or historical theme, as in the portrait of Napoleon III (1865; Paris, Mus. Orsay), which also includes portraits of Charlemagne, Napoleon I and others. His masterpiece, Triumph of Truth (1.7×1.5 m, exh. Salon 1867; untraced), consisted of portraits of 12 philosophers arranged around the central figure. His success resulted in orders from manufacturers, and his enamels were used to decorate furniture, bronzes, silver and gold objects and bookbinding plates. Popelin popularized the art of enamelling through several theoretical essays. With the help of photography, after 1870 he adopted the more subtle technique of enamelling in gold grisaille to execute a series of portraits of contemporary celebrities (e.g. Baron Hippolyte Lazzey, 1890; Paris, Mus. Orsay).
From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.