Helena M Ibbotson
Date Made/Found: around 1916
, 1877 - 1962
Material and Medium: silver, enamel, amethyst
Dimensions: Overall: 285 × 300 × 90mm (11 1/4 × 11 13/16 × 3 9/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
This triptych was made by Helena Mary Ibbotson (1877-1962) of Sheffield. It was commissioned by the Sheffield branch of the Soroptimist International Society, who have kindly loaned the triptych to us. The Soroptimists is a worldwide organisation for professional women that runs humanitarian projects and promotes the advancement of women.
The object is composed of a silver frame with hinged doors. They can be secured shut using a latch set with amethysts. The doors open to reveal three enamel panels depicting the crucifixion.
Helena Ibbotson specialised in enamel work. In 1928 she was described her contemporary, Joyce Himsworth, as "undoubtedly the best enameller in Sheffield".
The images that form the triptych have been created using the Limoges enamelling technique for which Ibbotson was apparently well renowned. The technique is named Limoges after the town in France in which it was invented during the late 1400s. It can be used to create beautifully detailed images on metal objects.
A slightly domed metal surface is first covered with a layer of opaque white enamel. The design is created using translucent enamels made from metal oxides mixed with an oily base. Using a brush, different colours are applied to gradually build up the required design. After each application of colour the object is fired in a kiln at temperatures of up to 700°C. This evaporates the oil and fixes the coloured enamel to the backing. Silver or gold foil can be added between the layers of translucent enamel to achieve a sparkling metallic finish.