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Heliotrope cup with lionesses’ heads
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Heliotrope cup with lionesses’ heads

1630 - 1660. Enamel, Bloodstone, Gold Not on display

Mutilated during the Peninsular War and the robbery of 1918, the volumes of this vessel can now only be appreciated from the case and a historic photograph. It is notable both for the stone used, heliotrope, and for the important enamelled gold mounts which substantially enriched its design. It consists of an oval body with a deep boat-shaped profile and eight large waves or gadroons. It has a dome-shaped cover with an oval mouth and a similar design, at the top of which is a button for fitting the finial, now lost. The bulbous knop is carved with helicoidal gadroons, and the foot is in the form of a slightly flared cupola. Some of the many mounts it once had have been preserved. Worthy of special mention are the one on the cover, with leaves and flowers overlaid on the base and eight small rams’ heads, and the one on the knop, formed by four naturalistically enamelled lionesses’ heads, their jaws open and their tongues visible, inserted in panoplies or scrolls linked by small flowers.

The piece is stylistically related to vessel O53 of the Dauphin’s Treasure, with similarities in the archaising detail of the helicoidal gadroons on the knop, the lobulated body, and even the material, which seems to be from the same vein of heliotrope. Both vessels are Baroque in their proportions, though restrainedly so, and the detail of the gadroons recalls the Milanese tradition. The gold mounting, by contrast, is very rich and imaginative. It is French and, as Arbeteta proposed, possibly a Parisian piece from the circles of the Court itself, to judge by the existing examples in the Louvre. The faun masks, for instance, bear some similarity to the one which decorates the lapis lazuli cup MR 262, with garlands and feuillages painted on gold in polychrome enamel. Among the numerous examples of vessels decorated with feuillages preserved at the Louvre, some of them later, there is one with an ancient sardonyx bowl, MR 124, and similar work on the foot, stem, lip and handle. The latter has a polychrome mask in the style of the mermaid on MR 114, similar to the mount on this vessel. In the 1689 Versailles inventory, this vessel was one of the most highly valued, with a given cost of 500 pistoles.

The spray of the finial, in the form of a small fleuron and enamelled gold pineapple, is described in the historic inventories. It was already missing when the Dauphin’s Treasure was returned from Paris in 1815. However, it was in 1918 that this interesting object lost many of its mounts: the one on the foot, one on the lip which served as a base for the cover, a border of laurels with ribbons and floral overlays, and the two large C-shaped handles with satyrs’ heads on the front, the most outstanding features of the piece. Enamelled with great vivacity, their expressive and sardonically laughing faces with wide-open eyes were joined to the bowl by an arch of foliage. Before the 1918 robbery, the cover rested on a band of gold enamelled in green, white, purple, red and black. On the pointillé gold ground were enamelled overlays with rope patterns, plumed masks and spirals.

The Museo del Prado has the photograph by Juan Laurent y Minier: Coupe ovale sanguine, montures d’or et émaux, commt. du XVIIe siècle, règne de Henri IV, c. 1879. Museo del Prado, HF0835/14 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Inventory number
Heliotrope cup with lionesses’ heads
1630 - 1660; Ca. 1665
Sculpted; Enamelled
Enamel; Bloodstone; Gold
Height: 29.7 cm.; Width: 19.5 cm.; Base/bottom: 16 cm.; Weight: 2435 g.; Ancho base: 11.6 cm.; Bottom of the base: 8.4 cm.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 93.

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. 250-251.

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

Other inventories +

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 38.
Vaso grande aobado y arminellado

There are no temporary exhibitions related to this work

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 19-12-2019 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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