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Hunting Vase
Tortorino, Francesco
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Tortorino, Francesco

Milan, 1553 - Milan

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Hunting Vase

1550 - 1575. Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz.
Room 079B

A vessel comprising three pieces of rock crystal. The body takes the form of an ancient urn of circular cross-section with two winged female busts, sculpted from the body itself, emerging by way of handles from a concave neck. It sits on a fluted base that, like the lid, has recently been identified. A complex scene occupying the central section of the body reflects a tableau typical of Milanese pieces, framed above and below by the same motif of concave lobes that extend to occupy the neck area. The same design extends to the base.

Angulo dubbed this urn the Vaso de la Montería (Hunting Vase), because the scene depicts a hunt in which tiny figures move around on foot and on horseback, dressed classically in tunics or military garb. They are accompanied by dogs and are hunting wildfowl, hares, a stag, a lion and a wild boar. Part of this scene seems to be inspired by the description of Meleager’s hunt in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One of the figures, holding a lance from which a hare or rabbit is suspended, may be a reference to Hispania, the Roman name for Spain. The landscape depicted also matches the story of Ovid, who locates the action in a dense wood with flowing streams. Some of the figures have a notably military aspect, which could denote their status as classical heroes or indicate that the episode depicted is in fact a reference to military campaigns; transferred to the contemporary world, they may allude to battles against various types of enemy, infidels or heretics, led by Charles V or Philip II. It is perhaps no coincidence that, in addition to Theseus and the twins, Castor and Pollux, Jason also figures in the story about the wild boar hunt. It was Jason and his Argonauts – Meleager among them – who travelled in search of the golden fleece, the symbolic image that lends its name to the Order of the Golden Fleece, linked to the House of Hapsburg.

In 1929 Ernst Kris attributed this vessel to Francesco Tortorino (ca. 1512-1572), an artist specialising in carving cameos and crystal and renowned for the meticulous detail of his work, on the basis of two signed works completed around 1569, both now in Vienna. This attribution has been supported by subsequent experts and indeed the resemblance between this work and the Triumphal column, housed in the Museo degli Argenti in Florence, Inv. Gemme 1921, no. 723, has served to establish a definitive attribution of the vase to Tortorino. Certain details such as the trees, the ripples in the water, the handling of human hair and the manes of some of the animals are similar in both cases.

This is one of the pieces in the Dauphin’s Treasure, a group of precious vessels from the sumptuous collection of Louis, Grand Dauphin of France, which were brought to Spain by his son and heir, Philip V, the first Spanish monarch from the Bourbon dynasty. Louis of France (1661-1711), was the son of Louis XIV and Marie Theresa of Austria. Influenced by his father, he began collecting at an early age, acquiring his works in a variety of manners, including gifts and purchases at auctions. Following the Dauphin’s death, Philip V (1683-1746) inherited a group of vessels, which were sent to Spain with their respective cases. In 1716, they were at the Alcázar in Madrid but were later moved to La Granja de San Ildefonso, where they were listed in the so-called Casa de las Alajas following Philip V’s death. In 1776, they were deposited in the Royal Cabinet of Natural History at the behest of Charles III, and they remained there until it was sacked by French troops in 1813. These works were returned two years later, although some were lost. The Dauphin’s Treasure entered the Royal Museum in 1839, but was again stolen in 1918. During the Spanish Civil war, these works were sent to Switzerland. When they were returned in 1939, one vessel was missing. They have been on exhibit at the Villanueva Building since then.

Technical data

Related artworks

Case for the Hunting Vase
Wood, Metal, Velvet, s XVI - XVII century
Hunting Vase
Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1863
Clifford, Jane
Inventory number
Tortorino, Francesco
Hunting Vase
1550 - 1575
Carved; Engraved; Esmerilado
Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz
Height: 20.5 cm; Diameter: 13.8 cm; Weight: 938 g; Diameter of the base: 6.6 cm
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Gil, Cristina, El Tesoro: Una maravilla barroca perdida en el Museo del Prado, 1985/02/24, pp. 14-16.

Departamento Didáctico-Pedagógico, Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989, pp. 1-8.

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 128-131.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, Nuevas noticias sobre las 'Alhajas del Delfín' (II), Boletín del Museo del Prado, 13, 1992, pp. 21-36.

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, 2001, pp. 295-297.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, 'Francesco Tortorino. Vaso de la Montería' En:, Arte transparente. La talla del cristal en el Renacimiento milanés., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 64-69 n.1.

Arbeteta, Leticia, 'Tesoro del delfín. Una herencia de la familia real francesa' En:, Los tesoros ocultos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 248-276.

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

Azcue Brea, Leticia, Rarezas y lujo para deslumbrar: el Tesoro del Delfín., Ars & Renovatio.Centro de Estudios de Arte del Renacimiento, 7, 2019, pp. 504-519.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 103.
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 [...] 103. Otro vaso en forma de ola, con sus dos asas que son de Angeles, su pie y tapa, quebrado un pedazito hacia el ajuste del mismo vaso, todo de cristla de roca, abierto de mas figuras de animales de caceria, pajaros y Leones agallonados y arminellados, al pie una guarnicion de oro esmaltado de negro.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, 1734. Núm. 5.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 103.
Otro vaso en forma de olla, con sus dos asas, que son dos Angeles, su pie y tapa quebrada un pedacito hazia el ajuste del mismo vaso, todo de cristal de roca, abierto de unas figuras de animales de Cazeria, Pajaros, y leones agallonado y Arminellado, al pie una guarnicion de oro esmaltado de negro, qe. vale 9.215...20.

Listado de objetos robados del Real Gabinete de Historia Natural en 1813 y devueltos en 1816. Núm. 103.
Otro vaso en forma de olla con sus dos asas que son dos angeles, su pie y tapa quebrada un pedacito hacia el ajuste del mismo vaso; todo de cristal de roca, abierto de unas figuras de animales de cacería, pajaros y leones, agallonado y arminellado al pie una guarnicion de oro esmaltado de negro, que vale ... 9.215...20 [Conforme]

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 103.
Un Jarroncito con su pie Tapa, y por asas dos Esphinges todo de Christal de Roca, gravadas en él varias Figuras, y Aves, con una guarnicion en el pie, Todo de Color de oro Esmaltado, está sin remate, y tiene doce dedos de alto, y Caja de Felpa encarnada.

Agates, cristaux, procelaines, bronzes, et autres curiositez qui sont dans le Cabinet de Monseigneur le Dauphin a Versailles. Núm. 5 C.
Numº. 5 / Prix contant Pistoles 150 / Une Urne couverte en forme antique avec deux anses de Sphinxes tenant tout d'une pièce, au haut et au bas du corps il y a plusieurs godrons et au milieu gravé de plusieurs chasses de figures et animaux sur son pied rond godronné garni d'un cercle d'or emaillé de moir avec son couvercle gravé de feüillages et godrons, haute de huit pouces. / Valeur 300

Exhibitions +

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

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 30-04-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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