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Gondola or galley with three winged serpents
Workshop of the Sarachi (?)
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Gondola or galley with three winged serpents

1570 - 1600. Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz, Enamel, Gold. Room 079B

A vessel formed by a large and voluminous body in the shape of a ship’s hull, a small unadorned foot and a stem with a knop, a spout at the prow, balusters, and a kind of forecastle, somewhat damaged. The handles on the side have the form of winged serpents with dragons’ heads, female breasts and bodies ending in console legs, and there is a larger one at the stern, simulating the rudder. Thirteen pieces in all are assembled with gold rings and mounts enamelled in black, protected by the mouth and the deck of the forecastle. The body displays intricate decoration delimited into two strips and a base. It is made up of broad and deeply cut lines forming large foliate sprays, emerging from which are rows of seeds and some fruits. Ships of this type were relatively frequent on princely tables, possibly functioning as salt cellars, bone dishes or containers for liquids.

The piece is notable for its large size and the excellent carving of the handles and figurehead. The upper part is reminiscent of the galley acquired in 1589 from the Sarachi workshop for the marriage of Ferdinando I de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, to Christina of Lorraine, now at the Museo degli Argenti, Inventario del Bargello 1917, no. 1. A fair number of these ships were made at the Milanese workshops, basically following mediaeval models. Philip II owned a ship, possibly larger and more elaborate, that was appraised at a higher value than the finest paintings in the Royal Collection. The handles in the form of winged serpents appear with variants on numerous vessels in the European princely collections, such as the Ovate vase at the Louvre, MR 275, and also have a relation with the galley at the Museo degli Argenti, Inventario del Bargello 1917, no. 8. The style of the carving is comparable with that of an egg-shaped vessel of the type known as pots à fleurs preserved in Florence, Inventario Gemme 1921, no. 803, with two lips and volute-shaped handles. A vessel that seems to be by the same hand as the ship in Madrid is the one that came to the Louvre from the collection of Cardinal Mazarino, MR 339, which has a handle in the form of a dragon. The black enamel of the mount on the prow follows a design based on repertories like those of Hans Collaert or Daniel Mignot (active until 1616). These models frequently appear on Milanese vessels of better quality, some of them attributed to the Sarachi workshop. Similar work is found on a fantastical bird at the Museo degli Argenti, Inventario Gemme 1921, no. 721, and a vase with Hercules and the Hydra at the same museum, Inventario Gemme 1921, no. 725, without forgetting the mount on the prow of the galley of the Duke and Duchess of Tuscany, mentioned above. There are other examples too in Vienna and Dresden, and at the Louvre (the cup OA 2041).

Original state: Juan Laurent y Minier, “Aiguière en forme de navire en cristal de roche taillé et gravé, montures d’or et émaux, XVIe siècle, règne de Henri III”, c. 1879. Museo del Prado, HF0835/52 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Related artworks

Rock crystal boat with a dragon, two fantastical creatures and wheels
Copper alloy, Rock crystal / hyaline quartz, Enamel, Gold, Silver gilt, Ca. 1610
Góndola o galera de cristal con tres sierpes aladas
Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1863
Gondola or galley with three winged serpents
Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1879
Inventory number
Workshop of the Sarachi (?)
Gondola or galley with three winged serpents
1570 - 1600
Chased; Enamelled; Carved; Engraved; Esmerilado
Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz; Enamel; Gold
Height: 24.5 cm.; Width: 47 cm.; Base/bottom: 28 cm.; Weight: 2679 g.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 180-181.

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. 288-290.

Nexon, Y., Topographie d´une collection d´art au XVII siècle: L´ Hôtel Ségnier, Studiolo, 8, 2010, pp. 82-83.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, 'Taller de los Sarachi (?). Góndola o galera de cristal con tres sierpes aladas' En:, Arte transparente. La talla del cristal en el Renacimiento milanés., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 136-139 n.18.

Azcue Brea,L. Simal López,M. Cardito,Y., 'La participación de piezas del Tesoro del Delfín del Museo del Pradoen la Exposición Histórico-Natural y Etnográfica' En:, Ministerio de Educación Cultura y Deporte, Madrid, 2017, pp. 295-308

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. 6.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 100.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 135.
Vaso grande hechura de varco...

Exhibitions +

Transparent Art. Rock Crystal Carving in Renaissance Milan
14.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Transport, Maritime / Transport, River: Góndola

Update date: 10-03-2020 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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