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Boat-shaped agate cup with a winged siren
Taller bizantino; Anonymous
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Taller bizantino

Boat-shaped agate cup with a winged siren

1600 - 1630. Agate, Alabaster, Enamel, Gold, Pearls. Room 060

This vessel is one of the few pieces in the Dauphin’s Treasure to be preserved in its original state, and is a magnificent example of the delicate work of the goldsmiths of the Paris school. It is made up of a deep boat-shaped bowl with a frontal lip, whose edges thicken at the rear to form an inner fold with outlines of leaves or volutes. This body rests on a balustroid stem with helicoidal gadroons in relief, which stands in its turn on a circular foot with alabaster socle. These three pieces are held together by two gold mounts enamelled in black and red on a white background, simulating laurels with ribbons enamelled in translucent red. The handle and lip are delicate creations in enamelled gold representing respectively the figure of a siren and a figurehead of a faun or Silenus.

The handle is formed by a Horn of Abundance transformed into enamelled green leaves and white petals bound by red ribbons, from which there emerges a gold siren, harpy or bicha (half-woman, half-animal) enamelled in white, her eyes wide open like a mesmerist, with delicately fashioned bat’s wings. A blue sash crosses her breast, and her head is a carved agate, with the brown layer used for the hair and the whitish layer for the face. She has three enamelled feathers in her headdress, an idea found on other vessels, and particularly the Cup with gold mermaid at the Museo del Prado, O1. A pearl necklace conceals the joint at the neck. The head of the Prado siren is a typically Milanese production, possibly from the workshop of the Miseroni, and the work repeats Mannerist models linked to the French court, possibly, as Barbet thought, from the period of Henry IV. The bowl is decorated with a mount on the lip in the form of a figurehead of a faun, or possibly Silenus, in a style close to the Minerva ewer at the Louvre, MR 445. It has white and red enamelling with touches of black and other more specific colours, such as opaque grass green and purple, the latter often used by the Paris school. The rear is adorned with an appliqué of openwork scrolls with a fishscale pattern painted red and white.

The siren on the handle is very similar to vessel MR 120 at the Louvre, whose provenance is the French Royal Collection. Vessel MR 231, also at the Louvre, meanwhile has laurels at the joint like the one in Madrid, a very similar figurehead at the lip, and a half-woman, half-animal figure for a handle with special similarities in the treatment of the body, although it dates from the 1630s or later. Later still is a kind of tea urn in lapis lazuli at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Kunstkammer, inv. 1653. This has a more schematised siren figure with the body twisted in the same way to form the handle. Also related is a model found in the Royal Collection of Sweden, vessel no. 39, which Kris believed to have been made in Prague in about 1660.

The state of the work in the 19th century can be seen through the photography of Juan Laurent y Minier, "Vase agate, montures d’or et émaux, XVIe siècle, règne de Henri II", c. 1879, Museo del Prado, HF0835/12 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Inventory number
Taller bizantino; Anonymous
Boat-shaped agate cup with a winged siren
1600 - 1630 (Mounting)
Chased; Enamelled; Carved
Agate; Alabaster; Enamel; Gold; Pearls
Height: 19.7 cm.; Width: 17.5 cm.; Base/bottom: 7.7 cm.; Weight: 345 g.; Ancho base: 6.8 cm.; Bottom of the base: 5.5 cm.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 30-31.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, El tesoro del Delfín: alhajas de Felipe V recibidas por herencia de su padre Luis, Gran Delfín de Francia, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 243-245.

Arbeteta, L. Azcue, L., El Tesoro del Delfín, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2018, 2018.

Other inventories +

Agates, cristaux, procelaines, bronzes, et autres curiositez qui sont dans le Cabinet de Monseigneur le Dauphin a Versailles. Núm. 69.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 78.
Una Copa con su pie, todo de Agata con quatro guarniciones, pico en forma de Mascaron, y por Asa una Sirena con Caveza de Piedra, Alas, Tocado, y Collar de Perlas, todo de Color de oro Esmaltado, qe. inclusa el Asa, tiene once dedos de alto, y Caja de Tafilete encarnado.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 36.
Otro vaso, y su vasa de piedra Agata guarnezido, que forma el asa de una vicha con alas, y la cabeza de la misma piedra, el pico un mascaron, y hojas: en el pie, y vasa, hojas y cintas, agallonado de esmalte rojo y todo de oro con esmalte blanco, berde, azul, purpura y rojo: en la vicha tiene su collar con diez y ocho granitos aperlados mui pequeños tasados en quatro reales; regulado el oro en dos onzas y media poco mas o menos, que todo con la piedra de dho vaso y su caja vale 7.774.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 36.
Alhajas y efectos preciosos que se hallaban colocados en el Gabinete de Historia natural y trasladados al Real Museo de Pintura y Escultura de S. M., en virtud de Rl. orden de 11 de Mayo de 1839 [...] 36. Otro vaso y su pie de piedra Ágata, guarnecido, que forma el asa de una vicha con alas, y la cabeza de la misma piedra, el pico un mascaron y hojas, cintas agallonadas de esmalte rojo y todo de oro con esmalte blanco verde, azul, purpura y rojo; la vicha tiene su collar con diez y ocho granitos apartados muy pequeños, tasados en cuatro reales, regulado el oro en dos onzas y media poco mas o menos.

Exhibitions +

"The Other Treasure": The Dauphin’s Cases
10.03.2020 - 10.01.2021

Location +

Room 060 (Temporary Exhibition)

Exposición Temporal
Update date: 04-08-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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