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Heliotrope cup in the form of a shell with handles
Miseroni, Ottavio; Vermeyen, Jan
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Miseroni, Ottavio
Vermeyen, Jan
Bruselas, 1559 - Praga, 1606

Heliotrope cup in the form of a shell with handles

Ca. 1600. Enamel, Bloodstone, Gold. Room 079B

The cup is made up of two pieces of stone and two enamelled gold mounts. The bowl consists of a scallop shell on which two transversal handles are carved in the same block, forming simple circles that rise high above the rim. With a boat-shaped profile, it has two gadroons on the prow or spout, forming a trefoiled mouth. The stern undulates at the edge to create a wave with a vegetable motif at the base. Sinuously blending in with the forms of the body, the carving recalls the organic specimens of the animist style. The piece is harmoniously designed, and the execution and finish are of high quality. Owing to its design and characteristics, Arbeteta attributed it to the Prague workshop of the Miseroni, where it was perhaps, as Distelberger suggested, the work of Ottavio. According to the 1689 Versailles inventory, the cup was in Meudon.

The enamelled gold mounts were probably made at the court in Prague itself, since they conform to the simplified style of Jan Vermeyen (1559-1606). His designs for small pieces were characterised by the appearance of pavilions, fruits and other stylised elements hollowed out of the smooth surface of the gold and then enlivened with translucent enamels inlaid in atractively contrasting colours. Arbeteta has compiled various repertories of the same style, like those of Hertzich van Bein, a silversmith at the court of Prague, published in 1589 and 1592, and those of the engraver Johanes van Selen, originally from the Netherlands, which date from 1599. It is frequent to find figures added on a reserve in opaque white enamel, as is the case here of the minute patterns of moons, cross-shaped flowers and vertical stripes. There are vessels with similar patterns attributed to Prague workshops, such as two at the Museo degli Argenti in Florence. The first is a cup, Inv. Gemme 1921, no. 471, with a similar structure and a white strip identical to that on the foot of the piece at the Prado. The second is another cup, Inv. Gemme 1921, no. 411, with a mount from the same workshop, carved in jasper from Bohemia. Both date from the second half of the 17th century and formed part of the treasure of the "Tribuna" at the Uffizi. The piece also resembles the chalcedony cup, inv. 1665, at the Kunstkammer of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which has a similar decorative design around the rim, the work of Ottavio Miseroni, with a gold mount attributed to Jan Vermeyen. It used to be in Rudolf II’s chamber of wonders, where it appeared with the number 1341 in the inventory for 1607-11. Another mount by Jan Vermeyen, also at the Kunstkammer in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. 1871, presents a thin band of embedded white enamel and another broader one in plain gold with hollows enamelled in various colours, while its design of pavilions, scrolls, birds and fruits recalls both O16 at the Prado and the vessel discussed here, which seems a simplified version with insects added to it. Another variant of the same type of enamel is also found at the Kunstkammer in Vienna, inv. 3259, where it covers a bezoar stone, very valuable because it was thought to be an antidote against poison.

The state of the work in the 19th century can be seen through the photography of Juan Laurent y Minier, "Terrine jaspe sanguin transparent, montures d’or et émail, XVIIe siècle, règne de Henri IV", c. 1879, Museo del Prado, HF0835/19 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Inventory number
Miseroni, Ottavio; Vermeyen, Jan
Heliotrope cup in the form of a shell with handles
Ca. 1600
Chased; Enamelled; Carved
Enamel; Bloodstone; Gold
Height: 6.5 cm.; Width: 8.5 cm.; Base/bottom: 8.7 cm.; Weight: 85 g.; Ancho base: 4.3 cm.; Bottom of the base: 3.8 cm.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 42.

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. 342-343.

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. 444.
Une petite tasse de Jaspe verd [...]

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 128.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 58.
Otro vaso hechura de concha con sus dos asas y pie de piedra sanguina, labrado en el adonde haze la forma de concha unos cartones, y en el pie sus dos engarzes de oro esmaltados de verde, blanco, azul y anteado; regulado en tres ochabas de oro que junto con la piedra de dho vaso y su caja vale 1.602..22.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 58.
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 [...] 58. Otro vaso hechura de concha con sus dos asas y pie de piedra sanguina, labrado en el a donde hace la forma de concha unos cartones, y en el pie sus dos engarces de oro esmaltado de verde, blanco, azul y anteado; regulado en tres ochavas de oro.

There are no temporary exhibitions related to this work

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 09-07-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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