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Cup with dolphin-shaped handles
Workshop of the Miseroni
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Workshop of the Miseroni

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Cup with dolphin-shaped handles

Ca. 1540. Gold, Omphacite. Room 079B

Vessel made up of two pieces of stone and a gold mount. The bowl has an oval mouth and semicircular profile ending in a flat plane from which the neck rises, crowned by a broad flared lip. At each end are two small monolithic handles in the form of dolphins. The lines are very clean, with a delicate sobriety emphasised by thin mouldings. Inserted in the short bell-shaped foot is a delicately chased gold stem in the form of a tripod with S-shaped legs, garlands and foliage resting on a gadrooned base. Its forms adhere to the Renaissance canons in all their purity, and bearing in mind the material employed, it may be one of the earliest products of the Milanese hardstone industry, perhaps related to the beginnings of the Miseroni workshop, which would date it to around 1540.

A large mount on the foot and the voluminous cover have both been missing since 1813. Thanks to the case, we know the volumes of these vanished parts. Below the foot is an almost cubic gap that shows how large the mount was, compensating volumetrically for the mass of the gold and the carved stone. Mounts added in Paris The original arrangement of the vessel was altered when its volume was increased after 1689 with the addition of a graceful structure of props and garlands in the classical French taste, still partially preserved. The scrolls arranged in a tripod recall those on the foot of vessel O65 in the Dauphin’s Treasure and on OA 6618 in the Louvre, though placed the opposite way up. The missing mount on the foot, with the four dolphins described in the inventories, was doubtless fashioned in the same style, and might have had a similar appearance to the dolphins on vessel O66 in the Dauphin’s Treasure.

Scattered around several European museums is a set of small pieces made in the same material, described in their time as “plasma” or “emerald plasma”. This was one of the most highly valued gemstones, since it was thought to be the mother of emeralds. Alcouffe considered these vessels to be the production of a single workshop, probably Milanese or perhaps Florentine, active around the 1530s, which used this beautiful translucent green material from the same vein until supplies were exhausted. The stone is actually a variety of jadeite, possibly Burmese. The Dauphin’s Treasure has two pieces in this material: this one, and the Flask with tracery and a head of Medusa in gold, O57. Two vessels of the same type are in the Louvre, MR 163 and MR 164. Alcouffe proposed identifying this group of vessels with acquisitions by certain 16th century personages, in particular Francis I, who bought several objects in “emerald plasma” from the Milanese merchant Ambrogio Cassul or Cassal between 1533 and 1535. He deduced the possibility that these pieces, which are described in the inventory carried out in 1561 at Fontainebleau, came from Milan. If so, they would be one of the earliest signs of the Milanese hardstone industry, perhaps related to the beginnings of the Miseroni workshop, since part of Gasparo’s production follows models with pure lines and balanced proportions with extremely fine carving. However, since the largest concentration of vessels with these characteristics is found in Florence, it is also possible that the pieces were Florentine (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Related artworks

Case for green jasper cup with dolphin-shaped handles
Cloth, Leather, Wood, Metal, 1690 - 1711
Inventory number
Workshop of the Miseroni
Cup with dolphin-shaped handles
Ca. 1540 (Body); After 1689 (Adornment)
Chased; Carved
Gold; Omphacite
Height: 11 cm.; Width: 13.8 cm.; Base/bottom: 10.2 cm.; Weight: 217 g.; Diameter of the base: 3.5 cm.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 100.

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. 314-315.

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. 7.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 114.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 33.
Un vaso redondo, con su tapa, pie y asas de sierpe, todo de piedra blasma, el remate, como torneado; el pie, y vasa compuesto con tres cartelas, quatro Delfines, y festones, hojas, y flores sobre oro, todo cincelado y picado, que rebajado el peso de una chapita de plata, que tiene a la parte de adentro, se reguló en tres onzas y media de oro, que junto con la piedra, y caja de dho vaso vale 18.958...10.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 33.
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 [...] 33. Un vaso redondo con su tapa, pie y asas de Sierpes, todo de piedra blanca, el remate como torneado, el pie y base compuesto de tres cartelas, cuatro Delfines, festones, hojas y flores sobre oro, todo cincelado y picado, que rebajado el peso de una chapita de plata que tiene a la parte de adentro, se reguló en tres onzas y media de oro.

Exhibitions +

El arte de la plata y las joyas en la España de Carlos V
La Coruña
06.07.2000 - 15.09.2000

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 08-07-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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